Joe Banner’s presence is clearly already being felt in Berea. Nobody is safe.
I’ve been off the grid for a few days, tending to my real job (oh, if only I could be paid handsomely to work fulltime at WFNY!), but I have been monitoring things and as always, keeping my finger on the pulse of what is going on here in the wacky wide world of Cleveland Sports.
There’s never a dull moment in Berea. The uncertainty surrounding everyone from the GM to the janitors has everyone on edge. The fans are all excited about the Jimmy Haslam ownership era, but has some of the bloom come off the rose this quickly?
I was very disturbed to read that the Michael Lombardi rumors are becoming louder. Sure, you can say that it is Lombardi himself who is leaking these stories, but that really doesn’t matter at this juncture. I think we are seeing the start of something big. And by big, I am referring to CEO Joe Banner’s ego taking it all over.
This Lombardi thing is real folks, and it is not going away. The prior Banner/Lombardi relationship is there. Banner hasn’t said so publicly, but it is obvious that he wants a structure in place where the GM is nothing more than a personnel guy who will report up to him. Who else would want that job other than a young, up and comer looking for their first big shot, or a guy who has been out of football for five years and desperately wants back in?
Current and soon to be outgoing GM Tom Heckert has final say on the roster as we sit today. He has it written in his contract. I think those of us who think Heckert actually had a chance to stick around can now see reality. His days as Browns GM are just about over. Nobody says life is fair.
Why do you think Heckert gave an unscheduled press conference last Friday? He wants everyone in this town and in the NFL to know that when he is shown the door, it is not because he wanted it to be this way. While both Banner and Heckert say their relationship is fine, its become almost common knowledge now that Heckert has thought he’d be gone no matter what once Banner took over as CEO.
The latest veiled shot was the sudden release of CB Dimitri Patterson, a Heckert favorite. Patterson has been banged up this year after signing a three-year, $16 million extension in the offseason. The Browns paid him $6 million guaranteed for seven games, this despite an obvious need for more corners. There have been rumors that Patterson was an issue lately, but it’s still pretty obvious that Banner is now in charge with this move. Patterson was claimed by Miami a day later.
As for Pat Shurmur, he may have made a case for sticking around had he won out heading into last Sunday’s debacle home loss to Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins, but that ship has obviously sailed. I won’t lose much sleep over this as I wasn’t behind the hire from day one (which reeked of Mile Holmgren cronyism). Shurmur was completely overmatched by the Shanahan’s four days ago to almost an embarrassing level. While the three game winning streak Shurmur was banking on to help save his own skin was great, he beat Charlie Batch and his eight turnovers, the Raiders, and the Chiefs – the latter being arguably the two worst teams in football.
Make no mistake – changes are coming. Banner continuing to tell us all that no decisions have been made is insulting to our collective intelligence. I get why he is doing it, it is common courtesy, but the writing is on the wall in giant block letters. It is over for Heckert and Shurmur. Banner had this to say yesterday:
“I think we’ll make the decisions quickly after the season,” Banner said on a conference call. “I don’t want to say if it’s one day or two days or three days but I think it will be quickly.”
“Obviously as time has gone on we’ve thought about it more, we’ve talked about it more, more factors that will influence the final decision have become clearer and clearer,” he said. “I don’t want to make it sound like we’re in the same place we were two or four or six weeks ago. That has advanced quite a bit. But we’re not at the point where we’ve made definitive decisions.”
I expect that on the annual “Black Monday” in the NFL, Shurmur and Heckert will be shown the door. Lombardi will be brought soon thereafter and the coaching search will begin from there. While we all have visions of the Nick Saban’s or the Jon Gruden’s or other big name coaches swooping in and taking over, if Lombardi is the guy picking the players and reporting to Banner, you can forget about those possibilities. They aren’t realistic. Josh McDaniels, the current Patriots offensive coordinator and ex-Denver Broncos coach, will be near the top of the list. Current Broncos OC Mike McCoy will most likely get a look, as could the play-caller who shredded the Browns last Sunday and made an indelible impression on all who watched, Washington’s Kyle Shanahan.
These last two games at Denver and Pittsburgh could get ugly on the field. Off the field, things are already heading in that direction. Get ready for yet another regime change. Lets just hope this one doesn’t turn out like the rest of them have.