The Cleveland Browns have promoted assistant general manager Ray Farmer to general manager as the franchise undergoes further changes under owner Jimmy Haslam. The team also announced general manager Michael Lombardi and CEO Joe Banner are leaving their respective posts.
It's the latest shakeup under Haslam, who is giving front-office personnel and coaches very little time to prove themselves in the organization. He praised Farmer's football IQ in an official statement posted on the team's website:
First of all, we wanted to capitalize on the knowledge, experience and character we’re fortunate to have in Ray Farmer. Ray has a tremendous football IQ, he’s compelling, and he understands the types of players we need to acquire and develop in order to win in Cleveland. He embraces his partnership with (new head coach) Mike Pettine, which is critical in helping build the right team. Ray will provide excellent leadership in our front office.
Haslam later spoke to the media about his decision to shake up the front office (via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com):
#Browns Haslam said he wanted to streamline the organization. Is excited to work directly with GM Ray Farmer and Scheiner.— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) February 11, 2014
Haslam also said that this would be the last of major changes within the organization (via the Browns):
Haslam: "These are the last of the major changes we will make in the organization."— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) February 11, 2014
Later ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the Browns hired former Chiefs Executive Bill Kuharich to assist Ray Farmer:
CLEV hiring former Chiefs VP of Player Personnel Bill Kuharich to assist new Browns GM Ray Farmer, per sources. They worked together in KC.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 11, 2014
Farmer also spoke to the media and talked about his goals for the job and revealed that he was given a four-year contract (via the Browns and Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal):
Farmer: "We will do everything in our power to make sure we have the right players for our football team."— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) February 11, 2014
New #Browns GM Ray Farmer said his contract is four years.— Nate Ulrich (@NateUlrichABJ) February 11, 2014
Banner had been with the team since October 2012 as its chief executive officer. He made a statement about the change, stating he believes the Browns are still in good hands:
It is bittersweet leaving the Browns organization. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Jimmy Haslam and helping him set the infrastructure for this franchise. I am proud of the talented individuals we brought in to help lead this team and feel that the Cleveland Browns are in good hands moving forward.
Lombardi was hired by the Browns in January 2013 as general manager. No comments from him were included in the announcement following the team's decision to go in another direction.
Bleacher Report's Will Burge reported details from Haslam's announcement to the organization:
Mult sources tell me Michael Lombardi and Joe Banner are "devastated" and "were blindsided" by the announcement #Browns— Will Burge (@WillBurge) February 11, 2014
#Browns source told said org had a meeting in morn. Haslam walked in, announced Banner & Lombardi were gone & walked back out. Dead silence— Will Burge (@WillBurge) February 11, 2014
Just talked to 2 NFL scouts who said Ray Farmer is among the most respected young football men in the league. 1 called the move a "home run"— Will Burge (@WillBurge) February 11, 2014
The changes come two months after the Browns fired head coach Rob Chudzinski following just one 4-12 season in charge. Even in the NFL, where switching head coaches is commonplace, getting rid of Chudzinski following his first campaign was a very quick hook. Chudzinski was the fourth different head coach used since Romeo Crennel was fired after the 2008 season.
Reporter Jason Cole provided insight surrounding the departures of Banner and Lombardi:
Banner/Lombardi failed to deliver on promises made about who they would be able get after firing Chud. Sunk themselves.— Jason Cole (@JasonPhilCole) February 11, 2014
Banner/Lombardi also failed to get Chip Kelly in 2013. Throw in rumors of erratic behavior by Lombardi vs Chud, starts to make sense. Sorta— Jason Cole (@JasonPhilCole) February 11, 2014
Ultimately, the biggest question mark is whether Cleveland has a clear sense of direction in making these changes. Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman doesn't think the franchise is going down the right path:
I think the league office needs to intervene in Cleveland. I'm serious.— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) February 11, 2014
Haslam spoke about the perception of his organization during his session with the media (via Tom Pelissero of USA Today):
Haslam on dysfunction: "I would disagree with that. I think that's a perception that you all have set out there."— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) February 11, 2014
Haslam: "I will just tell you that the people I talk to around the country ... think this is an outstanding opportunity here in Cleveland."— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) February 11, 2014
Superstar cornerback Joe Haden shared his thoughts on Twitter:
Control what u can control! The nfl is a business! My part is 2 cover people! #StayInUrLane!— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) February 11, 2014
It's very hard to build a winning franchise in the NFL without some level of stability. It's something the Browns haven't had under Haslam, and making key changes to the front office right now is definitely a questionable move.
What do you think of the latest changes?
With each dismissal, the Browns' jobs become less appealing to top candidates.
Sooner or later, Cleveland needs to settle on a general manager and head coach combination that's going to stick for several seasons. That's the only way the team is going to make any serious progress toward the postseason—a place the Browns haven't been since the 2002 season.
Farmer and new head coach Mike Pettine are the latest duo. How long they will last is anybody's guess.