The changes to the Cleveland Browns didn't end with the coaching staff. Team owner Jimmy Haslam announced on Tuesday that general manager Michael Lombardi will be replaced by assistant general manager Ray Farmer and that CEO Joe Banner will be stepping down from his position in a few months' time.
Haslam explained the decision at a press conference on Tuesday, saying, "I felt like the previous setup was cumbersome, and this new arrangement is much more streamlined and in line for what we want."
Farmer, team president Alec Scheiner and head coach Mike Pettine will report directly to Haslam. Farmer will have control over the 53-man roster while Pettine will determine who is active on game days, per Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
|Ray Farmer's NFL Timeline|
|1996-1998||Played safety for the Philadelphia Eagles*|
|2002-2005||Scout, Atlanta Falcons|
|2006-2012||Director of Pro Personnel, Kansas City Chiefs|
|2013||Assistant General Manager, Cleveland Browns|
|2014-Present||General Manager, Cleveland Browns|
|*Drafted in Round 4, Pick 121 of 1996 NFL Draft|
This is yet another shakeup for a team that has been in constant flux since returning to the NFL in 1999. Whether or not this one will stick is a question that cannot be answered until the 2014 season wraps. However, we can take a look at Farmer and Scheiner in particular to see what they could bring to the table in Cleveland and how they can change things for the better.
Farmer has been with the Browns for less than a year, serving underneath Lombardi. Prior to that, he was the Kansas City Chiefs director of pro personnel from 2006 until 2012 and was a scout with the Atlanta Falcons from 2002 until 2005. Though he's never been a general manager or run a draft before, he feels confident in doing so this year with the Browns, saying, per Cabot:
Running the draft is as simple as being in the process that answers all the questions in advance. I'm definitely solidified in that process, and we'll be prepared to select players who fit what Coach Pettine wants to do. I helped establish that process, so I'm comfortable with where we're at.
Though Farmer's background is in scouting players already in the professional ranks, that doesn't mean he won't make smart decisions on draft day. His comments on the draft to KCChiefs.com show a very savvy football mind, one that can easily transition from just the pro side of scouting to the all-around personnel demands of a general manager.
In the video, Farmer details the three factors that inform decisions on players: age, injury and character. Those will still be his tenets when it comes to evaluating the current roster, any veterans they may add as well as the impending group of rookies the team will draft in May.
The process leading up to the draft has been well underway for a while, with Farmer a part of it. Things won't change much with Farmer taking over Lombardi's job. Picking players will be the result of a collaboration between coaching and scouting, based on Farmer's comments Tuesday, per Cabot:
I think that regardless of who the player is, that I'll make the right decision. It's more of a collaborative decision. Picking the name off the board is one thing... I'm going to be aware of how the coach feels, the scout feels and how I feel. We'll make the right decision on the quarterback going forward or whatever position it is.
Scheiner, meanwhile, will control the business side of the Browns' football operations. He joined the team in December 2012 after serving as general counsel and then vice president of the Dallas Cowboys beginning in 2004. His job will remain the same: hammering out contracts with the players, helping to manage the salary cap and improving the in-stadium fan experience.
In this sense, while the changes seem sweeping in Berea, many things will stay the same. The chain of command is different, but Banner will be staying on through the draft to help with the transition.
In fact, the promotion of Farmer might be to the Browns' benefit. Farmer has a stellar reputation around the league that can help attract free-agent talent, while Lombardi and Banner were polarizing both in Cleveland and in the NFL. The chain of accountability now begins and ends with Haslam and not Banner, indicating the second-year owner is starting to gain an understanding of how to run a football team that he didn't have in his first season.
Haslam admitted these shortcomings, saying during the press conference, "I underestimated this—it's a learning curve to be a NFL owner. If you want to look at me as a work in progress, that's fair to say, to do."
Clearly, he's learned from what can only be categorized as the mistake of putting Banner and Lombardi in control and has found in Farmer and the new leadership structure something that makes him more comfortable as an owner.
Much like Haslam is a "work in progress" as an owner, the Browns have yet to find a sustainable formula for winning. Haslam clearly believed this wouldn't occur with Banner and Lombardi running the show but feels that if the buck stops with Farmer at general manager, the chances for quick improvement are higher.
Again, only time will be the measure of whether or not Haslam's corrective measures work. Ultimately, if the recent instability with the Browns creates stability in the long term, then the seemingly hair-trigger moves with the coaching staff and front office since the end of the 2013 season will draw praise. That's a fair trade-off for today's skepticism and derision.