By Adam Bennett, @HFSCleveland
So we’ve reached the point where we’re being owned on every side of the football by the St. Louis Rams. The same Rams that can’t finish over .500 and make the playoffs to save themselves. It’s officially become draft season for Browns fans again.
The Browns will play out the last nine games of the season, and then another brutal campaign will finally pass. We’ll begin talking about college quarterbacks and “playmaking” talent and we’ll dream of the Browns finally getting it right. Maybe next year will be the year it all turns around.
Here’s the problem:
The GM who picks the players that should be making a difference has a track record of picking players who can’t play. The Browns have selected four players in the first round of the last two drafts. In Sunday’s loss at St. Louis, just one of those four, Danny Shelton, started. Shelton is statistically ranked the worst defensive tackle in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. He played in just 40 percent of the defense’s total snaps. Justin Gilbert, the eighth overall pick just two years ago, has been relegated to kick return duty. He doesn’t play at all on defense. Johnny Manziel is a backup, and we can debate whether or not he’s reached the point where he should no longer be backup. Cam Erving, who was selected in the first round of this year’s draft, can’t crack the starting lineup on an offensive line that has struggled mightily out of the gate.
If you missed our earlier piece on just how bad the Browns have been drafting statistically, click here. It’s eye opening.
There isn’t an easy solution on how to fix this mess of an organization. We have a team president who’s raising ticket prices by massive amounts, but also wants a say in football decisions. He hired a Vice President of Fan Engagement that simply only engages with fans when they have something positive to say or things are going well. The owner is an absentee owner, by all accounts. He only spends one day a week in Berea. He’s too busy trying to repair the reputation of his family company. Meanwhile, the reputation of his football team is lower than it’s ever been.
The owner has already hired and fired two coaches. He hired Joe Banner, who hired Mike Lombardi, who were both then fired by Haslam, only so he could give full control to Ray Farmer, who is the most over-his-head GM we’ve had in Cleveland since the return of the Browns. The same over-his-head GM who forced our offensive coordinator to create a slide show begging the team to let him out of his contract.
How do you add meaningful talent to a team when the GM is on record saying he doesn’t really value playmakers?
Then there’s the head coach. Of every decision maker in the organization – Haslam, Alec Scheiner, Sashi Brown and Farmer – Pettine is the most competent in the group. Yet, he’s still not very competent at all. His stubbornness is killing any chance he had of winning with an underwhelming roster. His strong suit – defense – has regressed so badly in the last two years that it’s now considered to be one of our worst since 1999. And that’s really saying something.
There are fans that defend Pettine and Farmer. They correctly say that both need time to create a Super Bowl contender. That’s true. They also say that continuity is the most important aspect of any competent organization. That’s also true.
The problem, though, is that continuity with the wrong people will set an organization even further back than blowing it up every few years. Take Ray Farmer, for example. We really want to give him 5-6 years of drafting? Because he’s already proven he can’t do it – at least in the early rounds, when it matters most. Does Mike Pettine deserve 5-6 years to keep the same defensive scheme that’s failed him over the last three? Does Jim O’Neil get 5-6 years of calling defensive plays?
When your GM is too stubborn to realize that playmakers matter in the NFL, and when your head coach is too stubborn to change his scheme to fit his talent, they’ve proven that they’re not worthy of a long-term opportunity to continue in their roles. It’s not good enough to keep them for the sake of continuity. The sooner you realize it, understand it, and find competent people that can build a winner, the sooner your organization will find success.
Let’s just hope the owner isn’t too stubborn to make a change.