This week the NFL assembled in Indianapolis for the annual beauty pageant called the Scouting Combine. The Brown’s brass were all there with the exception of owner Jimmy Haslam. Throughout the week, teams usually make some of their top talent evaluators available to the media. Initially, coach Rob Chudzinski was going to be the only one to hold a presser at the Combine, which he did on Friday. I thought for sure Mike Lombardi would be running victory laps around Indy to show off in front of his pals in the league and the media, but he was quiet this week. Hopefully he was doing his job.
The last person I expected to hear from this week was Joe Banner, but he said plenty on Saturday. I will admit that I’m still skeptical about him having final say on player personnel and felt that his insistence on that was going to hinder the organization’s ability to attract qualified talent evaluators, which may still be a valid concern. But it was refreshing to hear someone in this league respond to questions with… answers! From his responses on Saturday, we learned that they’re not interested in a QB at #6 and will give Weeden every opportunity to keep the job, they’re not looking to cut or trade players or use the franchise tag and that they will be at least somewhat active in free agency. I really liked his evaluation of the Jauron defense being too passive and not good enough in important situations, and that he believes in “preventing pressure on your quarterback and getting pressure on the opposing team’s quarterback. If you can do that, you have a chance to win any game against any team.” And when he doesn’t want to divulge information, he’ll just say he’s not going to answer that, as he did about negotiations with Dawson and Cribbs.
Banner looks and sounds like your average grumpy old man who was probably picked on for being a nerd in school. But after years of working his way up the NFL ladder and achieving success as a top executive, he exudes confidence in his abilities and approach. He is direct and blunt, and doesn’t seem to care what the players, media or fans think of him. He also appears to have no use for playing the silly games that GM’s and coaches play today, thinking they’re getting over on the enemy like they’re in the intelligence business (the tactics of Propaganda Ministers Davis and Mangini come to mind). Confidence does not guarantee success, as we saw with Mangini and his “process” and Shurmur with his “North Coast offense”. With Banner, however, you can follow a path of success to his self-assurance, which is the key difference between him and his predecessors, and should give Browns fans a reasonable expectation for better days ahead.
Unless Saturday was a total smokescreen, in which event, he’d be disturbingly good at it.