Rumors: Mike Lombardi May Be On His Way Out As Browns General Manager


Rumors are starting to leak out of Browns Headquarters that General Manager Mike Lombardi may be on his way out, at least from his current position as GM.

It’s relatively easy to connect the dots on this one.  The circumstantial evidence is right there.  Lombardi has been noticeably missing from recent Browns activities, including the head coaching interviews and the recent pressers, including the firing of press conference for Rob Chudzinski, and the introduction press conference for new Head Coach Mike Pettine.  Outside of that, Owner Jimmy Haslam has been fairly silent on why Lombardi has been absent.   Tie that together with the fairly odd decision by Browns Assistant GM Ray Farmer to turn down the Miami Dolphins General Manager position recently, and the quiet whisperings of a few front office folks start to gain some interesting validity.  Why would Ray Farmer, who wants to be a GM, turn down a job that he was the leading candidate for, if he didn’t have a very good reason to stay in Cleveland?  Where has Mike Lombardi been?

The scenarios on Lombardi being out are pretty straightforward.  Either the Browns cut ties with him entirely, or they may seek to move him from the GM position by a lateral promotion to another part of the organization.  The latter seems just as plausible to me, because then they wouldn’t have the taint of another shake up within the organization.  Lombardi simply is removed from the area where he can do real damage (personnel), and is able to keep a job within the organization.

Update 1:  MF Jones Reports:

https://twitter.com/CONCEDE/status/430676341571469312

https://twitter.com/CONCEDE/status/430676537969352705

https://twitter.com/CONCEDE/status/430677370328981504

https://twitter.com/CONCEDE/status/430677493788311553

https://twitter.com/CONCEDE/status/430679182406737921

https://twitter.com/CONCEDE/status/430679368445075456

https://twitter.com/CONCEDE/status/430693079180656640

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Shawn is an Army Sergeant, husband to the beautiful and brilliant @MrsStarr, dad to three, and lead writer/publisher here at Dawg Pound Nation.  You can follow him on twitter @ShawnMStarr.  

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Gus Malzahn, the Browns Last, Desperate Hope


Oh Browns.  Could you have done anything more Cleveland Brownesqe than fire your “hand picked’ head coach after less than twelve months on the job, and NOT have any idea who your replacement would be?  Could there be a better sign of dysfunction and failure than this?  We’re left here in January, coach-less, and the store where you go to buy Head Coaches is starting to look like a Best Buy at 6 pm on Black Friday.  The shelves are getting bare, and before much longer you’re going to have to just chalk it and pay full price for a less model.  I read somewhere that the Browns remaining list of candidates looks like a yard sale on its last day.  That’s pretty accurate at this point.

As the Browns continue their search for their next “THE GUY” who they will assure us is a visionary leader who will lead our beloved franchise back from decades of irrelevance and painful to endure seasons, the list of candidates is getting pretty thin, and frankly pretty weak.  With fans whipping themselves in a frenzy for the beloved name of Jim Tressel to be named as a coaching interviewee, the list of candidates the Browns are actually going to, or will probably interview is going to look mighty bleak to Browns fans by comparison.

I try and give you realistic perspectives on things.  So I’m going to tell you, point blank, I don’t think there is a chance in hell that Jim Tressel will be your next head coach.  I don’t think the Browns are even going to extend an interview offer to him.  We’ve got to get past the “If it works at Ohio State it MUST work in Cleveland” thing anyhow.  Kenny Guiton isn’t a viable QB option, nor Braxton Miller, nor Pryor or any other Buckeye that we loved.  Ohio State is a different animal than the Browns.  We’ve got to stop the madness, because really, we’re trying to mix oil with water.

Now, knowing Tressel is off the board, let’s take a look at other guys who’ve fallen by the wayside as we’ve moved along here: James Franklin (Going to Penn State), Bob Stoops, Josh McDaniels (thank Christ actually).  First, let’s be honest with ourselves.  Those aren’t names that get any of us even remotely excited.  They’re names that would likely have made us groan if we had read that they were being announced as the next Cleveland Browns head coach.  Those aren’t names that we want to hear, we want to hear unrealistic names like Cowher and Gruden (Jon).  We want to feel excited.  We want a savior.

More reality friends.  There’s only one savior type coach left on the board.  There’s only one guy left who makes any sense considering the direction the front office is rumored to be heading (read: Johnny Football).  That guy, the only actual THE GUY left out there, is Gus Malzahn.

Gus went from a High School head coach, to Auburn Head Coach, to a National Championship game in eight short years.  That’s impressive, regardless if the naysayer will mock him as a high school coach.  Those people are idiots.  If you know anything about the situation that Gus took over at Auburn, and how unbelievably impressive it is that he made them a relevant program, no less got them to a NC game, you know why people who know what they’re talking about respect the man.  He’s fixed, in under 24 months, a program that had become as broken, crooked and dysfunctional as any program outside of Miami in the past 20 years.  Easily.  And he did it with energy, with passion, with gusto.  As importantly, for those of us who adhere to the old ways of the Dawg Pound, he did it with hard work and integrity.  Gus is squeaky clean, unlike his predecessor at Auburn, and it’s real.  He’s the real deal.

But outside of the reasons why you should like Gus Malzahn the Man, you should love Gus Malzahn the coach.  It’s impossible to question his football acumen, and his results on the field speak for themselves.  That, and its a brand of football that Browns fans should LOVE.  It’s built on pounding down opposing defenses with a crushing running game, and blazing speed and big plays on the outside.  While I do usually shy away from drafting OSU players in Cleveland, if you gave Gus a backfield of Carlos Hyde, Dion Lewis and the emergent Edwin Baker, they would run holes into any defense.  Pair him with a QB like Brian Hoyer, and yes, maybe even Johnny Manziel, and they would sprint down the field.  Give him a weapon like Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron and one of the premier WR’s in this draft, and the Browns would start to look like a track team on Sundays.

Gus has the goods, but its still a long shot that he’ll leave Auburn.  The Browns would have to do some serious work to get him.  They’ll have to overpay, rightfully, because of all the past failures around coaches in the organization.  They’d have to swallow the arrogance that they’ve so often displayed under this regime, and give Gus the keys to all the doors in Berea.  They’d have to let him have final say on players and personnel, they’d have to not question his decisions, and they’d have to trust the man driving the Gus Bus.  But isn’t that what we’ve cried out for for YEARS?  A strong, decisive leader who will passionately change the way the world looks at Cleveland Browns football?

Get on the Gus Bus Browns fans.  Drop the Tressel nonsense, stop asking for Cowher.  Get on the Gus Bus, put some media pressure on the front office, and let’s turn this mother around, for good.

 

One Pound of Sadness: “We’re not going 13-3 next year”


“We’ve won 23 games in the last five years, won 14 games in the last three, so we’re not going to go 13-3 next year,” Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam said.

That one line out of his recent interview with the Cleveland media at the NFL League Meetings on Tuesday sent the wretched Cleveland Sports media into convulsions, and rubbed many a Browns fan the wrong way.  From my perspective though, I heard something a little different.  I heard a team owner in Cleveland finally being objective.  Finally, a guy who will tell you the cold, hard truth, regardless of if its what you want to hear or not.  Seriously, for how many years have the Lerners and Modell before them pumped up average-at-best, league-bottom-feeders-at-worst teams to be something they were not?  Don’t get me wrong, the pathetic media in Cleveland eats it up, and the fans are so desperate for something resembling a respectable football franchise that so do we.  It has never been based in reality however.  You need only to take a step back, look/listen/read the opinions of the national media on what our Cleveland Browns are/have been, and a very different image starts to form.

Our defense, with the signings we’ve made thus far, and the assumed picks early in the draft, has the POTENTIAL to be good.  By good, I mean top 1/3rd of the NFL.  That’s a realistic assumption, based on where they were last year, who they brought in, what those upgrades mean, and the guy leading the show (Ray Horton).

Ray HortonI trust this guy that much.

The offense, however, stands to be one of the very worst in professional football.  Brandon Weeden is a below average NFL Quarterback, and he’ll be over 30 this season, which is only his 2nd in the NFL.  Trent Richardson is a beast, but he’s injury prone and has no support from the passing game.  The offensive line is solid, but we didn’t fill those holes at Guard, which aren’t going to help overworked T-Rich one bit.  We have one exceptionally talented young receiver (Gordon), and one who the jury is still out on (Little).  We have zero viable tight ends.  We potentially have no fullback.  And ending where we began, we have an old, inexperienced waste of a 1st round pick at Quarterback.  The Browns will never, ever, ever be a winning football team until they can address the gaping hole at the most important position on the field (QB).

Brandon WeedenYup, this is your current franchise QB Cleveland.

Haslam/Banner/Chud are smart enough to realize that this is not the draft to find the future Quarterback of the Cleveland Browns.  Sure, there are some interesting prospects, but those usually fail here in Cleveland, and we need to wait until there is a “sure thing” type QB prospect, or at least something close.  Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib, even Matt Barkely are interesting prospects, but they aren’t sure things.  Andrew Luck was a sure thing.  RGIII was pretty close to a sure thing.  Now, don’t get me wrong, you can get lucky.  You can stumble upon a great quarterback.  But, the chances of finding a Tom Brady are a lot slimmer than waiting to find a Peyton Manning.  And much more based on chance.

So, knowing that we won’t have a terribly effective offense this season, Haslam and Co are doing the smart thing, hedging their bets and tempering expectations at home.  Its hard for Cleveland fans to hear, I know, but its the truth and its smart.  The Browns only spent about half of their massive cap room on free agents.  They haven’t traded away any draft picks.  They are holding themselves to being committed to building a team the right way, for the long haul.  You do that through the draft and through developing young talents.  Let teams like Miami try and buy wins, because I guarantee you that they don’t get far like that, and they mortgage their future on a couple extra wins for a couple years.  Its bad business, and its not how you run a franchise.

So no, Haslam didn’t tell you what you wanted to hear.  But he told the truth, and if you look past the headline, he said the right thing.  A few more parts of that interview that I found

“I wish we could have done on offense what we did on defense but you’ve got to spend your money selectively and smartly. A lot of it had to do with the players who were available. I’ve got high confidence we’re going to be a lot better on defense. I think Chud and Norv will do a great job with their offense. I’ll just continue to state this. You’ll get tired of hearing me say it. This is a process, and we’re in it for the long run and we’re going to do it over several years. We’re going to do it the right way. I don’t want to be sitting here two years from now and we’re cutting two players because we didn’t use the cap wisely.

I agree.  There were too many boom-or-bust offensive players available (See: Mike Wallace), and too many guy that just didn’t fit into a Chud/Norv system.  Why spend money on the wrong parts?

“I think you can have internal competition and you can have external competition. This is the first time I’ve gone through free agency, and of course you have the draft. It’s still a pretty long time till camp, right? I think we start officially in mid-July. I think we’ll see how things shape up.”

The cynical Browns fan in me read that and as “WE ARE DRAFTING A QUARTERBACK”.  Breathe Shawn, breathe.

“I don’t see us doing Hard Knocks.I think it interferes with your basic football operations. I think you’ve all heard me say this and I tell everybody in the building this every time we have a team meeting: We’re all about winning games and, two, giving the fans a great experience. If you’re doing anything besides the two of those, you’re not working on the right stuff.”

Couldn’t agree more.  I’m glad we’re not interested in becoming a circus like the Jets or the Dolphins.  We don’t need that crap in Cleveland.

“We talked about it a lot at these meetings and I think we continue to improve there. Not just with the Browns, but what every team has to worry about — and (President) Alec Scheiner’s main job is what we call fan experience, game day experience. The experience is so good at home now. Let’s face it, Cleveland in November, December, can be a pretty tough place, weather-wise, so why don’t I stay home and sit on my couch and watch three games at one time or watch whatever I want to and I can grab a beer right here, etc.?

“I think what every NFL owner’s got to do is make that three and a half hours of the game better than it is at home. We’ve got to give you some things at the stadium you can’t get at home. We spent two hours this morning talking about it in the meeting. I’m not ready to share that, but there’s a lot of great ideas. Minimal impact for the ’13 season but I think some pretty dramatic impact in ’14 going forward.”

I don’t really care too much about PSL’s, or not having PSL’s, but I think this little bit gives you an insight into the way of thinking of the guy who owns our team now.  And I’ve got to tell you, I like what I see.  He’s smart, he’s got a mind for business, and he’s focused on the right things.  Even if I have major gripes with some of the players on our team, for now I feel a little better knowing that Haslam is the guy steering the ship.

The honeymoon ends abruptly for Jimmy Haslam and Cleveland | ProFootballTalk


The honeymoon ends abruptly for Jimmy Haslam and Cleveland | ProFootballTalk.

 

I’ll be honest, I don’t really know what Haslam heading back to his old job running his family business actually means for the Cleveland Browns.  I do know that Browns fans have a lot of tension and fried nerves over the “I don’t give a single f*ck” approach taken by Lerner.  And so, it will probably lead to us over-analyzing the deeper meaning of these events.  I can say though, for comparison sake, that most Pro-Sports franchise owners still run businesses on the side.  Take Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks   He’s actively involved with the team, but still runs numerous business outside of his organization.  Ideally, that’s how Haslam will play it.  Ideally.