Dee and Jimmy Haslam are still searching for answers.
Just like they’re still looking for the right coach.
The Haslams have owned the Browns since 2012, yet the same problems persist. They’ve hired the wrong people for the most important jobs time and time again. To compound the mistakes, the men they’ve hired have been mismatched.
This was painfully obvious once again with coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who were fired Monday in a stunning midseason housecleaning due largely to their refusal to coexist. The organization — led by the Haslams — has a long way left to go to reach respectability and rid itself of the lingering dysfunction.
This is where general manager John Dorsey comes in. The Haslams must trust him to fix the mess they created.
Then let him.
That means turning over total control of the football operation, authority over the coaching staff and leadership of the search for Jackson’s replacement.
Not only does Dorsey have a long resume as a player and in personnel departments, which is helpful when ownership comes from the truck stop business. But he’s been in stable organizations in Green Bay and Kansas City and knows how a franchise is supposed to operate. He’s not a guy who puts up with unnecessary drama, runaway egos and incessant in-fighting.
The proof came Monday. Jimmy Haslam seemed OK waiting to see if the situation would resolve itself, while Dorsey wanted to stop the madness.
Then he wanted to shift the focus back to what’s right with the team.
“There are a lot of good people in this organization that really want to win,” he said. “And there’s good guys in that locker room. You can feel it when you walk in here, and it’s a good thing.”
Ironic considering his ubiquitous sweatshirt, Dorsey doesn’t leave a lot of room for gray area. He gave a simple solution for cleaning up the “internal discord” Haslam said would no longer be accepted.
“Treat people the way they want to be treated,” Dorsey said. “Come into work every day willing to work, OK? Love what you do. Take ownership in what you’re doing. Just come to work every day and treat people how you want to be treated.”
The wonderful life lesson hasn’t been practiced inside team headquarters under the Haslams’ watch.
A version of the question has been asked to Haslam for years when he sits behind the microphone to discuss the latest general manager and/or coach he’s fired. Why is discord still a problem at this stage of his reign?
“I don’t know,” he said Monday. “I’ll accept the blame, because ultimately it’s the person at the head of the ship, so I’ll take the blame as ownership. I can’t explain it more than that.
“We’ve had different situations, different people, I know it’s something we’re not going to tolerate going forward.”
The words ring hollow given the history.
Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi, paired in the front office, didn’t make it to a second season together. General manager Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine were done after two, with the friction starting early. Head of football operations Sashi Brown didn’t survive two seasons or a power struggle with Jackson. And Jackson and Haley managed eight games before the Haslams pulled the plug.
They obviously don’t know how to hire a coach. Maybe they got lucky and hired the right GM this time.
That’s their best hope for giving the fans what they deserve: a winner. So get out of the way and let Dorsey operate.
Organizational structure can be overrated, but the coach’s direct pipeline to ownership has proved to create strife. So amend the flowchart and have the coach report to Dorsey. Haslam said he’d reconsider after the season.
“At the end of the year, depending on what happens, we’ll evaluate everything,” he said.
Haslam and Dorsey insisted on keeping the focus on the final eight games under interim coach/defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. That’s the right message to send to the players, who need to realize there’s a lot at stake in the second half of the season. Wins matter, but so do development and the dedication to forming and keeping good habits.
But behind closed doors the coaching search should be the top priority. The right coach changes an organization, just like the right quarterback does.
The Browns believe they have the second part of the equation in rookie Baker Mayfield. He won’t succeed without getting the first part right.
If that means Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, Dorsey should rent an apartment in Norman. If it means Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, he should start navigating the back channels.
The final say belongs to the Haslams. They spent the billion dollars.
But after all the whiffs in their seven years, they should put the decision in Dorsey’s hands.
He’s their only hope.