Just when you think it can’t get any more Barnum, here come more elephants, bearded ladies and two-headed goats.
The Browns have done the impossible. They’ve gone from a circus to a circus with its hair on fire — and a sign stuck in the lawn in Berea that reads: “Coach wanted. Inquire Within.”
Who would want any part of this football freak show?
Can the NFL repossess a franchise? (Asking for a friend).
We should be used to this by now, though, right? I mean, this is business as usual under the battered orange and brown big top, and the broken-down old Tilt-A-Whirl out back.
Well, yes and no.
Even by the cockeyed standards of HaslamWorld, this one stands out, now that John Dorsey has walked out. The first legitimate front office member in forever with proven, bona fide football chops, an executive so engaged in the task at hand that he wore Cleveland Browns gear nearly every waking moment, has been forced out of the tent by ringmaster Jimmy, and his unquenchable flavor-of-the-month fever.
So the to-do list for pro sports’ worst-run, most dysfunctional franchise now includes hiring a coach and a general manager to come work at the Factory of Madness.
Granted, Freddie Kitchens was a whiff. A big one. That’s on Dorsey.
But it’s more than offset by the most talented Browns roster in perhaps this century. Virtually all of it assembled by Dorsey. There’s enough of it, with the right coach, to reach the playoffs.
The Browns didn’t reach the playoffs this year, but the problem was Kitchens, not Dorsey. Repeat: not Dorsey.
The former was broke, and they’ve rightfully taken steps to fix it. The latter was not broke, so they broke it anyway, by forcing Dorsey out into the street.
There will apparently be a complete reorganization of the front office, which in itself wouldn’t be overly alarming except for the fact that the reorganization will be done by the same ownership that reorganized it the last three or four times, and will reorganize it again in (checks watch) about 12 months from now.
This is not so much a football franchise as an endless, chaotic carousal, run by a carny with the patience of an overcaffeinated hummingbird.
Will there be a return to a heavier reliance on analytics, which served the Browns so well in the 2016 draft by telling them to select wide receiver Corey Coleman in the first round, 32 picks ahead of where the Saints took future Hall of Famer Michael Thomas?
Or will there be a more balanced approach between the numbers crunchers and the football lifers?
It doesn’t really matter if the whole plan gets blown up again a year from now. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Dorsey was by far Haslam’s most astute talent evaluator since he bought the team. Dorsey built the best roster Haslam has had since he bought the team.
That’s not somebody you force out.
Nobody protested the firing of Kitchens, just as nobody thinks forcing out Dorsey is a good idea.
But Haslam is his own worst enemy, which is saying something these days.
The harder Haslam tries to build it right, the more he builds it wrong. Just because the ship hits a little choppy water, you don’t start throwing deck chairs overboard.
The decision on Kitchens was a good one, and it should have stopped there. This season was a bad one but it is by no means a blow-it-up situation. Especially if the blower-upper is the same owner who has been blowing it up almost every year he’s owned the team.
It’s bad strategy and an even worse look.
Not that the Browns had a reputation as a smoothly run football machine to begin with, but forcing the best football mind out of the building is a bad look, again, for an organization that already leads the league in bad looks, by a wide margin.
An organization that now is in need of two of the most important pieces for any NFL team, a general manager and a coach, must sell itself to available candidates as a place they should want to work.
Even if it’s possible they could be fired a year from now, when they blow it up again.
Good luck with that. Because when it comes to NFL general managers and NFL coaches, just OK is not OK, although in the Browns’ case, after Hue Jackson and Kitchens, a head coach who is just OK would probably look like Vince Lombardi.
The bigger problem, of course, is and has been for several years, not the coach or the general manager. It’s been the person hiring the coaches and the general managers. The person who in the span of 48 hours fired one and forced out the other.
The owner, ironically, who is the Freddie Kitchens of owners.
Contact Jim Ingraham at [email protected].