Monday, December 30, 2013

Oh no, not again: Are the new Browns the same as the old Browns?

It wasn't supposed to be like this anymore.
Do you trust these men?

Eighteen months ago Cleveland Browns' owner Randy Lerner sold the town's most beloved sports franchise to Tennessee businessman Jimmy Haslam. The move was long overdue, as the team's losing ways and shabby sideshow of a front office had made it a national punchline. 

Now that the room has been cleared and an entire new ownership group brought in, how is it possible that things may be even worse than the days of Bottlegate and "F*ck you" emails? Not just an unending stream of bad football - Browns fans are used to that - but the horribly familiar feeling that those in charge have no idea how to improve the situation?

The odds of such a confluence of incompetence striking again seems astronomical, although it does align quite well with the defeatist "Only in Cleveland" mentality that hangs over this city like smog.

But it's hard to blame the pessimists after the Browns' new front office deep-sixed its very first head coaching hire less than one calendar year after employing him. It has nothing to do with any particular love for Rob Chudzinski, a prototypical "unproven coordinator guy" the Browns settled on after candidates like Chip Kelly landed elsewhere. What rankles is the seeming continuance of disorder and chaos in Berea; the sense that the Browns are still a rudderless ship despite the top-down alterations.

Amid all the anger and skepticism over the team's sorry state, some find it admirable that Haslam and president Joe Banner are owning up to the "mistake" of the Chudzinski hire, choosing to jettison him now rather than waste another year with him in tow. Perhaps, but that gives me little comfort considering how quickly turmoil has descended on this organization under Haslam's brief stewardship. Why should anyone trust these guys to get the next coaching hire right?

It beggars belief that, early in this new regime's history at least, almost nothing has changed with how this franchise operates. Haslam said at today's presser that he was "galled" by fans thinking this is the "same old Browns." Strong words, but Haslam done little so far to make us believe that the culture of losing he's inherited is going to drastically improve anytime soon.