It’s so easy to pile on the Cleveland Browns right now. Heck, I’ll admit I did it myself Sunday night when one of their beat writers pointed out they’d now fired three general managers and three coaches (not to mention president Joe Banner) in only three years.
So naturally, when owner Jimmy Haslam announced he was promoting Sashi Brown to executive Vice President of football operations, it was quickly dismissed by many as more Browns-being-Browns behavior.
A lawyer as de facto GM? Please. It’ll be only two years before the Browns fire a guy named Brown and start doing this whole dance again, right?
Maybe not. This move might actually wind up being the first wise one Haslam has made.
Over the past few years, Brown’s name is the one that’s drawn praise when people around the league have spoken about Cleveland. In a front office where egos clashed, he was noted as the one who seemed to have the franchise’s best interests in mind.
A member of Sports Business Journal’s "Forty Under 40" list last year, Brown is a graduate of Harvard Law School and has served as the team’s general counsel after playing a similar role for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But to say Brown is going right from being the team’s lawyer to its GM would be a mischaracterization on both ends. He’s had more responsibilities in Cleveland than he did in Jacksonville, such as negotiating the team’s contracts. Several veteran agents have told FOX Sports dealings with Brown were much more professional than negotiations under previous regimes.
"He is very capable (of handling his new role)," one agent texted on Monday morning.
It’s not as if Brown is the first salary-cap guy to take over football operations. It’s just that his taking over minutes after Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine were fired and before the coaching search has even begun, framed by the Browns’ failures in recent years, makes this move an easy one to bash.
Plus, when Haslam announced Brown would have control over the team’s roster, it read for many as if he’d be the one selecting the players while trying to pass himself off as a longtime personnel guy who cut his teeth on the road for years.
That’s not the case, Browns sources say. They say he has no ego and they have full confidence Brown understands his role and his limitations. Most importantly, they say Brown knows how critical the hiring of the next head of personnel will be.
"If you look at the team’s that are successful, they’re very good at talent acquisition," Haslam said Sunday night. "That’s something we have to get right, and we think this setup with somebody with a background in systems, processes, analytics … married up with a football person who is very good at talent evaluation will hopefully put us in a position to win a lot more games than we have in the past."
There’s more to running football operations than picking the players. Way more. It’s about aligning an organization and making sure the coach, the head of personnel, the scouts and everyone are making joint decisions.
In other words, it’s about giving "Browns-being-Browns" a new meaning. Don’t be surprised if it’s the guy named Brown who gets that done.