Well Messrs Haslam and Banner have been running things for about 6 months or so, and without a draft it is too early to conclude how the talent acquisition cycle has gone. Still - not too early for me to shout out my observations about how the new regime is doing.
First, in the interest of transparency and fairness, let me share with you my biases that obviously cloud and color my observations:
1. I personally did not feel Randy and Mike were pushing the organization hard enough for success and therefore am optimistic that the regime change would likely produce better results.
2. I personally care more about Lombardi's performance in the last few weeks during FA than his prior tenure as a "brown nosing Bellicek lap dog", or Crazy Al's draft card runner, or the time he spent talking out of the sound end of his mouth on the NFL network. Still I think it would be remiss not to mention that several folks have posted excellent points of his deficiencies. So I will be patient on the Lombardi hire, but if it doesn't work out his "lightning rod hire" flames out - he should and will be shown the door
Now onto the grading:
Organizational Building B+
I am giving points here for attracting folks on the business side that have received rave reviews throught the league. I liked the fact that they defined the coaching role early, made the decision to fire Shurmur quickly. Banner avoided earlier pratfalls that included not having an OC, or having a coach that you did not understand or were not aligned with.
Head Coaching Selection B and growing
I have to admit, I was not thrilled immediately on hearing about the Chud hire as I was intrigued by Chip Kelly - but it is growing on me. First, Chud impressed me with his coordinator selection and the fact he did not hang on to play calling like a petulant child. It seems he has a better understanding of the need to develop as a HC. Secondly, in remembering his work with DA 2007 his hiring could have a huge potential impact on BW. IMHO - if BW doesn't materially improve, we will again have the risk of being a bad team with double digit losses. I think Norv and Chud give BW the absolute best possible chance to realize his potential and for the Browns to be "good". When BW goes on the practice field - excuse him if he is doing cartwheels and screaming "free at last".
Coordinator Staff A to A+
I could not be happier that Chud brought Norv and turned over the playcalling to someone that HOFer Troy Aikman said is "the best play caller of all-time - not even close". Having his experience and friendship increases the probability of Chud's success. The fact that Norv has come to increase Chud's success speaks volumes of both men. Ray Horton - love the hire. Jauron is a damn fine coordinator - but his bend but don't break style will never yield a dominating defense. With the winter winds of the lake, a fierce, dominating defense will be the hallmark of the next really good Cleveland Browns' team - whenever that may or may not come.
Defensive Free Agency B to B+
I really like the thought process here. If you are not coming off your rookie contract, under 28, you simply did not receive a multi year contract. Getting Desmond and Krueger as they enter their prime earned my personal appreciation. In addition, they add so much flexibility to the draft. Without their signing and you have to be pretty bummed if Ansah and Dion Jordan were not available. Now, if you get a Dee Milliner and he develops into the best CB in the draft, it would be an exciting add - maybe not optimal or who your heart desired - but not a buzz kill. In addition, I like the one year deals too as well. If I understand correctly, all those contracts will immediately be cap spacee next year, and help us with depth this year. Why not a higher grade? Would have been nice to add a young FA CB or S to a multi year deal for even more draft flexibity.
Offensive Free Agency Incomplete
Real props for coming through on the QB competition as promised. I do not think there was a better, cheaper, more effective option on the market. It looks like publicly it be "may the best QB win" situation with both guys to receive a fair shot. That said the Browns brass are rubbing their lucky stones that BW beats Jason handily. Won't hammer them on the TE position, as the best TE option on the market was runnerup to Mike Wallace in the most overpaid FA category - so I did not have a huge issue with bringing in basically bodies. Lets face it - the offense sucked last year - but the offense received the lion's share of the draft resources last year and it is time for those players to step up. Will the offense be good next year? You tell me. Will TR become a top 5-10 back or will he have a pedestrian 3.5-4.0 ypc next year? Will BW beat out Campbell and materially improve? If those things come out ok - no one will be bitching about not signing a higher profile FA.
So lets talk overall grade. I think this new regime is off to a really good start. While I was disappointed to see Heckert go - it seems they were still able to hit the ground running. I think they have avoided some of the early mistakes of the prior regime. Consider these differences:
1. Bringing in an expensive, worthless retread of a QB in Delhomme vs. Jason Campbell on a 2yr deal.
2. Bringing back Mangini despite knowing he was not aligned with where you wanted to go vs. whacking Shurmur AFAHFP
3. Hiring Shurmur and allow him not to hire an OC vs. bringing in fantastic coordinators.
4. Handing the job to Colt in 2011 without aggressively looking to upgrade the QB position vs. making BW earn the spot. At the very least - we will have a definite answer in the first year of if we need to go QB next year.
5. Drafting BW and putting him in an under center dink and dunk offense vs. bringing in coaches whose system fits his talents to a T.
So what early grade do you think is merited?