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Dissecting Joe Banner's Interview With the Plain Dealer


Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer was the fortunate Cleveland sports reporter to score a telephone interview with former Browns CEO Joe Banner. I encourage you to head on over and read the article.

Upon finishing the article, I thought it was a good read -- although pretty much anything that doesn't repetitively talk about QB Johnny Manziel at this point in the offseason could probably qualify as quality reading material. Once I started to reflect on the article, though, a few things stood out to me and some additional questions came up, which I will highlight below.

What Stood Out?

  • Not only the fact that it took a lot of convincing to bring GM Ray Farmer to Cleveland (then as an Assistant GM), but that they had to convince him not to take the Miami job.
    "First we had to convince Ray, and then we had to convince the Chiefs to let him go,'' said Banner. His family was very comfortable in Kansas City, he knew Andy Reid, he believed in Andy Reid and he had a good relationship with (Chiefs Chairman and CEO) Clark Hunt. Then, after we hired him, we had to convince him to not take the (GM) job in Miami."
    Back in February, when Banner and Farmer were both with the organization, Farmer said that he turned down the Miami job because "he felt Cleveland was in position to redefine the history books." Is that Farmer who came to that conclusion by himself, or did Banner really put in some effort to convince him to stay, just like the effort he put in to bring him over from Kansas City?

  • When a reporter does a recap from an interview they did, many times they will include a lot of quotes from their interview. To vary the flow of the article, though, sometimes they will not include the direct quote on a certain topic, but rather paraphrase what the interviewee said. It's tough to tell if that is what happened when Cabot mentioned WR Josh Gordon. In writing about Gordon, Cabot said the following:
    When the Browns' highest offer was a second-round pick and players, they opted not to make the move.
    If we are to believe that this information came from Banner, it would, from my recollection, be the first confirmation from Banner that they did receive an offer for Gordon in 2013. I had always heard about the 2nd round pick being the rumored compensation, but I didn't recall hearing about other players being involved too (but when I looked back, Adam Schefter tweeted this last October: "At least 3 teams have contacted Browns about deal for WR Josh Gordon; two have standing offers of a high pick and a player. Browns balking.")

    This could also contradict the rumors from this offseason, which indicated that the Browns couldn't even get an offer of 2nd round pick last year for Gordon, due to the suspension-related concerns surrounding him.

  • Banner conceded that the acquisition of WR Davone Bess last year "was a mistake," but noted that they had structured the deal to protect them from guaranteed money is a situation like the one that arose ever came up. He also said that even though WR Charles Johnson having a torn ACL didn't look good for them last year, it doesn't matter because the Browns own the rights to him this year and for several more years.

Getting Back Into the NFL?

  • Banner said that he has already turned down several job opportunities in the NFL, and isn't sure he wants to get back in. When you re-read the article, though, it somewhat sounds like one big propaganda piece for Banner to try to shoehorn his way back into an NFL organization by saying, "look what I did, I was a visionary!" A lot of that can be attributed that to the way that Cabot structured the piece, though. In fairness, perhaps it was a requirement by Banner -- after all, Cabot noted that Banner had already turned down at least 50 interview requests before her big score.

  • Banner was quoted as saying that he's "been watching Mike Pettine for years" and that both he and Farmer were "under the radar moves." Nothing is mentioned about the fact that Michael Lombardi was Banner's original GM partner who didn't work out, or that Pettine wasn't one of the first names they tried to go after during their two coaching searches.

  • Something that has always irked me a little is that many reporters point to the fact that Joe Banner paved the way for Ray Farmer to be in great shape cap-wise in 2014. I have no problem with giving Banner credit, but only for not screwing up the cap. Nobody seems to mention the fact that Tom Heckert, the general manager from the previous regime, was the person who began the whole cap-clearing trend. He started it, Banner didn't screw it up, and then Farmer will now reap the benefits for the next X number of years.

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due...But It Could Have Been More

  • In terms of building the business side of things, I think Banner does deserve a lot of the credit, particularly for bringing in team president Alec Scheiner. Scheiner has been able to carry over many of the initiatives that he and Banner were working on. On top of that, General Counsel Sashi Brown picked up on many of the contract-related stuff that Banner was savvy with.

  • Maybe there were conditions of the interview, but Cabot really missed on some opportunities for some juicy nuggets here. In particular, I thought the Josh Gordon situation could have been fleshed out a lot more. We didn't get any verbatim quotes from Banner on Gordon, and we didn't get any information about whether Banner knew about his potential suspension before he was let go. Even if Banner did not want to discuss Gordon, Cabot could have had a one-line acknowledgment in her report stating as such.

  • The fallout with Michael Lombardi must have been an off-limit topic, because there was no mention of that either. And, why was Banner originally set to stay with the Browns through May, only to leave in March?

Banner "did some good things," but since his departure, it just seems like a much more stress-free environment, both from the perspective of the front office and the fans.