The Cleveland Browns are trying to reinvent the wheel again.
Owner Jimmy Haslam sent shockwaves throughout Northeast Ohio on Sunday evening by announcing the promotion of Sashi Brown to executive vice president of football operations and saying the club would pursue a head coach before a general manager.
As Haslam admitted, no other team employs this structure.
Just as surprising, Haslam said Brown will have final say in personnel decisions. Brown formerly served as executive vice president / general counsel. The Harvard grad is a lawyer with experience in football business and the salary cap, but little to no experience in personnel.
Haslam dismissed the importance of structure during his presser:
"I have looked and spent a lot of time over the last year looking at NFL teams and then other professional sports teams in terms of how they are organized. You can look at New England, Green Bay and Seattle, and they are all organized differently and they all have been very successful. I will just reiterate what I say: I don’t think structure is quite as important as right people in the right place and everybody understanding their roles and working well together."
Whether or not Haslam is willing to admit it, structure plays a critical role in an organization. Thus, I wanted to illustrate what the organization will look like under Haslam's new model.
According to Haslam's statements, here is a rough sketch of the new organizational structure:
Please excuse the rudimentary nature of the graphic, as I created it in Microsoft Word and Paint. Regardless, this graphic represents what we know about Haslam's organizational plan.
A few critical pieces of the puzzle:
1. Brown has the final say over personnel decisions. However, the draft will be a collaborative process, as Haslam envisions it. The general manager and head coach will have a say in who the team selects, though Brown will have the power to make the final decision.
2. The new head coach will have limited control of personnel. This decision eliminates the "football czar" candidates such as Nick Saban, Mike Shanahan, etc. In other words, don't expect Mike Holmgren to make a return appearance.
3. Scheiner will not have a say in the hiring of the general manager or coach. According to Haslam, Scheiner will not serve on the committee appointed to hire a head coach and a general manager. Scheiner will remain primarily on the business side. The team president still wields significant power in Berea, but not on the football operations end.
4. Haslam will have fuller control over team operations. Under this structure, three people will report directly to Haslam -- Brown, Scheiner, and the new head coach. Haslam will have direct contact with the three major portions of the Browns, allowing him to have more control. Haslam is not a reincarnation of Randy Lerner; he does not seem willing to utilize a hands-off approach.
5. The new structure limits general manager candidates. As Tom Pelissero of USA TODAY wrote, "Because Brown will have 53-man roster control, other teams can block their scouts from interviewing for the "GM" job – instantly removing many quality candidates from the pool." The new head coach will have a significant say in the next general manager, limiting this person's power.
More information on structure and candidates for head coach and general manager will emerge in the coming days, but Haslam's new plan looks ambitious.
According to the structure, Haslam is placing his trust in two key people -- Brown and Scheiner. These will shoulder the load of leading the team and creating the culture. Both are bright, young individuals. The two lack one critical characteristic, however -- Football knowledge and GM skills.
Will Brown and Scheiner succeed in the quest to lead the Browns out of mediocrity? Time will tell, as will the duo's first two hires.
UPDATE (TUESDAY, 3:00 PM): Following the hire of Paul DePodesta, the team's new chief strategy officer (story here), I decided to update the structure diagram.
Admittedly, the structure is not yet complete and might not be 100% fully accurate. However, this is the best chart using all of the information we have at hand.
Here's the new chart:
Thoughts? Tell us what you think in the comments section.