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Did The Browns Make The Right Move? - Ez Likes Sunday Morning 12/10/17

This last week saw major decisions made, were they the right ones?

NFL: Combine
FWIW, he does look like a football guy
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

In a stunning turn of events, last Thursday the Cleveland Browns fired Executive Vice President of football operations, Sashi Brown. He had held that post for not quite two years. In the same breath, the team recommitted to head coach Hue Jackson for at least another season. Then just as suddenly, the team hired John Dorsey, formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs, to be the new General Manager, essentially replacing Brown.

This is very disappointing, as the job done by Brown over his short tenure was, candidly, pretty remarkable considering his starting point. At the conclusion of the 2015 season, the Browns were (as usual) seen as the doormat of the league, deserving of widespread scorn and ridicule. Although, even more than usual at that point because of the carnival of embarrassment that was Johnny Manziel. We were like extra-ridiculous in the (righteous) eyes of most at that point and time.

More significantly, the roster left by Ray Farmer (who himself had all of two seasons to implement a vision) was significantly not-special. A cobbled-together group of aging free agents, busted draft picks and some promising (but scheme-mismatched) players lumbered through a 3-13 campaign, leading to the ouster both of Farmer and of 2nd year head coach Mike Pettine.

What’s more, the overall talent and roster composition was not only poor, but also relatively expensive. While a decent amount of draft resources had been both acquired and used during Farmer’s time (a process that was actually started by his predecessor Joe Banner in his lone 2013 effort) precious little was to show for it by the time he was politely (but candidly) shown the door.

For a fairly detailed breakdown of the roster transactions that transpired after Brown took over, I invite you to check out my friend Crawford_T’s excellent fanpost on the subject. Here is a side-by-side comparison:

Browns Roster 2015 To 2017

POS 2015 Roster AGE POS 2017 Roster AGE
POS 2015 Roster AGE POS 2017 Roster AGE
QB Josh McCown 36 QB Deshone Kizer 21
QB Johnny Manziel 23 QB Cody Kessler 24
QB Austin Davis 26 QB Kevin Hogan 25
RB Isaiah Crowell 22 RB Isaiah Crowell 24
RB Duke Johnson 22 RB Duke Johnson 24
RB Malcolm Johnson 23 RB Dan Vitale 24
WR Dwayne Bowe 31 RB Matt Dayes 23
WR Travis Benjamin 26 WR Josh Gordon 26
WR Brian Hartline 29 WR Kenny Britt 29
WR Terrelle Pryor 26 WR Corey Coleman 23
WR Taylor Gabriel 24 WR Ricardo Louis 23
WR Andrew Hawkins 29 WR Rashard Higgins 23
WR Marlon Moore 28 WR Sammie Coates 24
WR Darius Jennings 23 WR Bryce Treggs 23
TE Gary Barnidge 30 TE David Njoku 21
TE Jim Dray 29 TE Seth Devalve 24
TE Rob Housler 27 TE Randall Telfer 25
LT Joe Thomas 31 LT Joe Thomas 33
LG Joel Bitonio 24 LT Joel Bitonio 24
C Cameron Erving 23 C J.C. Tretter 26
RG John Greco 30 RG Kevin Zeitler 27
RT Mitchell Schwartz 26 RT Shon Coleman 26
OL Austin Pasztor 25 OL Spencer Drango 25
DL Danny Shelton 22 OL Austin Reiter 26
DL Randy Starks 32 DL Danny Shelton 24
DL Desmond Bryant 30 DL Larry Ogunjobi 23
DL John Hughes 27 DL Trevon Coley 23
DL Xavier Cooper 24 DL Caleb Brantley 23
DL Jamie Meder 24 DL J.T. McGill 25
EDGE Barkevious Mingo 25 DL Jamie Meder 24
EDGE Paul Kruger 29 EDGE Myles Garrett 22
EDGE Cam Johnson 25 EDGE Emmanuel Ogbah 24
EDGE Armonty Bryant 25 EDGE Carl Nassib 24
EDGE Nate Orchard 22 EDGE Tyrone Holmes 24
EDGE Scott Solomon 27 EDGE Nate Orchard 24
LB Karlos Dansby 34 LB Jamie Collins 27
LB Christian Kirksey 23 LB Christian Kirksey 25
LB Craig Robertson 27 LB Joe Schobert 24
LB Tank Carder 26 LB James Burgess 23
CB Joe Haden 26 CB Jason McCourty 30
CB Tramon Williams 32 CB Jamar Taylor 27
CB Justin Gilbert 24 CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun 24
CB Pierre Desir 25 CB Mike Jordan 25
CB Charles Gaines 23 CB Darius Hillary 24
CB K'Waun Williams 24 CB Reggie Porter 23
S Tashaun Gipson 25 S Derrick Kindred 24
S Donte Whitner 30 S Jabrill Peppers 22
S Ibraheim Campbell 23 S Derron Smith 25
S Jordan Poyer 24 S Kai Nacua 22
S Don Jones 25 S Justin Currie 24
DB Johnson Bademosi 25 CB* Howard Wilson 22
K Travis Coons 23 K Zane Gonzalez 22
P Andy Lee 33 P Britton Colquitt 32
LS Charley Hughlett 25 LS Charley Hughlett 27
CAP SPACE: $22,119,840 CAP SPACE: $58,631,752
Added Draft Picks: 4th, 5th, 5th (all compensatory) Added Draft Picks: 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 4th, 5th (all via trade)

Good people can disagree about the specificity and scope, but to my eyes it looks fairly obvious that the 2017 roster is more talented, younger, cheaper, and possessing not only more, but WAY more future draft resources. This is a pretty remarkable feat considering basically the entire roster has been turned over. We had embarked on a path that would (by the conclusion of this upcoming 2018 offseason) see us essentially cram five drafts into three years.

What’s more, the quality of the picks made is nothing to shake a stick at (or something); as noted on the Twitter by Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting:

I’m very much inclined to agree both with the evaluation of the players selected and the summation of the attractiveness of the position. What Brown accomplished in his short time running things was remarkable, if the stated goal was to completely rebuild the team through the draft (which it was).

It’s All About The Quarterback

Philadelphia Eagles v Seattle Seahawks
Not drafting Carson Wentz netted a massive haul, but ultimately not enough
Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

There’s really two keep parts to the downfall of Brown that make this story go in the direction it does: that we didn’t draft Carson Wentz in 2016 (and him subsequently looking like a HOF’er by his 2nd season) and the “botched” trade for A.J. McCarron at the trade deadline earlier this year.

In the case of the former, the determination was that there were just too many questions about his ability to translate his skill to the NFL level that accepting the massive haul from the Eagles (which has since been multiplied into a bevy of picks we haven’t even fully exhausted yet). Turns out, that calculation was probably incorrect, which of course can’t be known without the benefit of hindsight (and I say this as someone who very much wanted either Wentz OR Goff).

In the case of the would-be trade with Cincinnati, I would probably be more inclined to sign on to Sashi’s termination if I believed he really wanted to send a 2nd & 3rd rounder to the Bengals for AJ frickin’ McCarron. Granted, he may be better than anyone we currently have on the roster, but that doesn’t mean he was (or is) even close to worth that level of compensation. After watching the meticulous way this roster was constructed, I just don’t believe that Brown went along with the trade and in probably sabotaged it. I know he has profusely denied this, but I believe this was done so as to fall on the sword, in an attempt to mend the obviously damaged relationship between he and coach Jackson, as well as to show unity/continuity within the organization.

The combination of missing the Wentz eval along with “failing” to execute the McCarron trade probably combined to seal the fate of this very promising football executive. This is tremendously unfortunate, because the long-road we were taking involved building for a sustained run of success like no other team has ever been put together. When considering our projected $117 million in cap space for 2018 along with (most likely) a full SIX players available to be selected in the top 65 and added to a roster that is very nearly completely built, and the plan looked to be on schedule.

Of course, I am well aware of the teams’ 1-27 record over this time. However on that; while much of the roster construction does consist of young talent that is still raw and prone to making mistakes, one would be myopic not to see Coach Jackson’s role in this effort here. I can certainly understand that Sashi hadn’t (yet) given Hue a viable QB option, but I also never saw Sashi completely fail at fundamental clock and game management as I do with Jackson just about every single week.

That said, and having won the apparent power struggle over his now vanquished former GM, that 1-27 mark is now owned 100% by Jackson. Hopefully he can improve, because as of now that happening represents the best case scenario. I’m not saying I’m expecting it, just that it happening is still more likely than us firing our way to improvement, as we (once again) have halfway done here.

If all goes right, John Dorsey will be the QB expert evaluator that Sashi wasn’t, and using this skill will deliver to us that oh-so-elusive savior of the franchise. For whatever it’s worth, he did spend a ton to move up and get Patrick Mahomes in last year’s draft (who I personally loved and very much wanted on the Browns). In the minds of many, this move explicitly was made to jump us, as we apparently were also in on Mahomes (dammit).

However, he was also fired from his role with Kansas City shortly thereafter. It would seem this was done mostly because of the lackluster way he managed the Chief’s cap situation. Considering the gargantuan amount of space we have (and project to have), it’s going to take a monumental effort to burn through it all. Of course, as I like to say: It CAN be done.

I do believe Sashi Brown will go on to continue working in the NFL and at some point will have another GM-type opportunity, and be very successful at it. Looking at the roster he built, the cap space and draft picks we have, and also assuming that he’s the one that killed the McCarron deal, I certainly salute him and honor his service to the team I so desperately love.

However, time marches on. Now the hope is that Dorsey can zero in on getting great talent, while Hue gets the benefit of a young, talented roster maturing all around him. Both men’s success will be determined by the position that Sashi Brown put them in, because they won’t have much time to turn this thing around before their number gets called for a pink slip. They better not be thinking about tearing it all down, because (beyond being incredibly stupid) they most certainly will not be around long enough to build it back up.

So, let’s hope we nail that QB with the first pick in the ‘18 draft. At this point, pretty much all of it hinges on that selection.


Do You Approve Of The Firing Of Sashi Brown?

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