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:
Here's Sashi Brown's last two NFL Drafts. Our of his 24 picks, 20 might be multi-year NFL contributors. That's an ABSURD success rate.— Eric Galko (@OptimumScouting) December 7, 2017
Plus, they have 2018 Draft 1st and two 2nds coming.
If not for ownership, this would be the most coveted GM job in recent memory. #Browns pic.twitter.com/WpSH65ewy8
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
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
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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