For years the stereotype of the Cleveland Browns has been of a dysfunctional organisation which changes it QB and coach almost annually and the last two weeks have done nothing to change that stereotype. If anything it has only made it worse with the circus that is Johnny Manziel, Josh Gordon and GM Ray Farmer. Here I am grudgingly going to sort through them.
Johnny Manziel– While going into a rehab certainly can’t be seen as a bad move for him personally and professionally, it really makes you wonder what happened last year. Manziel, a rookie who had addiction problems so bad that he had to go to rehab to sort them out was chosen to start 2 games despite having a solid starter in Brian Hoyer. Rumours circulating since Kyle Shanahan left have been suggesting that he wanted to stick with Hoyer but he was forced to play Manziel by GM Ray Farmer, Owner Jimmy Haslam and others. I have heard some say that this resembles Brett Favre‘s career slightly with him going onto win three MVP titles in a row after having a stint in rehab for an addiction to painkillers. To compare them is natural with his similar kind of improvisational style but Brett Favre never went out partying in the same way that Manziel has. The hiring of Manziel’s personal QB coach Kevin O’Connell as the Browns QB is slightly dubious although Mike Pettine and John DeFilippo insist that he would have been chosen anyway and the main reason he was hired was because he worked with them in the past in his days as a backup QB with the Jets back in 2009 -10. Its kind of telling of who the Browns ownership and front office want as their starter. A plus point to this move though is the fact that he worked extensively with Marcus Mariota and also has some experience with Jameis Winston from his current job preparing QBs for the draft should the Browns make a move for either of them. O’Connell was a mobile QB himself who spent 5 years in the league and should be able to help Manziel adjust once he links up with him after the combine. For now I applaud him for trying to get help and sort out his life but you can’t help but wonder if he is a long term fit for the Browns.
Josh Gordon– I’m struggling to even think where to begin with Gordon but I should probably start of with a recap. Gordon’s problems really started when he was at Baylor and got kicked out for failing three drug tests. He went on to spend a year at Utah without playing due to NCAA transfer rules before getting drafted in the 2nd round of the supplemental draft by the Browns. At end of his promising rookie season, Gordon got caught taking codeine which said came from taking a cough bottle. He was banned for the first four games but this was reduced to two and four game cheques on appeal. Upon returning, Gordon went on to lead the league in receiving and set multiple NFL and Browns records despite only playing 14 games.If that was all that happened then you might consider it somewhat acceptable but its what happens after the first suspension that is the real big problem. Last year, despite knowing that he was in the NFL drug system and that any kind of misdemeanor would get him suspended again he allowed himself to be in a situation where enough marijuana got his system that he failed an NFL mandated drug test. He strenuously denies that he smoked marijuana and said that the positive test was as a result of second hand smoke but when your lively hood rests on something as simple as not doing illegal drugs then you really got to questions why he put himself in that situation. It wasn’t like there wasn’t a reward for him staying clean with a prize of around $500,000 if he didn’t re-offend. That is before you even mention the DWI he got in N.C. during the same off-season. Then when he came back for the last two games he visibly wasn’t prepared for the NFL with him running wrong routes and causing Brian Hoyer to throw interceptions because he wasn’t where he supposed to be, with reports coming out from team sources that he didn’t know the plays or the playbook. Then despite having already served a 12 game suspension that season Gordon went ahead and got suspended for the Browns final game because he decided to go out and party the night before a game and got suspended for the Baltimore game along with rookies Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel. Then when he just could not seem to do anything worse he went away and failed yet another drug test. This time for alcohol after getting drunk on a flight to Vegas. Hardly a place for a man who should be keeping his head down. The result, a years suspension without pay. Gordon then penned a letter to respond to his critics but really it is too little, too late. It really makes you wonder when if ever Gordon is going to learn.
Ownership– Finally the most bizarre of all and yet the most stereotypical Browns thing that could have happened. Reports began to come out in January at the same time that Kyle Shanahan asked for a release that a Browns staff member was texting a coach play calls on the sidelines. Now at the time I speculated that it was QB coach Dowell Loggains who had a very close relationship with Johnny Manziel and had shown a meddling streak when he texted Jimmy Haslam to convince him to draft Manziel. This week though news emerged that NFL is investigating GM Ray Farmer for texts he sent to Kyle Shanahan which is a violation of NFL regulations. The must likely outcome now is that Farmer will be find and that the Browns will lose a mid-round draft pick because of it but that is not the real issue here. Its the fact that it was even allowed to happen and the culture that must exist in the Browns front office. Really its got to start from the top where Jimmy Haslam must start to use some of the lessons he learned from the Rooneys during his time as a minority owner and help build a solid organizations where shenanigans like this don’t happen. That means taking a step back and let the coaches and front office do their jobs. He needs to stop the interfering that lead one owner to call him like “Jerry Jones with the football IQ” and needs to keep his business affairs clean if wants to stay an owner. GM Ray Farmer and team president Alec Scheiner need to learn that their jobs are on the personal and business sides respectively and not on the coaching side. Farmer should concentrate on getting the right pieces in and putting a good support structure in place for them so incidents like this stop happening. Mike Pettine and his staff need to be able to do their job because they clearly aren’t that bad leading the team to their best record since 2007.
If the Browns can finally get all of this under control then maybe they’ll be able to shake the label of being the “same old Browns” and move on and become a more stable and successful organization.
P.S. Definitely read CBS Sports’ Jason LaConfora’s piece on the dysfunctional Browns – Browns’ mess with Gordon, Manziel begins with owner Haslam’s meddling
The link to Josh Gordon’s full letter is right here