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Can the Cleveland Browns Be Saved?

Somewhere about 4:00 a.m. the morning after the Browns hit the canvas against the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football, I was awake and tweeting about the situation with the team that wears brown and orange.

I was thinking about the organization, seeing a general manger who can't draft and a head coach who can't seem to make in-game adjustments and won't play young guys so they can get in-game reps to help them develop. I was thinking, Maybe it's time to find some new guys who can and who will.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking about the constant turning over of the management of this team, and how we would have run Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton out of town by this time. And when I say "we" I don't just mean the organization; I'm talking more about the fans, too. 

And there's one more piece to this puzzle. The team is such a mess and has been such a mess for such a long time, who would want to come here? Fans dream of somebody with big-time credentials, making excuses that these guys would come here because of some tie to the area or the organization.

Folks, if you haven't learned by now, that's not happening.

The only people who come here are people who are doing so because they're getting a promotion. Your list of head coaches since the team returned:

  • Chris Palmer, previously the offensive coordinator at Jacksonville
  • Butch Davis, previously a college coach at the University of Miami
  • Romeo Crennel, previously a defensive line coach for the NY Jets
  • Eric Mangini, previously the head coach of the NY Jets
  • Pat Shurmur, previously the offensive coordinator in St Louis
  • Rob Chudzinski, previously the offensive coordinator in Carolina
  • Mike Pettine, previously the defensive coordinator in Buffalo

So of all of these head coaches, only one of them wasn't a promotion, and that was Mangini, who made a lateral move from the Jets.

How many of those guys went on to be head coaches in the NFL somewhere else? One, Romeo Crennel, who coached the Kansas City Chiefs before getting fired 11 months later.

What about GMs? I won't run through the list like above, but the names are: Dwight Clark, Butch Davis, Phil Savage, George Kokinis, Tom Heckert, Michael Lombardi, and Ray Farmer. Two of those guys had previously been general managers: Clark and Heckert. None have been once since leaving the team.

So let's give up the fantasy that Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden or Nick Saban is coming here. What you're going to get if you fire Farmer and Pettine is probably someone getting a promotion.

But, okay. The best coaches and general managers all got promoted from someplace. The Browns just need to find one of those diamonds hiding in the rough, yes?

Okay. Now go back through those two lists and tell me how much confidence you have in this organization finding those guys. True, Jimmy Haslam isn't responsible for the failures of the previous owners, but has he impressed you otherwise?

Some people are throwing around Peyton Manning's name as a possible team president, seeing his Tennessee connections with Haslam. To me, that's more connecting the same dots we connect with Gruden and Cowher. Also....he's never even been in a front office in any capacity. Yes, he's intelligent, but how do we know he can run a business organization? He's not reading coverages here. How do we know he knows how to manage people and spot front-office talent?

So what do I want to happen that realistically can? That's a question with no definite answer.

Do they fire these guys and pray the next guys know what they're doing? Do they hire within where they have a more intimate knowledge of the abilities of the hirees? Do they hire from the outside, taking someone who they don't know but has had success somewhere else in a lesser role? Is that going to mean more waiting? Waiting for the new guys to figure out their new roles and probably waiting for them to turn over a roster once more?

Do they keep these guys and think that the mistakes they've made are going to teach them something that they can correct? Is Mike Pettine suddenly going to figure out how to make adjustments at halftime? Would Pettine finally let go of Defensive Coordinator Jim O'Neill? Is Ray Farmer suddenly going to be able to spot first-round talent? Is Ray Farmer going to finally understand that skill position players matter in the NFL?

It seems like either option is a bad one. I don't want to wait any longer! But neither do I want to waste any more time with guys who don't have what it takes to succeed, where change is inevitable anyway. Sure, either option could end up resulting in a positive outcome. But after 17 seasons of mostly emotional beatings, how am I supposed to have any confidence that it will happen that way? Seems like either path is sure to result in one form of misery or another.

The Browns are a mess. They have been a mess for a long time. Can they stop it? Can they become a team and an organization that figures out how to win? Can they be saved?

That's a question with no definite answer.
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