It wasn’t shocking when the Cleveland Browns fired executive vice president Sashi Brown on Thursday morning. It’s hard to be taken aback by any change made by a franchise with a 1-27 record in the last two seasons.
But Cleveland has a reputation for being impatient and firing decision makers before it can see a vision come to fruition. Since 2013, Browns owner Haslam has hired and fired head coaches Rob Chudzinski and Mike Pettine, as well as executives Mike Lombardi, Joe Banner and Ray Farmer. Now Sashi Brown joins that list.
So the firing — no matter how unsurprising it was — still drew laughs at a team that has been the butt of jokes for a long time.
Owner Jimmy Haslam had to know a full-scale rebuild would take time to produce results when he hired Brown and Hue Jackson in 2016, but one didn’t even make it to 2018. That’s a pretty far cry from trusting the process.
Same old Browns, right?
Cleveland isn’t starting over this time, though. The move isn’t an admission that analytics is a failure, even if the Browns front office was pushing the limits of a mathematics-based approach to building a franchise under Brown’s leadership.
It’s not the end of the road for anyone except Brown and that makes this different than the team’s impatient resets of the past:
Sashi Brown is the only one getting the boot
Unlike sweeping changes of the past, the Browns only parted ways with one person Thursday.
"Hue Jackson will remain our coach and will return for the 2018 season," Haslam said in his statement announcing the firing of Brown. "But we feel it is necessary to take significant steps to strengthen our personnel department.
Even Browns chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta — the inspiration for Jonah Hill’s analytics guru character in Moneyball — is sticking around for now, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.
That much could change during the hunt for a new executive or after a hire is made. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported more front-office members could get fired, too, as the team reshapes the organization with former Kansas City Chiefs general manager John Dorsey as a leading candidate for the job.
Even Jackson's job doesn't seem entirely safe and Haslam's assertion he'll be back in 2018 isn't easy to trust when he told reporters in 2015 that the team wouldn't "blow things up" if the season went south. Then he blew things up anyway after a 3-13 year.
There's plenty of time for the Browns to look much different in a couple months, but right now it's just one man gone and that's far from a reset.
So why fire Brown, then?
One clear possibility for the move is that Cleveland has made the executive the scapegoat for the franchise’s sad state of affairs. No other team in NFL history has won just once over a 28-game span and the 2017 Browns aren’t showing signs that they’re trending in the right direction.
The team is winless through 12 games, dead last in points scored, No. 26 in points allowed, and really just an unmitigated shit show. Cleveland’s starting quarterback is DeShone Kizer, a second-round rookie you can’t help but feel sorry for while he’s on the verge of finishing with the worst passer rating for a starter since JaMarcus Russell in 2009.
At the core of the issue for Brown has been the team's inability to address the quarterback position. Cleveland had the opportunity to draft Carson Wentz in 2016 or Deshaun Watson in 2017 and traded both picks away.
But it’s hard to dig at the franchise’s issues and determine that Brown was the reason for its failings. While Cleveland didn’t find a quarterback, the team racked up selections and found a lot of promising, young contributors.
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
In particular, the Browns defensive line with recent draft picks Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah and Larry Ogunjobi has been an area of strength for the team. The inability to find a quarterback can’t be understated, but that may not even be Brown’s fault.
Well reported at the time of the drafts by Hue's friend Mike Silver that he wanted Goff, thought No 2 was too much for Wentz and would have taken Hooker, not Watson https://t.co/XyWknm0wvx— Kevin Cole (@Cole_Kev) December 7, 2017
A reason for the ousting of the executive vice president that makes more sense is a messy divorce of the Browns' brain trust. According to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Brown and Jackson haven’t been on speaking terms for about a month.
The relationship between Brown and Jackson reportedly deteriorated
A little over a month ago, Cleveland nearly completed a trade with the Cincinnati Bengals for quarterback AJ McCarron. But the former Jackson disciple didn’t come to Cleveland, because the trade wasn’t called in by the Browns before the deadline.
A week later, Brown had to deny rumors that he sabotaged the trade with many believing that he and Jackson didn’t agree on the idea of acquiring the quarterback.
If it became clear that the two in charge of the Browns rebuild couldn’t work together — and not talking to each other for a month would certainly indicate that’s the case — then Haslam had to get rid of one or both. He chose to keep Jackson.
That may prove to be a mistake, given Jackson has one of the worst head coaching records in NFL history. But it wasn’t difficult for the Browns to find an executive to jump on board. Former Chiefs general manager John Dorsey was hired later the same day, despite this being a team that can’t find wins, isn’t changing coaches, and cycles through executives on a seemingly annual basis.
Dorsey will have to work closely with Jackson, too.
Hue Jackson says he doesn't want personnel power, but "I'd like to know and be in concert with the person that will be doing those things."— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) December 7, 2017
On the other hand, the Browns are a team with many young players already contributing and the new executive will get five draft selections in the first two rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft — likely including two top 10 picks — to work with.
The Browns began a rebuild in 2016, but the firing of Sashi Brown doesn't need to mark the beginning of another one. It's a franchise that won't escape its reputation as one that's quick to push the reset button, but this firing doesn't look like another example.