The Cleveland Browns are trying a new approach with their front office and head coach. But will the new plan make it harder to fill those roles?
When it comes to the Cleveland Browns, the only constant is change. What had been coming for weeks was made official when the team confirmed that general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine had been relieved of their duties following the season-ending loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It was not, however, a full housecleaning as it had been reported in some areas. While Morocco Brown and Bill Kuharich were also let go from the front office, Sashi Brown was promoted to executive vice president of football operations and handed full roster control.
Owner Jimmy Haslam also announced that the Browns will first hire a head coach and that person would then have a hand in hiring the general manager. It was then reported that the general manager will report to Brown, but the head coach will report directly to Haslam.
The Browns’ in-house reporter, Nathan Zegura, said on Twitter that Sashi Brown’s role “is what you think of as a GM”. If the head coach is going to report directly to Haslam, then the power structure appears to be, at best, the same. The Browns are again faced with having to ensure that these new hires will be able to work collaboratively, something that Jed Hughes of Korn Ferry, the search agency involved in the coaching hire, stressed the importance of in an interview with Sports Illustrated.
It is not necessarily a bad decision to first hire a head coach and then allow him input in the general manager search. The ability to have their guy at general manager will definitely be a draw for potential head coach candidates to a job that is justifiably incredibly unappealing right now.
While that new structure may be something that Haslam had to do to have any chance at talking to top candidates, it should also, in theory, create a better working relationship between the coaches and front office staff.
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However, this move will severely hamstring the move for a new general manager, as top candidates will expect full control over the roster to even consider a job.
In Cleveland, it seems like the role will be similar to the position that many will already be coming from as player personnel directors, making the set up just another deterrent from getting the best candidate for the job.
Most importantly, because the position does not include final say, organizations can block interview requests for their personnel. Coupled with Brown’s inexperience as an evaluator, it does not put the Browns in the best position to improve talent acquisition.
This could be mitigated by a coach with strong experience and ability as an evaluator. Unfortunately, going by the last coaching search, it is unlikely that the Browns are going to get their first choice. Their last three coaches have been first-time head coaches. It is a tall task to move into a head coaching role for the first time, but to also have bear a large amount of weight in personnel may end up being too much for a young coach.
The Browns have trimmed some voices in their recent restructure, but they haven’t put the team in position to maximize the opportunity for success. They have left themselves in a position where new hires could end up underqualified and overstretched.