Officially, there’s no one moment that caused Browns owner Jimmy Haslam to lose faith in his former management team of CEO Joe Banner and G.M. Michael Lombardi.
Unofficially, Peter King may have identified the catalyst for sudden and unexpected and sweeping change.
King writes at TheMMQB.com that Banner had strong opposition to the possible hiring of fired Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, while owner Jimmy Haslam was intrigued. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer had called to recommend Schiano. Patriots coach Bill Belichick called. Twice.
While that could have been the last straw, King points to other evidence, such as an awkward moment between Banner and Ken Whisenhunt, when Whisenhunt interviewed for the job a second straight year and wanted to know why he didn’t get the gig the prior year. Banner reportedly didn’t think Whisenhunt had compiled a “championship coaching staff,” Whisenhunt openly questioned Banner’s ability to make that assessment, and a seed may have been planted for Haslam.
It seems that Haslam, who admits he’s learning on the fly, is too concerned about voices outside the organization, because plenty of voices outside the organization had been saying not-so-favorable things about Banner and Lombardi, even though Banner spent a generation as a successful executive with a perennial contender in Philadelphia. The notion, as reported Tuesday by Mary Cay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, that Whisenhunt and Bill O’Brien and Adam Gase didn’t want to coach the Browns because of the management structure, apparently took root with Haslam.
The inclusion of Gase on the list is intriguing. Surely, Gase had gotten input about Haslam and his organization from Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who knows Haslam via their mutual Tennessee connection. If Gase thought there was a problem with the management team, there’s a good chance Manning (who’s older than Gase) thought there was a problem with the management team. Is it outlandish to think that Peyton Manning, who called the Lions in unsolicited fashion to support Jim Caldwell for head coach, may have shared his own assessment of the former management team with Haslam?
The problem for Haslam is that he waited until after the coaching search ended before firing the men who hired Mike Pettine. Now, Pettine and G.M. Ray Farmer will have to coexist, knowing that their mutual boss keeps his finger at all times close to the trigger.
Especially with Peyton Manning a year or two away from being able to give Haslam and the Browns the credibility they so desperately need, by assuming a John Elway-style role with the franchise.