Last year, the Raiders abruptly fired P.R. director Zak Gilbert, reportedly because an article written in Sports Illustrated was deemed by owner Mark Davis to be unfairly critical of Davis and his late father, Al.
This year, Gilbert has left the next job he took, resigning as Browns Director of Communications.
“We greatly appreciate Zak’s efforts, work ethic and contributions to the Cleveland Browns organization,” Browns President Alec Scheiner said in a release. “He has been a true professional, and we wish him and his family the best moving forward.”
Gilbert released a statement of his own, characterizing the move as a true resignation.
“After a lot of thought and discussion, I’ve come to the difficult decision to resign my position as head of the Browns’ communications department,” Gilbert said. “I want to thank everyone in the organization, most particularly Jimmy and Dee Haslam. I’d also like to extend my appreciation to Alec Scheiner, Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer, and thank members of the local media for the relationships we enjoyed. Working for one of the great franchises in pro football, the team with the league’s most loyal fans, was a genuine privilege. I wish the Browns and all of my teammates inside the building nothing but success.”
In many cases, terminations masquerade as resignations, create natural skepticism as to whether any resignation truly is a resignation. In this case, the move comes one week after an article appearing on a Sports Illustrated web property inadvertently created the impression that coach Mike Pettine believes the Patriots underhandedly got their hands on a Jets playbook while Pettine was working in New York. Regardless of whether the failure to properly communicate the anecdote belonged more to the interviewer than to the interviewee, Gilbert presumably recommended, suggested, and/or approved the sit-down that created an unwanted distraction for the franchise.
Chances are that the wheels were in motion for this move well before the Pettine playbook snafu. And regardless of whether Gilbert wanted out or the Browns wanted him out, the door continues to revolve when it comes to key jobs in the businesses owned and/or run by Jimmy Haslam.
In less than two years as owner of the Browns, two General Managers (Tom Heckert and Mike Lombardi), two coaches (Pat Shurmur and Rob Chudzinski), a CEO (Joe Banner), and now two P.R. directors (Neal Gulkis and Gilbert) have gone. It’ll be interesting to see whether the trend continues.