The Browns have yet again revised their power structure, ostensibly handing the keys to 32-year-old Andrew Berry as the team’s new General Manager and executive V.P. of football operations. He becomes the sixth G.M. during the less-than-eight-year ownership tenure of Jimmy and Dee Haslam.
Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports that Berry “will have final say over roster decisions.” More accurately, his contract will give him that power. As a practical matter, the question is whether he’ll actually have it — and whether he’ll ever dare to use it.
It’s a not-uncommon dynamic in situations like this. Given league rules that prohibit hiring executives who are under contract with other teams, the new job must be a sufficiently big job to circumvent the ability of the executive’s current team to block the move. Given that the Eagles, Berry’s most recent employer, blocked a request by the Panthers to interview Berry for something other than the G.M. job, it’s fair to wonder whether the Eagles would have declined an opportunity for Berry to return to the Browns if he had anything less than final say over the roster.
When Dolphins V.P. of football operations Bill Parcells hired Jeff Ireland from the Cowboys in 2008, Ireland got contractual final say — even if no one believed Ireland could actually trump the Big Tuna. And when the Browns hired George Kokinis from the Ravens to serve as G.M. with coach Eric Mangini, Kokinis got contractual final say. Even if he didn’t actually have it.
By all appearances and based on reports that surfaced at the time, Kokinis likely made the mistake of thinking that his final say was something more than words on paper aimed at allowing the Browns to hire him. His tenure quickly ended after he and Mangini didn’t see eye to eye, and as Mangini acted like the one with final say, contracts notwithstanding.
Now, it’s a fair question to raise as to Berry, given the influence of chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta and new coach Kevin Stefanski. With both of them firmly in place, and with the magic words necessary to the contract of Berry allowing the transaction to happen, the magic words get included, and everyone moves forward.
So moving forward, what will happen? Given years of dysfunction and disharmony in Cleveland, whether Berry actually will be given the power he has been granted, or whether actually exercising that right will create problems for Berry, are potentially intriguing topics to monitor.
Thus, it’s too early to accept without scrutiny or curiosity the notion that DePodesta and Stefanski — the man hyped during the coaching search as the leader the Browns currently need — will happily take a back seat to Berry, who rightly or wrongly will be perceived by some as the Plan B to Vikings assistant G.M. George Paton, who passed on the job last week.
The circumstances as they have unfolded don’t suggest that Berry will actually be running the show. The contract will say that he is, because it has to. What happens next inevitably will become a chapter, good or bad, in the neverending drama that is the Cleveland Browns.