Twenty-four hours after the ousting of CEO Joe Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi, stories started rolling in that paint a picture of the dysfunctional nature of the Cleveland Browns' front office over the past calendar year.
Since November 2012, the Browns have fired two head coaches (Pat Shurmur, Rob Chudzinski), two general managers (Tom Heckert, Lombardi), one CEO (Banner) and one team president (Mike Holmgren). In Jimmy Haslam's 17 months as owner, the organization has employed a whopping 56 coaches.
Hand-picked to run Haslam's football operations, Banner greased the skids for his exit through his handling of Chudzinski and would-be coaching candidates Ken Whisenhunt, Bill O'Brien and Greg Schiano.
As the 2013 season went along, Banner came to believe Chudzinski was overmatched as head coach, according to TheMMQB.com's Peter King. That change of heart, less than a year after the hiring process, didn't sit well with Haslam, who remained high on Chudzinski, according to The Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot.
It has been widely reported that the three candidates to replace Chudzinski turned down the Browns over concerns about the Haslam-Banner-Lombardi front-office dynamic. Per King, new Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt bowed out of the Browns' most recent search after being insulted by Banner during the interview process.
Although no details are known, Cabot has been told that new Texans coach Bill O'Brien didn't want to coach in Cleveland "because of either Banner, Lombardi or both."
Haslam began to question Banner's football acumen, according to King, and a "major rift" developed over recently fired Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, who came with a strong recommendation from Patriots coach Bill Belichick. While Haslam was intrigued, Banner made it clear during the interview that he wanted nothing to do with Schiano.
Issues with Banner's questionable bedside manner went beyond confrontations with Haslam, Schiano and Whisenhunt.
Haslam's tumultuous ownership is testing the faith of long-suffering Browns fans. Resident Around The League Browns backer Marc Sessler has referred to the 2014 offseason as a "constantly churning clown car."
To Haslam's credit, he accepts blame and sees the past year as a learning experience.
"Well, there's no training manual for being an NFL owner," Haslam told King. "There's a steep learning curve to do it the right way, and I admit we didn't get it right at first. But I am determined to do it right, and to get the right people in place."
We would feel a lot more secure about the direction of this franchise had Haslam not just handed Ray Farmer a four-year contract as general manager just three weeks after the acronym lover was kept out of the loop on the hiring of new coach Mike Pettine.
More revelations about the Browns' shake-up:
» Banner's exit has left a vacancy in the role of CEO or "football czar." Cabot believes Haslam will keep that seat warm for Peyton Manning's post-retirement days. Haslam and Manning share a tight bond from their University of Tennessee connections, and the Browns owner has been impressed by John Elway's guiding hand with the Broncos over the past three seasons.
» It's now clear that Banner wanted to wait until after Super Bowl XLVIII to interview Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn a second time. Haslam called the final shot on Pettine's hiring. "I was really committed to coach Pettine," Haslam said in his Tuesday news conference.
» Although Haslam's first 17 months on the job belie the lessons learned during his years as minority owner of the Steelers, he insisted to King that he understands the importance of stability in the front office. "You're right. You're right," Haslam said. "That's fair. I do know from previous experience how important continuity is. Right now, we have to make this change and suffer the pain."