The Browns fired executive VP of football operations Sashi Brown on Thursday. ESPN first reported the development.
"We have great appreciation and gratitude for Sashi's commitment and leadership to our organization but believe transitioning to someone with strong experience and success in drafting and building consistently winning football teams is critical to the future of the Cleveland Browns," owner Jimmy Haslam said in a statement released by the team. "The 2018 draft and offseason is pivotal for our franchise, we need to ensure that we maximize our opportunity for success; with our picks, free agency and building our roster."
Haslam announced that Hue Jackson will remain as coach and return for the 2018 season, "but we feel it is necessary to take significant steps to strengthen our personnel department," adding: "We have begun the process of having productive conversations regarding leadership of our football operations and will provide further updates when appropriate."
Brown knew his job was in jeopardy and recently met with Haslam to discuss his fate, per Rapoport. Brown was told at the time that no decision had been made, but Thursday's move marks an end to Cleveland's newfangled attempt at building a winner.
"I want this to be real and clear, the way I know Cleveland and Browns fans can appreciate: Our win-loss record since I became executive vice president isn't going to cut it," Brown said in a statement.
"We worked hard. I am so grateful to the people I worked with throughout my four-plus years with the Browns, particularly the people I worked with the past two years. We embarked on a mission to rebuild the Browns for long-term, sustainable success. We were committed and aggressive in our approach, even if unorthodox at times. We made dramatic changes and put in place a foundation on which championships can be built."
Brown added: "Obviously, the Browns have not yet achieved the turnaround we wanted for a franchise and the best fans in the NFL, who deserve it more than any other in sports. I know that turnaround is coming."
With whispers all season of in-house fighting between the coaching staff and front office, Jackson has won the internal battle despite a historically troubling win-loss record. Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer reported that chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta and VP of player personnel Andrew Berry will be retained for now.
"I think all of those things are difficult decisions," Jackson told reporters. "Sashi is a good person. Those are decisions that are made without me, and I'm sure that's something that -- you guys can take it whichever [way] -- but those things are always tough. I don't think there's anything that's good about that. Here's a guy that I'm sure has given everything he's had here trying to give everything he can to help the organization win and get it to where it needs to be and sometimes, these things happen."
The team's decision to pass on Wentz has already become the stuff of anti-legend in Cleveland, but it's worth examining what this "analytics-driven" front-office did accrue with their six combined first- and second-rounders over the past two drafts: pass-rusher Myles Garrett, safety Jabrill Peppers, tight end David Njoku and wideout Corey Coleman in the first round before adding quarterback DeShone Kizer and edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah in the second. More than a few of those players have shown promise.
Fostering a front-office philosophy that valued stockpiling picks -- essentially giving Cleveland the equivalent of four to five drafts over three years -- Brown wheel-and-dealed to amass 14 picks in 2016, 10 in 2017 and another bushel for next April, when Cleveland will hold Houston's first- and second-round selections along with their own. The 0-12 Browns sit in pole position to control the draft with the No. 1 overall pick, making this an attractive landing spot, in theory, for potential general managers.
Brown was hired as Cleveland's executive VP and general counsel in January 2013 and promoted to executive VP of football operations in January 2016.