Two years after hiring John Dorsey to turn the Browns from laughingstock to contender, owner Jimmy Haslam took to the podium in Berea to explain yet another house cleaning.
Haslam's Browns and Dorsey mutually parted ways on New Year's Eve after the two sides couldn't agree to a front-office restructuring, bringing an end to a wildly optimistic and ultimately disappointing two-year run. Their separation came on the heels of the firing of first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens after his highly touted team managed to win just six games in 2019. The message Thursday -- beyond the usual goal of attempting to "get it right" -- was there's no time to break in an inexperienced coach in Cleveland.
The Browns are currently only considering coaches with NFL experience, Haslam said, but not necessarily NFL head coaching experience. Haslam stated Thursday the team will first hire its new head coach, then select a GM with the direction of its new coach, along with the input of a search committee that includes chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta and executive vice president and owner JW Johnson.
As for concerns about yet another deviation in approach for the organization, Haslam made sure to stress how ownership wanted to avoid forcing two differing opinions to work together.
"We're gonna hire the coach first and then we'll do the GM search, the coach will be involved in that process, will not have the final say," Haslam explained. ... "In your alls' terms, we will not have an arranged marriage. The coach and the GM will report to ownership as equals and obviously married up with each other."
Dorsey's hiring of Kitchens was lauded as the next step in a progressive union between coach and young, promising quarterback, but it failed to produce the fruit bearing resemblance to the 5-3 finish to 2018. His tabbing of the first-time head coach ultimately doomed him as general manager of the Browns, who are now left to vet plenty of candidates for head coach in a process Haslam promised will be "thorough."
The Browns began that process Thursday by having former Packers coach Mike McCarthy in for an interview. McCarthy checks the boxes of demonstrated success and NFL experience, but he'll be far from the last candidate to sit down with Cleveland's committee. An important goal for Haslam's front office centers on the franchise's quarterback, who took a step back in his second season in the NFL.
"Baker (Mayfield) caught a lot of grief this year," Haslam said. "I think that with everything that was asked to put on his plate, both in terms of leadership and as a player, in his first full year, he did a remarkable job. We need to do everything we can to help Baker realize his full potential and that's something all of us in the organization are focused on."
Browns fans and the media members who cover the team are rightfully skeptical, which was evident in the line of questioning directed at Haslam on Thursday. What makes this iteration of a coach and GM search, one that will first install the head coach, the one that will work?
"If you look at all the other 31 teams, there's all kinds of different structures but if you look at the successful organizations that are consistently in the playoffs year after year there's alignment within the organization and they have the right people in the right place, coach and GM," Haslam said. "That's what we're focusing on tremendously. And that alignment is something that's really important. It sounds easy but it's not."
The Browns still possess a talented roster, and though the new GM will have a few tough decisions to make regarding the pending free-agent status of players like linebacker Joe Schobert and safety Damarious Randall, Haslam explained the young core established by personnel men of past regimes remains in place. This should be a desirable job, even if there is some outside concern that the next regime might ship out a good chunk of the existing talent.
"We're really excited about the group of candidates that we're gonna be interviewing over the next several days," Haslam said. "Despite all the changes we've made, I think it's a very attractive job. Everybody in the NFL knows how important football is in this area. I think everybody understands we have a really good, young quarterback and really good core group of players."
Josh McDaniels will interview with the Browns at the end of next week for an opening NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported is "a dream job" for the coordinator, and Haslam mentioned a good amount of candidates are still working through the playoffs, meaning this won't be an overnight decision. For the sake of Browns fans -- a group Haslam referred to as the best in sports in closing his presser -- here's to hoping their latest pairing proves as the correct one.