Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi to leave Browns; Ray Farmer to be GM

By Josh Katzowitz | NFL Writer

In yet another completely believable move by the Browns organization, the team announced that team CEO Joe Banner is stepping down and that general manager Mike Lombardi has been fired after just one season.

In Lombardi's place, Ray Farmer, the team's assistant general manager, has been promoted to Lombardi's old spot.

"First of all, we wanted to capitalize on the knowledge, experience and character we're fortunate to have in Ray Farmer," owner Jimmy Haslam said in a statement. "Ray has a tremendous football IQ, he's compelling, and he understands the types of players we need to acquire and develop in order to win in Cleveland. He embraces his partnership with Mike Pettine, which is critical in helping build the right team. Ray will provide excellent leadership in our front office.

“We appreciate Joe's contributions to the Cleveland Browns, especially in helping us as new owners. He was committed to creating a successful organization and bringing in talented individuals. We thank him for his work and dedication. We wish him and his family the best ...

“We're also grateful for Mike Lombardi's efforts and commitment since rejoining our organization. He is an experienced and creative NFL executive with a unique ability to see the big picture. He has tremendous instincts and I know he'll be a valuable addition to any NFL organization. We simply wanted to give Ray this opportunity that he's earned. We wanted to move forward under his leadership and capabilities."

Jimmy Haslam again has hit the reset button. (USATSI)
Jimmy Haslam again has hit the reset button. (USATSI)

These latest moves come on the heels of the team deciding to fire coach Rob Chudzinski after just 16 games. That was followed by a debacle of a coaching search in which Josh McDaniels, Todd Bowles and Adam Gase all pulled their names out of consideration for the job. The team eventually hired Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, a man who wasn't considered a head-coaching candidate of any kind before the Browns made him one.

There also was optimism in Cleveland early in the season when the team got off to a 4-3 start and was tied for the AFC North lead. Yes, the team lost 10 of its last 11 games, but midway through the season, the front office said it was happy with the transition to Chudzinski.

But after quarterback Brian Hoyer was hurt, the Browns had to turn to Brandon Weeden -- a quarterback who was drafted two front offices ago -- and from there, the season caved in. Firing Chudzinski seemed like a ridiculous move, but now, it makes a little more sense. Because Haslam apparently was ready to hit the reset button ASAP.

"It is bittersweet leaving the Browns organization. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Jimmy Haslam and helping him set the infrastructure for this franchise," Banner said in a statement. "I am proud of the talented individuals we brought in to help lead this team and feel that the Cleveland Browns are in good hands moving forward.”

Farmer was up for the Dolphins general manager job, but last week, he opted to stay in Cleveland. Now we know why.

"I think Cleveland is primed and I think we're in a position to redefine the history books,'' Farmer told cleveland.com last week. "I think change is on the horizon and I didn't want to miss what's going to happen in Cleveland ...'

"I didn't finish the process [in Miami]. I assume they would've given me the job. That's the way it was articulated to me. If I took the job, I would've reported directly to [Dolphins owner] Stephen Ross and it was a tremendous opportunity. It still is a dream of mine to become a general manager and run my own program and put together my own team, but it wasn't the right time for me."

A week later, it was the right time.

Said Haslam: "The purpose of these moves is to unify our team with one, unequivocal goal: Provide our fans with the winning organization they have long deserved.”

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