Ownership call with Browns staff, scouts the latest sign of unrest in Cleveland
Team sources said the call was viewed as a 'kiss of death' rather than serving to allay fears
The fissures between the Browns' personnel staff, led by general manager Sashi Brown, and the coaching staff are no secret around the league, and those fissures continue to take a toll on the organization, This week, ownership felt the need to have a conference call with the scouts and football operations staff, according to team sources, giving the evaluators a vote of confidence of sorts that some are reading more like a harbinger of change.
Owner Jimmy Haslam has tried to preach continuity in recent years after perpetual turnover and turmoil in this organization since he purchased the team, and sources said there is little trust between the coaching and personnel side as the Browns are once again at the bottom of the AFC North in the first month of the season.
The failure to identify talent through the draft and free agency has driven a deeper wedge between the front office and various coaching regimes in Cleveland, and, just a month into the season, the divisions are flaring once again. Coach Hue Jackson, put in an untenable situation with a weak and inexperienced roster, has fielded increasing questions about the lack of progress in Cleveland in recent weeks. The Browns have just one win in 19 games since Jackson arrived, though the coach has muted powers in terms of identifying and procuring talent, and Cleveland's personnel woes far predate his arrival there, as the Browns have just four wins in their past 40 games (a staggering .100 winning percentage) and just one victory since Dec. 14, 2015.
On Monday, Jackson was asked whether this team was constructed to win in the immediate future or once again playing for future years.
"I think this team can," he said. "I think we have to do some things better and work a little bit harder and make sure that we do some of the detail things right, but that question that you just asked, I think that is something you have to talk to Sashi about and the executive team." Jackson went on to say that "nothing magical" was going to happen to right the team's woes.
The Browns are under fire for not having sufficient weapons on offense for rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, though they invested four of 14 picks in their 2016 draft on receivers and have virtually nothing to show for it. That haul includes oft-hurt and ineffective receiver Corey Coleman in the first round. The composition of the roster, and the lack of proven commodities, has remained an issue of contention between those who have to coach this roster and those who put it together.
Haslam held a conference call with his football operations staff in the aftermath of those comments, sources said, and while his remarks intended to instill confidence in them and allay fears, team sources noted that the fact he felt compelled to make such a call so soon in the season, at a time when there is no denying some of the rifts that exist, did not go unnoticed. Given the history of churn in Cleveland, some viewed the situation more as a "kiss of death," team sources said.
While some team sources said Haslam has seemed to be in denial about the dire state of relations between coaches and the front office in his organization this season, with losses already mounting and given his need to hold a conference call allaying some fears so soon in the schedule, there could be more tumult on the horizon in Cleveland. Haslam has been very loyal to Brown through his changing roles and promotions, but the viability of the Jackson/Brown regime is waning by the week.
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