Hue Jackson's decision to bench rookie starting quarterback Cody Kessler in the second half of the Browns' loss in Baltimore on Thursday night has heightened tension between the front office and coaching staff, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. With the team inching closer to an 0-16 season, more change seems inevitable.
At the very least, sources say defensive coordinator Ray Horton is facing a very uncertain future, with his unit allowing more than 30 points per game, and changes could be far more sweeping. Horton is a very unpopular pick in various quadrants of the organization to return as defensive coordinator but is supported staunchly by Jackson. Sources said owner Jimmy Haslam, along with his wife Dee, has become increasingly hands on, with many departments essentially reporting directly to his family. It was Haslam who ultimately decided to hire Jackson and sign off on Horton as coordinator, despite strong reservations expressed by others.
The dynamic between the personnel department and coaching staff -- regularly fissured throughout Haslam's various management regimes -- again is a concern to many in the organization, with Kessler's benching raising eyebrows. Given Haslam's propensity for wholesale changes, the increasingly lopsided recent defeats and the fact Cleveland has won three games since Thanksgiving of 2014, trepidation is mounting that another shakeup awaits as the winless franchise must start preparing season-ticket invoices for 2017.
Morale is low, even by Browns standards, and with 10 or so departments reporting directly to ownership and without the presence of a strong team president providing leadership, the hands-on approach of the Haslams is causing concern throughout the organization.
"You basically have a husband and wife in charge of various areas they don't really understand -- football, coaching, scouting, analytics, ticketing, marketing," a team source said. "And that's the way they want it."
Haslam has fired three coaches and general managers in the past four years and has blown up his front office repeatedly, fluctuating from one organizational structure to the next.