Is There Already Dissension Within the Cleveland Browns Front Office?

Paul DePodesta and Sashi Brown Introductory Press Conference
Nick Cammett-Diamond Images/Getty Images

After years of following the Cleveland Browns and all their terrible personnel decisions, I really don’t know if I can handle another episode of front office chaos. I honestly can’t imagine having to deal with more national stories about a toxic environment within the team facility, of coaches and GMs clashing, of people trying to undermine each other to prove a point. We’ve all dealt with enough of that to last a lifetime, one more round is just overkill.

So, when I listen to this lengthy rant by CBS Cleveland’s Daryl Ruiter, specifically about front office sources leaking information to ESPN’s Adam Schefter regarding the Browns’ quarterback situation, it’s a little tough to stomach. You could argue that the whole ordeal is a bit of an overreaction, but there’s no denying some concern about the fact there already seems to be a little dissension within Cleveland’s latest attempt at a functioning front office.

The main issue comes from a story Schefter wrote yesterday regarding some insider rumors he’s heard about the Browns. Per his sources, there are some within the team facility who think Robert Griffin III‘s injury could be a blessing in disguise, mainly because coach Hue Jackson seemed too focused on rejuvenating his career. Now, per Schefter, those sources think the team can “move on and do what it needs.”

The report went on to note that nobody with the Browns believes rookie quarterback Cody Kessler is ready to play, a super-comforting development now that he’s one Josh McCown injury away from taking the field.

The entire situation had Ruiter fuming, claiming this is why Cleveland is always the butt of the joke. At first glance, I didn’t see the story that way. But when you dig into it, this implication that the coach and front office had different priorities is at the very least troubling.

Since the day this latest staff was assembled, all we’ve heard was how everyone is on the same page. How great it is to finally have the whole crew aligned.

Yet, just past Week 1, there’s concern Jackson was focused too much on repairing Griffin. And said concern was expressed anonymously to a national reporter. Along with what appears to be a strong consensus belief the rookie quarterback Jackson claimed we had to trust him with isn’t close to being ready.

Are we really going through this again? Do we really have to mentally prepare for another season full of stories about front office in-fighting outweighing coverage of the product on the field? Is this latest attempt at a functioning front office following in the past failures’ footsteps?

Alliteration aside, that’s a bit drastic, at least at this point. Still, there are plenty of questions which come from this.

Why would anyone go out of his or her way to leak pretty concrete information to national pundits despite the Browns pushing the “we all get along great” narrative? With this implication Jackson wasn’t paying enough attention to life outside of fixing Griffin, are the higher ups and the coaches really aligned? Why would anyone at the team facility feel the need to let national media know Jackson, the man who’s being sold to fans as Cleveland’s godsend, already had some questionable decisions just days into his first season?

There’s no guarantee whoever told Schefter what he heard is a high-ranking team employee. For all we know, it could be some scout who was against the idea of hitching the team’s cart to a damaged quarterback. Still, as Ruiter so emphatically asked, why say anything in the first place?

Stepping away from the who and the what here, this situation can only really go two ways.

We could be overreacting to the first indication of disagreement, which is natural since toxicity in the front office is all we know from Cleveland. We could just be so used to hearing about how disjointed the men in charge of driving the Browns out of the ditch are that it only makes sense to freak out the second such a thing is hinted at again.

It could be that. Or it could be mile-marker 1 on the road the Browns know all so well, the one littered with potholes and a steep decline on the horizon. It could be what we remember as the moment this front office took its first wrong turn and never looked back.

Yeesh, that’s a lot of doomsayer for a Friday. Still, knowing the history of the team, it’s worth remembering this story either as the first time there was no fire to the smoke or as the first time this shiny new regime showed its cracks.


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