Staying the Course May Not Help the Cleveland Browns, but Restarting Won’t Either

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The Cleveland Browns are entering Week 7 of the NFL season, which of course means fans are clamoring about one of two things – mock drafts and blowing up the front office.

It’s an annual tradition in Northeast Ohio, mainly due to the fact the local football team is always putting forth another garbage season. This year’s 0-6 campaign isn’t any different, and many supporters and media members alike are claiming this latest front office needs to be shown the door.

Frankly, I’m not convinced keeping the status quo will help things in Cleveland. Even worse, I’m not convinced a housecleaning will either.

That’s right, the Browns are facing a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation, where both offseason paths likely lead to even more struggles.

Coming into this season, the choice looked pretty clear on paper – stick with this regime no matter what. From the day this front office took over in early 2016, the goal was to tear down and rebuild. There was just no way to fix the Browns in a year or two, so it only made sense to retain everyone regardless of 2017’s results.

Six games in, the amount of voices clamoring to keep the status quo has significantly decreased. Somehow, after reloading with more young talent and reinvesting in the offensive line, Cleveland looks worse. Rookies the front office passed on are flourishing (again), while coach Hue Jackson has looked lost when it comes to running the offense and even having his team appear prepared to play.

A front office which preaches patience is having trouble convincing fans another year will do the trick. So far, Sashi Brown and company have only proven an ability to acquire more draft picks, but appear clueless when it comes to how to use them. Cleveland is known more for players it passed up on – Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson – than who it picked.

Meanwhile, Jackson is left to deal with the toothless roster his higher ups assembled for him, winning just one game in 22 attempts. At the same time, he’s hardly without fault. Jackson is clearly overwhelmed as the team’s head coach and offensive coordinator, which has resulted in a team looking ill-prepared to compete while running consistently head-scratching plays.

With all of this mentioned, you’d think I was in the camp of “blow it up and try again.” While I certainly understand anyone with this line of thinking, I’ll simply offer a sobering thought for those who believe cleaning house will do the trick.

What has Browns owner Jimmy Haslam done to convince you he can make smart hires? What proof do we have which would allow us to trust him to get it right this time?

The reason Jackson’s hire in 2016 was so celebrated was due to his being in demand in general. Before him, Haslam was hiring coaches nobody knew were even available. There was a reason Rob Chudzinski was free for an interview, just as there was no surprise about the fact Mike Pettine was still available in late January of 2014.

Haslam’s front office hires haven’t been much better. Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi barely had time to settle into their desk chairs before being shown the door. Ray Farmer remains one of the worst GMs Cleveland has ever seen. In Brown, Haslam gave roster authority to a man who has no front office experience whatsoever, and paired him with Paul DePodesta, who made his name running baseball teams.

Read all of this again and tell me you can trust Cleveland’s owner with yet another housecleaning. Do you really think any legitimate front office or coaching candidates are going to jump at the chance to be another name in a long list of hiring blunders?

I’d love to find some sort of silver lining in either scenario, but the Browns are getting driven further below rock bottom, and it’s doubtful there’s anyone out there Haslam could hire to change this.

However, he’ll have to figure out which choice to make come season’s end. Does he trust a front office which has shown an alarming inability to evaluate talent and a coach who’s bitten off more than he can chew? Or does he call it quits after a couple seasons, once again failing to resist the urge of slamming the reset button?

To me, it’s a lose-lose scenario. It’s also a tough pill to swallow for a fan-base which has impatiently waited for the slightest glimmer of hope despite no indication any is coming.

Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook


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