Welcome The Marx Brothers

That’s Jimmo, Sasho, Dee-O and Jeddo.

Ted Stepien is alive and well– and he owns the Browns.

I didn’t think the Browns could get worse. But they will. This organization structure is consummately moronic. Every element of this system is designed to guarantee failure. Not one component of it makes sense.

Jimmy Haslam is about to make the Cleveland Browns the laughing stock of the NFL. The Browns have no chance to hire anyone competent. They do have an excellent chance to go 0-160 over the next ten years.

Let’s go over the components of this arrangement:

1. Sashi Brown, the team’s general counsel– a lawyer with no experience making football decisions— has been put in charge of the team. He will have complete control over the 53-man roster– drafting, trading, signing free agents and cuts.

I’d say this is like putting Joe Banner or Carmen Policy in charge of the team, except that those guys had both spent a decade or two in the front offices of sucessful teams. They hadn’t made football decisions– but they had at least watched people who did it, and were good at it.

Brown worked for Jacksonville– and then the Browns.

2. Then we get the Marx Brothers element. The owner (Jimmo), his wife (Dee-o), the lawyer (Sasho) and Jeddo, a recruiter from Korn-Ferry (which hires executives) will start looking for a coach first.

I’m sure coaches around the league will be eager to join a team where they won’t be making the personnel decisions and the guy who will be making them has never done that job before. Best of all, the owner’s idea of a long-term contract is two years.

3. Once the Marx Brothers (we have to change comedy teams– there were only Three Stooges, but there were four Marx Brothers) hire the coach, the coach will help hire the GM.

I can’t think of a less attractive situation for a prospective GM. You won’t make the personnel decisions, you can’t pick the coach– in fact, the coach is going to pick you.

But wait, there’s more:

4. Once the GM is hired, he will report to the lawyer. The head coach will report to the owner (and his wife).

This brainstorm makes the existing management structure orders of magnitude worse.

The old system was dysfunctional because neither Snapchat not Pettine ever had to reach a consensus. They both had separate responsibilities and each reported to Haslam. Which meant Snapchat could draft anyone he felt like– but Pettine never had to play them. If one of them wanted to make the other do something, he had to go to the owner and ask him to intervene. And Haslam was only in the office one or two days a week.

It’s the same system that Steve Ross uses in Miami– the GM and coach both report to the owner. And sometimes the owner doesn’t feel like getting involved.

This makes it even worse, If the GM is angry with the coach, he has to go to the lawyer– and the lawyer has to go to the owner.

Every so often, when I am writing about a technical football issue, a little voice in my mind says “You know, jerky, you never played Pro Football, and you didn’t coach either. Maybe you shouldn’t be so cocksure about passing judgment on this issue.” Usually I manage to suppress the voice… but I do go back and edit a bit, to show some degree of humility.

But this? An org chart? This is what I used to do for a living– tell people how to structure and run a business. . This isn’t zone defenses and option blocking– this is Organizational Business and Industrial Relations 206.

The first rule of business is that you need accountability and a chain of command. Everyone needs to report upward– and the people they report to need hiring and firing authority.

Every time you put people in parallel, you weaken that chain, and encourage infighting. When you put them in different silos– if they have different managers and different loyalties– it’s an invitation to open warfare.

Nobody who understands business will think this makes sense. Every front office in the NFL will laugh themselves sick when they hear about this.

And it guarantees that the next coach and GM will be even less competent that Snapchat and Pettine. Nobody with any amount of ability– or any chance to get hired by any other team– will want to work in this structure. They won’t have the authority they need.

  • If the head coach is trying to lay down the law to Puff Gordon, he can’t threaten to cut him– he has to go ask the owner to ask the lawyer “Mother, May I?”
  • If the GM wants to to a deal in a hurry, he can’t– he has to ask his boss for permission. That’ll work great on draft day or during the first day of free agency.
  • The first time someone tries to do something and the owner or the lawyer says he can’t, their authority is crippled.

This is why Puff is still on the team– when they were trying to trade him, they couldn’t get permission to pull the trigger. Someone who knew nothing about football didn’t think they were getting enough in return.

And imagine what this will be like with Johnny Football– the owner already has a man-crush on the kid.

There is no bright side to this. No possibility that it works out. No chance to attract smart people. No upside whatsoever.

I understand how things work in Tennessee. I know that Hallmark’s best-seller is “Happy Birthday, Uncle Dad.” But I don’t know how many generations of inbreeding it requires to produce offspring stupid enough to imagine that this setup will work. This is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Shaken Baby Syndrome-level, Advanced CTE stupid.

I mean, a complete novice– someone who knew nothing whatsoever about the NFL– could figure out that this wouldn’t work. If you merely read the media guides of the 32 NFL teams, you’d immediately notice that nobody else did this– that the closest thing to it is the mess in Miami.

This reads as if someone called every team and asked “What’s the dumbest organizational system you can think of? How could I set up my team so it absolutely, positively will not work?”

Jimmy Haslam is a moron. And he’s going to run this team even farther into the ground with this supremely idiotic plan.


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