The Cleveland Browns are at it again.
Less than a month after hiring new head coach Mike Pettine, the Browns announced Tuesday that GM Mike Lombardi has been replaced by Ray Farmer and that CEO Joe Banner will step down within the next couple of months. So marks the latest surprising move from a franchise that has become arguably the NFL's hardest to figure out.
"The purpose of these moves is to unify our team with one, unequivocal goal: Provide our fans with the winning organization they have long deserved," team owner Jimmy Haslam said in a statement.
Lombardi was hired only last January as part of the previous round of turnover within the organization. He arrived alongside Rob Chudzinski and assistant coaches Norv Turner and Ray Horton, as the Browns attempted to recover from the end of Pat Shurmur's reign as head coach. But Cleveland finished just 4-12 this season, down from a 5-11 mark in 2012, and decided to clean house yet again.
Farmer served as assistant GM during the 2013 campaign.
|Cleveland Browns 2.0 turnover|
|Coach (tenure)||GM (tenure)|
|Chris Palmer (1999-00)||Dwight Clark (1999-01)|
|Butch Davis (2001-04)||Butch Davis (2002-04)|
|Terry Robiskie (2004)||Phil Savage (2005-08)|
|Romeo Crennel (2005-08)||George Kokinis (2009)|
|Eric Mangini (2009-10)||Tom Heckert (2010-12)|
|Pat Shurmur (2011-12)||Michael Lombardi (2013)|
|Rob Chudzinksi (2013)||Ray Farmer (2014-)|
|Mike Pettine (2014-)|
"First of all, we wanted to capitalize on the knowledge, experience and character we’re fortunate to have in Ray Farmer," Haslam said. "Ray has a tremendous football IQ, he’s compelling, and he understands the types of players we need to acquire and develop in order to win in Cleveland. He embraces his partnership with Mike Pettine, which is critical in helping build the right team. Ray will provide excellent leadership in our front office."
The Browns were the last team to hire a head coach this offseason, after canning Chudzinski on the league's so-called "Black Monday" -- the first day after Week 17 concludes. Potential candidates like Josh McDaniels and Adam Gase publicly withdrew their names from consideration, as speculation swirled that the unsettled front office situation was pushing them and others away from the job.
Cleveland's forced patience there may have paid off in the long run with the Pettine hiring, though now he may have to refocus his offseason approach with Farmer taking over as GM.
The team holds the No. 4 pick in the upcoming draft and has long been pegged as a possible landing spot for one of the projected top quarterbacks (Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles or Teddy Bridgewater). The MMQB's Peter King reported back in December, when Chudzinksi, Banner and Lombardi were all still in their positions, that the Browns "really liked" Manziel. Will Farmer's promotion alter that outlook?
It is really anyone's guess at this point, which is par for the course when discussing the Browns.
Farmer has a hectic offseason in front of him. Thanks to carryover cash left unspent in 2013, the Browns could have more than $45 million at their disposal under the projected 2014 salary cap. They have at least two key free agents of their own to deal with: center Alex Mack and safety T.J. Ward. (More on the Browns' free-agency outlook here.) Finding a quarterback, running back and some receiver help for star Josh Gordon will be high priority now for Farmer, as the defensive-minded Pettine works to fix a group that fell apart down the stretch last season.
This was Lombardi's second turn with the club. He had been a member of the front office from 1987-96, with several seasons working alongside then-Cleveland head coach Bill Belichick. This stay lasted little more than a year.
"We’re also grateful for Mike Lombardi’s efforts and commitment since rejoining our organization," Haslam said. "He is an experienced and creative NFL executive with a unique ability to see the big picture. He has tremendous instincts and I know he’ll be a valuable addition to any NFL organization.
"We simply wanted to give Ray this opportunity that he’s earned. We wanted to move forward under his leadership and capabilities." From the archives: The agony of being a Browns fan