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Commentary: Browns may have new management, but it’s the same old losing story

Photo courtesy of MCT

It’s too soon to completely write off the current Cleveland Browns upper management team – president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert aren’t even halfway through their second season running the team.

That doesn’t mean it’s too early to be skeptical.

Seemingly every time a new front office regime is in place, they remind us of the missteps of the past.

The franchise has been dreadfully misguided ever since the late Al Lerner helped move the old Browns to Baltimore and flipped his minority share in that team so he could buy a majority stake in the new Browns.

Then he hired former San Francisco 49ers executives Carmen Policy and Dwight Clark. With those two, the Browns had the foundation in place … to tarnish the reputations of Jim Brown, Otto Graham or any historically great Browns player.

Policy’s legacy with the Browns is his response to fans hurling beer bottles at officials in 2001 – “I like the fact that the fans care.” Clark is remembered for being the worst GM in Browns history – and that includes George Kokinis, who lasted only 10 months.

Head coach Butch Davis briefly revived the franchise by leading them to the playoffs in 2002. The honeymoon was over for Davis once he was given greater control of the football operations – and then ran the team into the ground.

Randy Lerner – who assumed control of the franchise after his father died in 2002 – then dipped into the front office of the division’s elite by hiring Phil Savage away from the Ravens in 2005.

A year in, the general manager Savage and team president John Collins got into a power struggle, forcing Collins out of town.

After dismissing Savage in 2008 – the team was 24-40 under him – Randy Lerner completely disregarded common sense by hiring coach Eric Mangini before finding a general manager.

That turned out to be Kokinis, essentially a puppet under Mangini’s control.

Holmgren – now the face of the front office – took the Peyton Hillis contract negotiations public by going on “Mike and Mike In The Morning” and declared how desperate the team was to keep Hillis.

That would be fine if the front office got the extension done in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, it continues to be a distraction to the team.

Hillis didn’t play against the Miami Dolphins due to the severity of his strep throat. Not everyone is buying that. Some think it’s a protest for not getting a new deal done.

Perhaps that’s warranted if the organization is holding Hillis back and purposefully limiting his role in the offensive game plan – another conspiracy theory.

Regardless, rookie coach Pat Shurmur is now the whipping boy for the media, as he struggles to clarify what is going on in a very public ordeal.

At one point, I was naïve enough to think the latest regime change would create some stability. It’s starting to feel like nothing has changed, which makes being a Browns fan more of a chore than anything.

 

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