A little insight today from Peter King (link)
The Cleveland Browns interviewed Ken Whisenhunt for their head-coaching job in each of the past two Januaries, first after he was fired as Arizona’s head coach, and last month when he was employed as San Diego’s offensive coordinator. When Whisenhunt entered the room this year for the interview, he was one of the hottest commodities on the head-coaching market, and the Browns were very interested in him.
Whisenhunt said, “Why didn’t you guys hire me last year?’’
The Browns’ CEO who was in both interviews, Joe Banner, told Whisenhunt he didn’t think the staff he was putting together at the time was “a championship coaching staff.”
Whisenhunt, one NFL source said, was peeved that a man who had never coached and who’d been involved in football mainly on the business side would sit in judgment of his potential coaches.
“Who are you to tell me what makes up a championship coaching staff?” Whisenhunt said, with an edge in his voice.
That scene, another source told The MMQB, illustrated a big reason why owner Jimmy Haslam made the bombshell announcement he made Tuesday, firing Banner and general manager Mike Lombardi after their first full seasons on the job. Haslam became dubious about Banner’s football acumen and during the coach-search process following the firing of rookie coach Rob Chudzinski saw what a potential roadblock to success Banner would be. Add in Banner’s brusque and sometimes confrontational style that rubbed many around the NFL the wrong way, and you’ve got a good read on why Haslam stunned the NFL with the late-morning announcement.
Under Haslam, who came in preaching patient team-building, the Browns have fired two coaches (Pat Shurmur, Chudzinski), two general manages (Tom Heckert, Lombardi), a CEO (Banner) and a president (Mike Holmgren). They fired Chudzinski when he got off the team bus from Pittsburgh after the last game of the 2013 season.
Right off the team bus? That's cold.
"Patient team building" eh, Jimmy?
As the year went on, Banner thought coach Rob Chudzinski got promoted one time too many and was overmatched as a head coach. Word leaked at 3 p.m. on the last day of the season, during the last game, that Chudzinski could be fired after his first year, and five hours later, as the Browns returned to Cleveland from Pittsburgh, it happened. Team leader D’Qwell Jackson’s reaction: “We fired Chud? Are you kidding me?’’
Another coaching search. Three guys they liked—coordinators Josh McDaniels, Adam Gase and Dan Quinn—all pulled out with their teams still in play. None would say the truth: The job was toxic, and they all had good coaching jobs with solid teams. Lombardi, friends with McDaniels, went hard after the Patriots offensive coordinator again when New England lost in the AFC title game, but McDaniels stayed a Patriot.
To be fair, that could be said of a lot of head coaches in their rookie year, arguably about Ron Rivera.
Bill Belichick and Urban Meyer were strong in recommendations for fired Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano—Belichick called twice—and here’s where I hear there was a major rift in the organization. Banner wanted nothing to do with Schiano. Haslam was intrigued with him after the over-the-top recommendation from Belichick. The group flew to Tampa to interview Schiano, and one source said Banner was cold to Schiano, not participating much in the interview. Banner likely thought Schiano would be a disastrous hire, given all the negatives in recent Cleveland history. He was probably right, but the owner was open to it, and when the owner’s open to it, the man running football operations should at least consider it.
I gotta side with Banner on this one. Hiring Schiano would have been an awful idea. You'd have essentially been going from an egotist to a super egotist, If Haslam really thinks Schiano would be a good coach just because Belichick - whose coaching tree has pretty much never borne fruit anywhere - says so, it doesn't say much for his football smarts.
Last month, Haslam hired Mike Pettine, who will be the Browns' fourth head coach since 2009. (Nick Cammett/Getty Images)Last month, Haslam hired Mike Pettine, who will be the Browns’ fourth head coach since 2009.
So now two guys even the most ardent of Browns backers barely knew a month ago—then-Buffalo defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and Farmer—constitute the Cleveland football braintrust.
And Browns fans are actually happy about it