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Voices In The Distance
With Bernie Kosar now on board as an advisor, word of a fan protest next Monday night spreading like widfire, and the team performing at 1999 expansion-team like levels ... yet another organizational restructuring of some sort seems possible, if not likely. A recent e-mail from Randy Lerner, in which he admits he is thinking about it, has fueled these fires. In Dave K's latest, he talks about potential changes, hits on Kosar's role in this mess going forward, and also hits on the fan protest that's being bandied about.
Usually such actions committed by Randy Lerner are withheld until the final moments of another December meltdown, yet like a mummified corpse rising from the great beyond, the Browns' Dear Leader has resurfaced to give his take on the status of his inherited franchise.
Lerner Responds To Prez Questions
As for the possibility of further restructuring the Browns team of management - again - the elusive billionaire provided some interesting thoughts.
Of course, the only person with the power to make that sort of organizational change is owner Randy Lerner. And, at first blush, it seems to be an option the son of Al Lerner may consider.
In response to an email question from theOBR which asked if it made sense to consider hiring a president of football operations or an executive with similar authority, Lerner responded as follows:
"There is no question that the Browns need a credible, vocal leader that is accountable for all levels of performance. Regardless of the title, that person, whether they're in the building currently or not, is a priority."
Very interesting words, especially coming from the likes of Lerner, who so far during his tenure as Browns owner, rarely speaks out in the middle of a season. Most Browns fans have grown accustomed to only hearing from Lerner at the end of the season, or more precisely, at the end of a particular coaching regime - which makes his recent comments intriguing, to say the least.
Is something truly in the works - or has Lerner merely sensed the overwhelming fan frustration evident so far this season? In most respects, Lerner times his public statements to coincide with severe downturns in fan enthusiasm. Or, in other words - the painfully shy Lerner is not going to make his presence felt unless he deems the situation to be dire.
If this is the case, what are we to make of Lerner's comments? Is he advocating that the Browns finally bring in a director of football operations? If so, let's hope that the word "football" is stressed here. The last thing these current Browns need is another Carmen Policy or John Collins type - an empty suit brought in to supposedly handle marketing or financial matters.
What the Browns need - or have needed for over a decade - is an organizational leader who brings a solid football background and a respected voice to what has become a floundering franchise. Regardless of overall vision, style or specific skills, the Browns more than ever need someone who will become a spokesperson for the team.
Perhaps this is what Lerner intended with his comments. It is very possible that our owner is simply looking to fill a short-term need - one that would require a quelling of sorts - or a soothing voice to satisfy an increasingly angry Browns Nation.
Consider that currently, the closest thing the Browns can offer is Eric Mangini, who prefers to engage the media in a clandestine, Belichickian style - which has helped to foster an atmosphere of mistrust and confusion. Although certainly Mangini has been the victim of some bizarre bias by both local and national media, he does not appear to be suited to fill this role.
As for the rest of the current front office, the voice of George Kokonis hasn't been heard since draft day. Considering the manner in which he was hired - after Mangini - it doesn't appear that Kokonis will ever assume a larger role within the organization. And obviously, the camera-shy Lerner has established himself as nothing more than a shadow in the background.
However, if I can speculate more broadly - and in a more hopeful sense - and interpret Lerner's words as a suggestion that the Browns need an organizational leader in the football sense, the natural question is this:
Is Lerner conceding that he made a mistake in hiring Mangini?
And before most of Browns Nation jumps estatic over the possibility that one of the most despised coaches in the league will soon be leaving town, let me first state the reasons why Mangini was hired in the first place.
1. Of course, Mangini was hired to coach the team, but his hiring was more reflective of Lerner's desire to "change the overall culture" of the franchise.
2. If you break down #1 further and put the emphasis on "franchise", it becomes obvious - at least in my mind - that Lerner was looking for someone to run the team.
3. Remember the 39 articles I wrote about
4. If you can assume all of the above, then you can also probably welcome the idea that Lerner essentially hired a defacto G.M., before he hired a coach.
5. Unfortunately for Browns fans, these roles are being filled by the same person.
So what does all this mean for the Browns going forward - again assuming that Lerner's words have some type of tangible legitimacy?
In the coming months, it is possible that these rumors will continue to circulate, with or without the guiding source of Lerner present. It is also very likely that Lerner goes back into hiding and does not speak again until late March. In the meantime, Browns Nation will be stuck watching a horrendously untalented team stumble their way through a meaningless series of games.
However, if some action is taken and Lerner brings in a Director of Football Operations, it is possible that instead of a new leader further scrubbing out the debris of this organization, this same person could still take a back seat to Mangini.
Considering the history of Lerner's past personnel moves, it is often been reported that whoever speaks last to the Browns owner, or whoever carries the loudest voice often gets their way in the end. The Butch Davis coup earlier this decade and the battle between John Collins and Phil Savage are some excellent examples of this disturbing management trend.
Going forward, it is not only plausible, but very likely that Mangini will have a say in the hiring process. And considering that Mangini, like virtually all NFL coaches, is consumed by organizational power - and equally driven by the motivation to retain the power already bestowed upon him - will be adamant that whoever is brought in is to his liking.
And if such a situation occurs, where Mangini remains the defacto leader of this organization, then both Lerner's words and actions will have proved to be completely meaningless.
The wildcard in this whole situation is the reemergence of Bernie Kosar as an "advisor" to Lerner. The timing of Lerner's words, combined with Kosar's recent hiring is more than convenient. If you allow yourself further speculation, it is not beyond logic to think that perhaps Kosar currently has the ear of Lerner. Why else would the reclusive owner speak out now?
And to take this theory a step further, is Kosar possibly in line to assume such a role? Despite mine and Browns Nation's reverence for Kosar as a player, we all can safely assume that Kosar doesn't have a whole lot going for him in either his personal life, or in his career. This is an important point, considering that the situation was different in the past, as Kosar was tied to various business interests and rebuffed taking on more prominent roles within the organization. Perhaps things have changed to the point where Kosar could be ready to assume some real authority.
Again, everything that was stated above and the almost trivial amount of words uttered by Lerner may eventually lead to absolutely nothing. On one hand, Lerner could have simply been making an attempt to satisfy legions of frustrated Browns fans. It is more than possible - and probably likely - that this entire speculation will prove to be just that.
However, if things in Berea continue along the path already established in 2009, this could become a very intriguing situation. The dynamics of bringing in an organizational leader could prove to be yet another crossroads this wounded franchise will face in its attempted return to NFL prominence.
Or, it could just be a lot of hot air.
Speaking of which...
Dawg Pound Ready to Launch Protest
One of the most loyal Dawg Pounders is done barking about the sad state of his beloved Cleveland Browns. It's time to bite.
Lifelong Browns fan and season-ticket holder Mike Randall, aka "Dawg Pound Mike," is encouraging other Cleveland fans to stay away from their seats for the opening kickoff of the Browns' Nov. 16 home game against Baltimore.
Sickened by the nearly constant losing since the NFL team's return in 1999, Randall hopes the sight of empty seats for the start of the nationally televised Monday night game will send a loud message to owner Randy Lerner and club officials that fans have had enough.
"We're tired of losing," the 39-year-old Randall said. "We're tired of the booing, of seeing fans leave in the fourth quarter. There are fans who have had tickets for 30 years who are turning their seats in because they can't take it anymore. So many fans are fed up."
Much like the recent online petition that attempted to force Lerner to sell the Browns, I have to admit that the Thoreau in me celebrates such an attempt to make a statement about the dismal state of our beloved franchise.
However, the realist in me knows that the people who only care about the bottom line of the Browns have to realize that this fan protest involves people who have already bought tickets.
In a sense, the potential actions of a Browns protest, at least according to this particular plan, is strikingly similar to an example of one who protests high gas prices, yet chooses to drive to a rally.
What's the point? The Browns already have your money.
The only real action a disgruntled Browns fan can take is to stop buying tickets and team-related merchandise. If this occurs for a long enough period of time, eventually even the most oblivious of owners - such as ours - will notice a decline in gate revenues. Obviously, such a measure is not going to truly matter in terms of affecting the overall wealth of a Randy Lerner, but still - in times like these, the bottom line carries a louder voice.
And as Browns fans have painfully realized over the past decade, our voices are shot.
Finally, if you don't buy my argument on the worthlessness of such a protest, check out
Cleveland Frowns' take
Oct 30, 2009 7:00 PM
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