By Bruce Hooley
Clear some space at the 480 Bridge, because it’s about to become official. The Browns are likely to confirm today the sale of naming rights for Cleveland Browns Stadium to First Energy Corporation of Akron.
So, the rumors are true.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam bought the team only because he’s consumed with fattening his $1 billion investment.
Haslam is from Tennessee, you know, so he’s some sort of evil Jed Clampett. He doesn’t care at all about winning. And certainly, not if it costs him a dollar he could otherwise pocket.
That must mean the other sky-is-falling assumptions about the Browns are true, too.
CEO Joe Banner plans to lord over football operations, run the draft, hire assistant coaches and force newly-hired coach Rob Chudzinski to name his next son or dog – whichever comes first – Little Joe.
Speaking of Chudzinski, he was no higher than the Browns’ sixth choice after Chip Kelly, Bill O’Brien, Doug Marrone, Nick Saban, Ken Whisenhunt (and probably John Gruden, Bill Cowher and a few others, according to league sources).
Kelly balked when Banner insisted he ditch the visor he favors at Oregon for a brown-and-orange fez on the Cleveland sideline.
Whisenhunt was set to take the job until Banner demanded the former Arizona Cardinals coach remove the extraneous “h” from his name so the Browns could fit it on a company parking space.
Chudzinksi was the only candidate willing to take the job under the narrow parameters Banner insisted upon, which included naming Chudzinski’s coordinators and suppressing any inclination to smile while on the premises of 76 Lou Groza Blvd.
After all, everybody knows Joe Banner will not allow any Browns employee to smile unless it’s during that brief time period in 101 Dalmations when Cruella de Vil kidnaps the puppies.
Oh, wait, Banner is also known to smile wickedly whenever he hears the hue and cry of Browns fans over the impending hiring of Michael Lombardi as the team’s pro personnel director.
Lombardi infamously back-doored both Ernie Accorsi and Bernie Kosar way back when, so he’s clearly coming back to town to finish his long-held objective of destroying the Browns’ chance to win at any point in the future.
Word is, Lombardi’s chief lieutenants in his scouting department will be Tommy Vardell and Craig Powell, because Lombardi insists they were good picks 20-some years ago and he’s bound and determined to prove it.
Powell might even play a little linebacker in the new 3-4 defense the Browns are going with under Chudzinski, which will completely trash all the momentum the Browns piled up finishing 23rd in the league in total defense this past season.
Take a breath.
You’d think one playoff berth in 14 post-expansion seasons, five double-figure loss seasons in a row and nine such seasons over the last 10 years would have visited sufficient misery upon Browns fans.
Apparently not, because given the plethora of conclusion-jumping about which dead-end street the Browns’ new management team is steering the franchise toward, fans have decided to invent more doomsday scenarios until some real ones arise.
Can we give Haslam and Banner a few days to hire the personnel man they promised they would add after a head coach was in place?
Can we give that guy time to articulate how the Browns’ draft process will unfold?
Can we give Chudzinski a week or so to announce his coaching staff before assuming it will be populated by Banner’s third cousins, twice-removed?
Can we wait until Lombardi is hired before obsessing about the havoc he’ll inflict upon the franchise?
And for the truly open-minded, if Lombardi does come aboard, could we consider the possibility he might be better at his job now than he was 25 years ago?. Maybe watching tape and talking with scouts has equipped him with a better perspective, and actually helped him identify the most-talented people in the profession who would be good additions in Cleveland.
There are absolutely no guarantees Haslam, Banner and Chudzinski won’t fail just as miserably as those who came before them, but they certainly deserve a training camp, a preseason and at least a month of their first regular season together before Browns fans ruminate on the Lerner-Holmgren-Heckert-Shurmur era as the good ol’ days.
It’s still early, folks.
Leave a few windmills to tilt toward if, and when, the Browns’ lose their opener.
Bruce Hooley hosts The Hooligans from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”
Email Bruce firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Bruce on Twitter @bhoolz
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