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By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
When Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis fired public relations director Zak Gilbert earlier this month, the action became a cause celebre in the NFL because of the respect Gilbert earned from national media.
On Monday, the Browns named Gilbert their new director of communications. Not surprisingly, the move was roundly applauded in the tightly-knit NFL media.
Gilbert replaces Neal Gulkis, whose last work day for the Browns was Friday. Gulkis, originally hired by former coach Eric Mangini in 2009, survived the Mike Holmgren regime but not the Joe Banner organization.
Banner’s sweeping changes have extended to virtually every department, including team security.
Gilbert, 37, was with the Raiders only a year. He was brought to the stale organization by GM Reggie McKenzie, with whom Gilbert worked for seven years with the Green Bay Packers. Davis fired Gilbert reportedly because he was unhappy with the way his deceased father, former Raiders czar Al Davis, was portrayed in a story in Sports Illustrated in April. Davis apparently blamed Gilbert for that.
A native of Fort Collins, CO, Gilbert also worked as director of athletic media relations at Colorado State University, and with the Colorado Rockies, Denver Broncos and University of Colorado, besides the Packers.
In a statement released by the Browns, Banner said, “We are thrilled to add someone with Zak’s skills and background to lead our communications department. He brings nearly 20 years of expertise on both the collegiate and professional level. We are happy to welcome him to the Browns organization.”
Gilbert inherits some difficult PR issues, such as Josh Gordon’s recent NFL suspension and the ongoing FBI investigation of fraud at owner Jimmy Haslam’s Knoxville-based Pilot Flying J company.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.comFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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