Rethinking the Banner era.
So #brownstwitter is getting frothy over this pass…
Ok, I’m sold! All we need to do is call the four-steps-up-into-the-pocket play and we should be good. Who knew? Why didn’t Shanny call that play? Why didn’t Dowell Loggains coach him up? Sure, it’s the fourth quarter of an August game and you’ve got a cut-line strong safety trying to play corner and yeah even with four steps the 22 yd TD pass was under-thrown but,,, Manziel should start over McCown!
In more a serious vein, I saw nothing last night to cause a rethink on the “Soulless Husk” appraisal. Heavy on paycheck picker-uppers; bereft of inspirational play. The only soulful player on the team, the only baller, Marlon Moore, was out and it showed.
That is one lethargic team. It’s like they know they’re a 4-12 team and — unlike past years — there’s not even an upside to tanking the season for the draft because shit: Weeden-Richardson-Mingo-Gilbert-Manziel. They’re a 4-12 team and even the hope for improvement next year feels foolish. Which is what got me thinking this heresy:
Was I wrong about Joe Banner?
The Banner Plan, revisited.
Say one thing for Banner: he had a plan and there was never a question there. Now then, it’s been my contention that his ‘plan’ included a lot of season tanking, not-my-guy cutting, and self-serving/time-buying/contract-extending tactics. But his team was moving and moving upward. True, the first part of his plan seemed designed to plumb the absolute, murky, slimy bed of the Cuyahoga bottom of the NFL. But hey, once you hit rock bottom you almost have to trend up, no?
It was a grotesquely cynical plan, but it does feed (and manipulate) (and exploit) the bottomless resource that is common to all Browns fans: hope.
Somehow the current regime has stripped hope away; from me at least. I don’t know how they did it because I actually love the head coach and love the fact of three first round picks and a second spent on the offensive line. And it’s not the uniforms or the generic stadium or the mascot overkill or the lame in-game third down music or the lusting-after-Columbus/dying-to-get-out-of-Cleveland or the sin tax raising or the twerpy Sloan School lawyer needing to be coached up by the brown-nosey rookie GM… although these things in the aggregate contribute to a sour disposition toward the 2015 Browns.
I think my lack of hope stems from the fact that tanking seasons via all number of means — bad coach hirings, good coach firings, bad coach firings, shitty lazy credible football men, hands off owner selling, hands on hillbilly buying — this unbelievable string of piss poor management, this flawless execution of the tank plan, actually succeeded in yielding a genuine bounty of the lifeblood for NFL teams — first round draft picks. And they’ve all been squandered.
So if playing uninspired, losing football resulting in high draft picks doesn’t have a payoff… how does one sustain hope?
This brings me back to Banner. I’ve been thinking that there might be plausible explanations to many of the problems I expressed with his stewardship of the Browns. If I can lay the Mingo pick at the feet of Jimmy Haslam (and I do), that opens up the possibility that everything we saw in 2013 had an explanation we weren’t privy to.
Here’s the questions I’d like to get Joe Banner’s honest answers on. Since I haven’t heard from Banner, I’ve gone ahead and inserted my most charitable read on his prospective and candid answers.1
Q&A with Candid Joe Banner.
Me: What really happened with Chip Kelly?
Candid Joe Banner (CJB): We flew out to see him with the intention of throwing unprecedented dollars at him. We were confident we could get him. It turned out he wanted more control, specifically over personnel, than I wanted to yield. Also other teams had the same thoughts regarding overpaying him. Also I think Jimmy turned him off with his TypeA-HandsOn style. He’d been king in Eugene, didn’t have to leave, so does he really want to deal with rookie billionaire hillbilly owner?
Me: What the hell happened with the Mingo pick in particular and that 2013 draft in general?
CJB: Jimmy was enthralled with pass rush. He was actually pretty child-like in his wanting an attacking defense — whatever that means. I mean they’re just words, every defense attacks, the difference is getting the right personnel at the right price. Welp, Jimmy though, he wanted a pass rusher, he watched one — ONE — game of Mingo’s and that was the Peach Bowl against Clemson. So Jimmy wanted pass rush, Jimmy knew Mingo’s name, my whole staff was still finding their footing and the entire scouting crew was getting sacked, Chud didn’t really know his roster or have a vision or identity he wanted to create… so we deferred to Jimmy. Who would we have taken if Jimmy weren’t in the room? Probably Star Lotulelei.
Me: What about the rest of that draft? McFadden? The trade outs?
CJB: McFadden was a miss, what can I say? We had a good scouting report on him… he was supposed to be tough as shit so we overlooked his small size and — yes Mike — we knew we had the smallest secondary in the NFL. The trade outs? On the first one I know we freaked out when Ryan Nassib went right before us. Same thing on the next one, we really liked Tharold Simon. I need to point out Armonty Bryant remains a nice pick and I liked the Gilkey pick too. We were very optimistic about the 2014 draft had we gotten there.
Me: Speaking of Chud, what happened at the end with Chud?
CJB: Lookit, Haslam is a results guy, quite impatient, and not in a good way. Rich guys are accustomed to having their way and I have to say Jimmy suffers from some arrested development in this area. So he’s climbing up my ass about the level of performance in meaningless December games (and that toady Scheiner is of course egging him on) so I go down and ride herd on Chud and he pushes back (pretty sure he had Norv Turner telling him not to take any shit) (Norv hated getting play calling help from the hillbilly.) and things between Chud and me just disintegrated past the point of no return. So someone has to go, and I wasn’t going, so I fired him.
Me: So the harassment of coaches from the owner’s box goes back to 2013?
CJB: Oh sure. You gotta remember that Jimmy’s dad played for Robert Neyland and won a couple NCAA Championships in Knoxville. That makes Jimmy a football genius. Try to keep up, Mike.
Me: Serious biz, after trading out of the draft and then trading Richardson and the rumored shopping of Gordon — were you tanking 2013?
CJB: Hey, that Richardson trade is the best trade I’ve ever made and the best trade in Browns history. He was such a shitty pick and that was a large part of why I didn’t keep Heckert around. I suspect Holgrem wanted Richardson but a GM’s job is to save idiot management from idiot draft picks. So we knew he was a stiff on the field and found out when we got here that he was a d-bag off the field. We wanted him gone. So we orchestrated a whole featured player on the NFL Fantasy advertising — I think he was getting drafted in the first or second round in fantasy that year — and we found someone desperate to bite. NOW THEN,, yes the Colts were trying to make the playoffs and we knew we weren’t. Is that tanking or realism? I say realism. But in any case, you’re not going to get the CEO of an NFL team to say, “We’re not trying to make the playoffs.” You simply do not say that. But yeah sure, we were *building for the future* if you will. And the Richardson trade reflected that. Same with Gordon, which — if I may point out — was also the correct impulse from my office. Jimmy wouldn’t let me trade Gordon. Obviously, I was right there. And the draft? No the draft was not part of a tanking plan. The free agent non-participation was, but we knew we wanted to be active in 2014 and knew our cap space would rollover.
Me: What the hell was going on with your dabbling in interior design and walking the press around Berea like you’re a damn real estate agent (complete with the scruffy half-beard, christ)? Didn’t you know that your merchandise/ticket buying supporters for 50 years without a championship in the heart of the rust belt don’t want to know about your spiffy new and expensive office furniture?
CJB: Yeah, I’d handle that differently. But you know what’s funny? After buying all that orange furniture in a custom fabric that matched our helmets? All that furniture doesn’t match the Browns’ colors now! Lololololol… and you know who hates that: Mr. “Wordmark.”
Me: Can’t stand Scheiner can you? Insufferable twerp, right?
CJB: Backstabbing, self-promoting twerp. Never should have let him in the building. Knows nothing about football. Doesn’t let that stop him trying to influence issues outside his job responsibility. I mean, hey, I didn’t know anything about football when I started but I paid a lot of dues and now I honestly have to tell you that I am as good as anyone who ‘played the game’ at evaluating talent. I say that with confidence because I know hundreds of professional football talent evaluators and I know I’m better at than most.
Me: Why did it take so long to find Chud’s replacement? I like Pettine a lot but it looked like he was your 20th choice.
CJB: We — Lombardi and me — got a lot of shit from NFL lifers for firing Chud. We were basically blackballed. Whisenhunt, that cocksucker just took the interview to shit on me in front of Haslam. Prick. And it’s not like I can throw the hillbilly billionaire under the bus so I have to take the hit and eat a lot of shit. But I did and do like Pettine and was very very excited to have found him. He’s going to be great.
Me: Farmer stab you in the back?
CJB: Well,, yeah. But Jimmy made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. He’s definitely over his skis. This year’s draft looks like it’s all Farmer and no Jimmy. I think if he hasn’t hit a home run with Shelton or Irving he’ll be whacked and Pettine will pick the next GM.
Me: What was going on with Lombardi? Why didn’t he speak? Why did Grossi have such a bug up his ass on Lombardi? How did you two fall out?
CJB: Cleveland has the shittiest, laziest, most talentless writers in the NFL and Grossi is the king. Grossi is why you got Homgrum; Grossi’s been pounding the drum for new uniforms; Grossi’s spouts bromides like ‘playmaker’ and ‘quarterback.’ I mean, hey Tony, if signing a QB were easy everyone would have Andrew Luck and the Bengals wouldn’t have Dalton signed through 2020, amirite? I don’t know what was going with Grossi and Lombardi, if I had to guess it’s simple jealousy because Lombardi got national exposure through Simmons and NFL.com while Grossi is getting fired from the Plain Dealer. The Plain Dealer! Lombardi isn’t great thinking on his feet and I didn’t want him to become the story so I didn’t put him in front of that pack of hyenas. We fell out when I found out he was feeding Jimmy info on how coaching candidates were blackballing us: he was trying to get Jimmy to fire me and promote him. So I was about to fire him. Then Jimmy fired us both.
Me: Ok, last subject, you said this regarding uniforms:
We promise that the helmet won’t change. We promise the new look will respect the history. We’re going to do a lot of focus groups. We’re not going to put something out there that we haven’t done a lot of research on. It’s not going to be anything radical, I can guarantee that. But it will be new, forward looking and energetic. It will reflect what we want the franchise to be.
Did you have anyone over the age of 12 on these focus groups of yours? In terms of reflecting what you “want the franchise to be,” did you want the franchise to be Bowling Green State University?
CJB: First off, the whole ‘maximizing revenue streams’ thing was a mandate of Jimmy’s. He still has to come up with 300-odd million dollars to pay of Lerner I think this year and his business is leveraged to the hilt. One more downgrade and he might be selling the team. So the pimping of all things Browns is a real imperative for him. So yeah, you get these pointy headed geek consultants in a conference room and they tell you you need the video game players because they buy jerseys not once every 20 years (or never like you Mike), but will buy this year’s model because their friends have this year’s model and they want to be part of the cool crowd. In that sense, the Manziel draft pick was genius because they sold the shit out of his jersey last year and this year you wouldn’t be caught dead in it,,, so you better buy a new jersey with a NEW DESIGN. As for the uniform itself, of course it’s hideous but what do you expect with a hillbilly and a yuppie and a focus group of 12 year olds and of course the Nike designers with an agenda to push some boundaries influence the entire dialogue in those conference rooms. OF COURSE it’s hideous.
Me: Speaking of Manziel, would you have taken Manziel?
CJB: Pfft. Lol.
Me: Who would you have taken with the two picks in 2014?
CJB: Mike Evans at 4; Derek Carr at 26.
Me: Thanks Joe. You signing up for Cheddar Bay this year?
CJB: I’m waiting to see if that punk Ken Carman joins. If he does, I will just to school him.