Ravens president Dick Cass is stepping down after 18 years on the job, and the team will add a familiar name in AFC North circles to replace him. Former Browns executive VP Sashi Brown is coming aboard to replace Cass.
Cass, 76, took over as Ravens president shortly after owner Steve Bisciotti bought the team in 2004. For Brown, this is a return to the NFL after a few years away. Brown has been with the Washington Wizards since 2019 but officially vacated that position Friday. The Ravens will make their Cass-to-Brown transition April 1, per The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec (on Twitter).
Brown is best known for being the point man in charge of a radical rebuild effort in Cleveland a few years ago. The Browns gutted their roster in 2016 and geared their rebuild around an analytics approach. This led to one of the worst stretches in NFL history, with the Browns going 1-31 from 2016-17. Jimmy Haslamfired Brown late in the 2017 season, hiring John Dorsey to replace him. Prior to Brown’s Cleveland stay, he spent nearly 10 years with the Jaguars, working on the business side.
Brown’s name resurfaced prior to this Ravens move. Hue Jacksonaccused Haslam of paying out bonuses to himself, Brown and others associated with tanking during that two-year span. Haslam denied the accusation. Brown will now have a chance to bounce back in the NFL, joining GM Eric DeCosta and John Harbaugh as a top Ravens power broker.
THURSDAY: Haslam denied paying Jackson to lose games, saying during an appearance on Knox News the current Grambling State HC has lobbed salvos at the Browns to cover up his poor performance as a head coach. While Jackson was saddled with terrible rosters in 2016 and ’17, Haslam pointed to the 2018 season — when the Browns finished 5-3 after starting 2-5-1 before Jackson’s ouster — as evidence Jackson deserves more of the responsibility than he has accepted for the failures of that period. The former Cleveland coach’s claims center on the 2016 and ’17 slates, though Haslam said “unequivocally, Hue Jackson was never paid to lose games.”
The former Cleveland HC has expressed a willingness to reveal proof Browns owner Jimmy Haslam incentivized tanking during the 2016 and ’17 seasons, Robinson adds. The executive director of the Hue Jackson Foundation, Kimberly Diemert, accused the Browns of paying bonus money to Jackson, current GM Andrew Berry, current chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta and former executive VP Sashi Brown to tank during those seasons (Twitter link).
Jackson has replied to several tweets on this matter as well. In a tweet Tuesday night, Jackson said, “I stand with Brian Flores. I can back up every word I’m saying.” While the Browns were attempting a radical rebuild during those seasons, ones that pitted Jackson against a new-age front office, the team strongly denied Diemert’s allegation. Jackson is currently the head coach at Grambling State, which hired him in December.
“The recent comments by Hue Jackson and his representatives relating to his tenure as our head coach are completely fabricated,” a Browns spokesperson said, via Robinson. “Any accusation that any member of our organization was incentivized to deliberately lose games is categorically false.”
In a separate Twitter reply, Jackson made another claim the Browns were incentivizing losses, saying, “Trust me it was a good number” when asked about the Dolphins’ alleged $100K payments to Flores. The Browns, who hired John Dorsey as GM late in 2017, fired Jackson midway through the 2018 season. Jackson went 3-36-1 in Cleveland. This tenure included the league’s second 0-16 season in 2017.
“We were paid for it. You’re going to see it as losing, but the way the team was built there was no chance to win at a high level,” Jackson said when asked about being incentivized to tank during a SportsCenter appearance on Wednesday (via ESPN.com’s Jake Trotter, on Twitter). “My record that year  was 1-15. There was a four-year plan that was crafted, and I have documentation that any coach would cringe if he saw it, because it talked things that had nothing to do with winning. Aggregate rankings, being the youngest team, having so many draft picks — none of those things lead to winning.
“I didn’t understand what the plan was. I asked for clarity because it did not talk about winning and losing until Year 3 and 4. That told you right there that something wasn’t correct, but I still couldn’t understand it until [seeing] the team that I had. And once being in the midst of it and finding out the team that I had and understanding that, ‘Wait a minute. At the end of the year there’s money coming in?’ Like I said, I didn’t understand it, here’s this money and percentages based on what you did, that didn’t make any sense to me.
“I remember very candidly saying to Jimmy, ‘I’m not interested in this bonus money,’ because I’ve never known that to be a bonus. I was interested in taking whatever money that was and putting it toward getting more players on our football team, because I didn’t think we were very talented at all.”
Fielding a team bad enough to go 1-31 in a two-year stretch and offering payments to a coach and execs for losses are obviously two different things. The latter accusations levied against the Dolphins and Browns being proven would certainly double as one of the biggest scandals in NFL history. Having not been an NFL coach since 2018, Jackson also has less to lose than Flores, who interviewed for four HC jobs during this year’s cycle. Attorneys for Flores anticipate other coaches joining the since-fired Dolphins HC’s litigation, Robinson adds.
You don’t usually see teams fire a GM and announce his replacement all in one day. But that’s just what happened with the Browns four years ago today. On the morning of December 9, 2017, the Browns fired executive VP and de facto GM Sashi Brown. Later that night, we learned that the organization was hiring JohnDorsey as their new general manager.
The first move wasn’t all that surprising, but it also might not have been all that fair. Brown was hired as the Browns’ executive vice president/general counsel in January of 2013 and was promoted to executive vice president of football operations in January of 2016. During his one-plus season atop the front office, the Browns went a combined 1-27. However, Brown took an unorthodox approach to team building, one that wasn’t intended to bear fruit in one-plus seasons. The executive embraced an NBA-like, bottoming-out rebuild that left the team with lots of cap room and draft capital to work with.
“Wasn’t good enough,” said owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, and with a “pivotal” 2018 offseason coming up, the organization decided to move on from Brown.
“We have great appreciation and gratitude for Sashi’s commitment and leadership to our organization but believe transitioning to someone with strong experience and success in drafting and building consistently winning football teams is critical to the future of the Cleveland Browns,” the team said in a statement.
By the end of the night, it was pretty clear that the higher-ups had been scheming a front office reshuffling for some time. 12 hours hadn’t passed from the initial news that we learned that former Chiefs GM John Dorsey had been hired to replace Brown in Cleveland. The organization had apparently been getting a read on their impending GM search for weeks at that point, so ownership wasn’t going to waste time when it came to announcing Dorsey’s hiring.
Dorsey didn’t have a losing record during his four seasons in Kansas City, collecting 43 regular season wins. While the Chiefs made the playoffs three times in those four years, they only managed to win one postseason game. In Cleveland, Dorsey was going to be tasked with a quick rebuild, and thanks in part to Brown, the organization was armed with both picks and cap space.
With top-overall pick Baker Mayfield under center, the Browns improved to 7-8-1 during Dorsey’s first full season as GM. However, the team regressed to 6-10 during the 2019 draft, leading to Dorsey’s firing. Similar to Brown, Dorsey never really got to see his plan to fruition. A few years later, we can give the executive credit for building a core that included (and one point) all of Mayfield, cornerback Denzel Ward, receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and defensive notables Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon.
Dorsey quietly worked with the Eagles as a consultant during the 2020 season, and he was hired as a senior personnel executive for the Lions back in January. Brown was hired as the planning and operations officer for Monumental Sports & Entertainment after getting canned by the Browns.
Dorsey’s replacement, Andrew Berry, became the youngest GM in NFL history when he was hired in 2020, and Cleveland managed to go 11-5 during his first season with the organization…their best record since 1994. While Berry had a natural influence on the roster, it’s hard not to think what could have been if Brown or Dorsey had kept their jobs. Considering the precedent established over the past four years, we wouldn’t blame Berry for being a bit nervous about his future with the organization. The team has struggled a bit in 2021, but that successful 2020 campaign should provide the current GM with a longer leash than his predecessors.
The Browns’ scrutinized gamble on Kareem Hunt went fairly smoothly this season, with the running back playing in eight games after serving his suspension for his actions during his Chiefs run. But Hunt ran into some more off-field trouble this week. Rocky River (Ohio) Police pulled him over for speeding and found small amounts of marijuana in three locations in the vehicle, Kaylee Remington of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes. Hunt was placed in the backseat of a police cruiser but only charged for speeding. The NFL is aware of the incident, per a statement. This would mean far less were it not for Hunt’s history. A video showed the former rushing champion shoving and kicking a woman at a Cleveland hotel in 2018, leading to Hunt’s Chiefs departure. Hunt signed a one-year Browns contract but can be retained via RFA tender. However, with John Dorsey out of the picture, the talented back’s standing with the Browns may be less certain.
On the subject of Browns staffers, Kevin Stefanski is bringing in one of his former Vikings coworkers. Six-year Minnesota staffer Drew Petzing will become the Browns’ new tight ends coach, Cabot reports. Petzing coached quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs in Minnesota. The 32-year-old coach worked under then-quarterbacks coach Stefanski in 2018 and moved from assistant QBs coach to wideouts coach last year. Prior to his Vikings stay, however, Petzing spent the 2013 season as a Browns intern.
Fired less than two seasons into the radical rebuild Jimmy Haslam green-lit, Sashi Brown expressed concern about the Browns’ constant turnover. Currently working with the Washington Wizards, Brown hopes the next Browns GM will have a chance to build something. “I hope they get the time to do it and that there’s true alignment throughout the building and some conviction and what I would say the organizational faith that maybe hasn’t been there across some of the rash of change that’s been spinning around here for the better part of the last decade,” Brown said, via the Akron Beacon Journal’s Marla Ridenour. The Browns have moved on from a staggering five regimes since Haslam took over in 2012, and the instability has shown no signs of slowing down. GM frontrunner George Patonwithdrew his name from consideration for the job Friday afternoon.
The Browns were officially without a top decision-maker for less than 12 hours, firing Sashi Brown and hiring John Dorsey on Thursday. That process, though, unfolded for the past several weeks.
And Brown himself might have been part of it. The Browns enlisted the help of Hall of Famers Bill Parcells and Ron Wolf to help land a football executive, Michael Lombardi of The Ringer reports (on Twitter). The former Browns GM added Brown was involved in this process. Lombardi, however, points out Brown thought he would join the new football-based exec instead of being replaced.
Rumors about the Browns searching for execs with stronger football backgrounds came out of Cleveland back in mid-October, and although the Browns denied it, that point in time seems to add up with the five- to six-week search process multiple outlets have reported encompassed this shakeup effort.
Wolf’s involvement is interesting given that he’d played this role before. The former Packers GM has done this at multiple junctures in the past. He served in a consultant role and recommended the hire of Mike Holmgren as team president and also met with Haslam late in 2015, doing so prior to Haslam’s decision to bring in the new-age front office.
Wolf’s son, Packers exec Eliot Wolf, was mentioned as a possible candidate, but it’s clear the Browns were not especially interested in going through traditional channels via offseason interview process to fill this vacancy.
Jackson wanted the Browns to sign Maclin, Cabot reports. They were loosely connected to the UFA wideout, but the Ravens, Bills and Eagles were well ahead of them. Jackson presumably wanted Haden to remain in Cleveland, but the Browns released him. Davis was also shipped back to the Jets and has enjoyed a productive season. Cabot also notes Jackson and Gregg Williams received pushback from some members of the front office in the Myles Garrett-vs.-Mitch Trubiskyargument that transpired in April, with the coaches’ side winning out and Garrett being the pick.
Here’s the latest on a busy day in Cleveland.
Jimmy Haslam made this move Thursday in order to not fall behind on the GM carousel, Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com reports, adding the owner saw the Giants taking an early lead by landing their former GM Ernie Accorsi to lead a search to replace Jerry Reese. Ownership was “adamant” not to fall behind in this pursuit, per Grossi. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report said during a radio appearance on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland the early Brown firing was to get an early start on a John Dorsey push (Twitter link). The Browns do not have to wait until season’s end to interview Dorsey like they would an active exec, and Miller reports many believe he will be Cleveland’s next GM. Dorsey steered the Chiefs to three playoff berths in four seasons after taking over following a 2-14 season.
Haslam was tinkering with the idea to make in-season changes for the past couple of weeks, Albert Breer of SI.com reports, noting the owner was considering bringing in a football voice to complement Brown rather than replace him. But after research, the owner decided to fire Brown and begin a search for his replacement.
Both Breer and Grossi confirm the Thursday-afternoon report the Browns are going after Dorsey. Grossi reports Dorsey has been “endorsed heartily” by at least one of the football execs with whom Haslam’s already consulted. Breer notes a Dorsey/Jackson arrangement makes more sense than Brown/Jackson, with the ex-Chiefs GM’s scouting background aligning more with Jackson’s admitted old-school approach to football development. That, and not necessarily his impressive work in Kansas City, made him a key name to watch in Cleveland, Breer notes.
A Dorsey hire could well mean a more prominent role for ex-Colts GM Ryan Grigson, Grossi writes. Grigson’s currently working as a senior personnel exec, with an emphasis on scouting. Dorsey and Grigson’s friendship and mutual respect would stand to lead to a better title for the since-fired Indianapolis decision-maker.
On Thursday, the Browns sacked top decision maker Sashi Brown with four games to go in the season. In his farewell address to Browns fans, Brown took the high road and also took ownership of the team’s poor performance:
“I want this to be real and clear, the way I know Cleveland and Browns fans can appreciate: Our win-loss record since I became executive vice president isn’t going to cut it.
We worked hard. I am so grateful to the people I worked with throughout my four-plus years with the Browns, particularly the people I worked with the past two years. We embarked on a mission to rebuild the Browns for long-term, sustainable success. We were committed and aggressive in our approach, even if unorthodox at times. We made dramatic changes and put in place a foundation on which championships can be built.
Obviously, the Browns have not yet achieved the turnaround we wanted for a franchise and the best fans in the NFL, who deserve it more than any other in sports. I know that turnaround is coming.
I thank Dee and Jimmy and the rest of the Haslam family for taking a chance on me. And when that turnaround happens, wherever I am, I will smile – more than a little bittersweetly – and say, to myself, “Go Browns!”
Hue Jackson‘s play calling has often been criticized, but so far he has held off on hiring an offensive coordinator. Why’s that? Jackson told reporters on Thursday that he didn’t want to hire an OC with a bad offense and make him take the fall (Twitter link via Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer). However, he says it’s possible that he will hire one for 2018.
Here’s the latest out of Cleveland following the firing of top exec Sashi Brown:
Brown was not on speaking terms with Jackson over the past month or so, sources tell Cabot.
The Browns say that Jackson will return in 2018, but some in league circles believe that might not be the case if the Browns finish 0-16, Mike Florio of PFT writes. Owner Jimmy Haslam going back on his promise might not be ideal, but Florio argues that the team will be open to ridicule regardless with a 1-31 record over the last two years.
Brown knew his job was in jeopardy and met with Haslam recently to discuss it, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. At the time, Brown was told that no decisions had been made.
When asked if he’ll want to have personnel control going forward, Jackson said that he wants to be in concert with those making the decisions (Twitter link via Rapoport).
Jackson hopes that the team’s next regime can tighten up some of its loose lips. “This has been a leaky place for years. Hopefully some of that stuff will go away in time,” Jackson said (Twitter link via Daryl Ruiter of 92.3 The Fan).
Fun fact: The Browns’ last win on a Sunday was Dec. 13, 2015, when Johnny Manziel led them to a 24-10 win over the Niners, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter) notes.
The Browns have fired their top decision maker. Sashi Brown has been relieved of his duties, the team announced on Thursday morning. However, coach Hue Jackson will return in 2018.
“We have great appreciation and gratitude for Sashi’s commitment and leadership to our organization but believe transitioning to someone with strong experience and success in drafting and building consistently winning football teams is critical to the future of the Cleveland Browns. Today we informed Sashi that we were going in a new direction. The 2018 draft and offseason is pivotal for our franchise, we need to ensure that we maximize our opportunity for success; with our picks, free agency and building our roster. Hue Jackson will remain our coach and will return for the 2018 season but we feel it is necessary to take significant steps to strengthen our personnel department. We have begun the process of having productive conversations regarding leadership of our football operations and will provide further updates when appropriate. We thank Sashi for all his hard work and dedication to the Cleveland Browns.”
The Browns are 0-12 and 1-27 over the last two seasons. Some sort of shakeup was expected, though not necessarily before the end of the season. It’s possible that the Browns were motivated to get a head start on their GM search after the Giants sacked Jerry Reese earlier this week. Their next hire will be their ninth GM since returning to Cleveland in 1999.
Meanwhile, the Browns will hold off on hiring their tenth coach since returning to Cleveland. Jackson was brought to Cleveland for his offensive acumen, leadership, and positive energy. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to demonstrate much of that with a lackluster roster. The good news for Jackson is that even if his team goes 0-16 this year, he will return for next season.
Brown was hired as the Browns’ executive vice president/general counsel in January of 2013 and was promoted to executive vice president of football operations in January of 2016. He took an unorthodox approach to team building, one that has yet to bear any fruit in Cleveland. However, he did leave the team with lots of cap room and draft capital to work with, so the team’s next GM may be in a position to succeed – provided that he can break the team’s longstanding curse.
In the piece, Gordon admits he was a highly functioning addict who would drink “a couple shots” before games, including his back-to-back 200-yard performances during his standout 2013 campaign. Gordon said his drug use began in the seventh grade with marijuana and Xanax, and he believes he has had something in his system for every game of his career.
When asked why his recovery this time is different, the receiver said, “Every time I would try to stop, it would be for the wrong reason. … Last time, I wanted to do it to save my career. Just for the job. [Now] I have the positive reinforcement and motivation of having a daughter and stuff like that, but kids can’t save you in that aspect. Only thing saving me at this point and time, and the difference between now and then, is that I’m doing it for myself. And I want something more for myself.”
Gordon will be allowed to begin practicing with the Browns on November 20, with the hopes of getting back on the field for the team’s Week 13 matchup with the Chargers.
Here is the latest from Cleveland:
Browns head coach Hue Jackson issued no comment on his relationship with the front office when addressing reporters, including 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland’s Keith Britton (via Twitter), on Monday. The comment stemmed from the team’s fiasco in attempting to acquire A.J. McCarron from the Bengals and executive vice presidentSashi Brown‘s comments earlier in the day. Brown also noted the botched deal for the quarterback made last week a tough one from a public relations perspective, Albert Breer of The MMQB tweets.
It occurred to some with the Browns during the McCarron talks that Jackson could be back in Cincinnati next season with the team’s second- and third-round picks from the deal, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora tweets. Whether Jackson is with the Bengals or another team, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the coach looking for another job after winning just one of his first 23 games in Cleveland.
Safety Justin Currie has a workout scheduled for Friday, the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson tweets. Signed to the Browns’ practice squad in December 2016, the Western Michigan product was released in the preseason and has yet to sign with another team.