On Tuesday morning, Cleveland Browns fired general manager Michael Lombardi and announced that CEO Joe Banner would be stepping down in a gutting that would be shocking if it weren't the Browns. It's strange timing though. Three weeks ago, Banner was introducing new head coach Mike Pettine as the third member of their Three Stooges. He actually made that cross-reference. It was a strange analogy to make for a franchise that's already mocked more often than Charles Barkley running a marathon.
The timeline of how this happened is even stranger. Honestly, if you wanted to set up a standup comedy routine, you could cobble together a few Cleveland Browns facts like these and start reading them off in chronological order. Sometimes I feel like they didn't draft Jim Brown because he was the best player they scouted, but because their names matched.
On January 10 of last year, the Cleveland Browns hired Rob Chudzinksi.
General manager Michael Lombardi was propped up as the personnel puppet on January 18. In his previous life as an NFL Network analyst, Lombardi labeled supplemental draft pick Josh Gordon, a waste of a pick. It was Lombardi's second stint with the Browns after the four years he spent as Belichick's Pro Personnel Director from 1991 to 1995. In his four years with Cleveland, Belichick and Lombardi drafted just one Pro Bowl player.
September 19 – The Browns trade Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts. Initially lambasted as another reason the Browns are circling the drain by short-sighted sports journalists, it proved to be a brilliant move after Richardson averaged fewer than three yards per carry and was eventually relegated to second-string behind Donald Brown.
Soon afterwards, Josh Gordon was rumored to be on the trading block. Gordon would end up leading the entire league in receiving yardage despite serving a suspension through the first two games of the regular season.
December 18– Here's where it gets interesting. Chudzinski is fired less than one year after he was hired. The Bible says Jesus could turn water into wine, but not even he could have won with the Browns roster that soon.
During their search for a replacement, Todd Bowles, Josh McDaniels and Adam Gase all withdrew their names from the coaching search after Chudzinski was fired less than a year after inheriting the Browns mess.
January 21- The Lions hire Vince Lombardi's grandson Joe Lombardi as their offensive coordinator. The Browns wondered why they didn't think of that first.
January 23– Mike Pettine is hired by Banner and Lombardi as the Browns rebound coach.
Michael Lombardi was never given an opportunity to draft his own franchise quarterback, but the upcoming draft was his opportunity to finally lay his own foundation.
The reason Cleveland settled on Pettine was because other coaches weary of Cleveland's bizarre "win-now" expectations after 15 years of futility. Republicans gave President Obama a longer honeymoon than the Browns gave Chudzinski. Haslam blamed Banner and Lombardi, who presumably wanted to bring in his own regime rather than inherit Chud, for this perception. In response. Haslam did the exact same thing to Lombardi, but promoted Ray Farmer from within.
Presumably, Lombardi was a casualty of Banner's axing. There were simply too many cooks in the kitchen. However, Banner wasn't given much of a shot either. He was hired in October of 2012, which is 14 years in Dawg Pound years.
It didn't help that Lombardi's first pick was LSU outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, who proved to be too light to rush the quarterback effectively in Ray Horton's 3-4 scheme. They also drafted projected fifth rounder Leon McFadden in the third round. In Lombardi's place, assistant general manager Ray Farmer will be carried into the sacrifical chamber known as Cleveland's general manager's office. He'll be responsible for cleaning up a more dysfunctional mess than the Sochi Olympics. Godspeed.