Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Perception, reality and the Cleveland Browns

browns lose billsEver since the Cleveland Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, Browns fans have lived in a perpetual state of “hope for the best but expect the worse.”

That conditioned response isn’t reserved for what happens on the field on Sunday afternoons, but extends to what happens within the walls of team headquarters in Berea.

The latest example comes from a pair of “reports” on Tuesday that got Browns fans fired up.

Jason La Canfora, a CBS Sports NDL “Insider” got the ball rolling when he went on a Cleveland radio station to share his “insider knowledge” about alleged growing problems for the Browns.

“It’s pretty bad,” La Canfora claimed. “The bottom has dropped out there. I don’t know where it is good. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on a lot of people to get better and it’s probably going to take a hell of an offseason to do that. I do not hear a lot of great things about the climate in that building right now.”

La Canfora then reached for the low-hanging fruit that is Browns owner Jimmy Haslam.

“You got to look at the owner,” La Canfora said. “There’s been unrest there, obviously it was there before this owner but this is just like Washington or Oakland or any of these other situations. When this is a perpetual problem, look at the guy who signs all of the checks. It starts there. And until things get cleaned up from the top on down, you don’t win from the bottom on up, you win from the top on down. I don’t know. It’s not good.”

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” – Robertson Davies

La Canfora is a well-known friend and apologist for former Browns general manager Mike Lombardi, so it’s not too difficult to connect the dots and figure out who is probably tipping off La Canfora about the “problems” with the front office. The point that La Canfora chooses to ignore, however, is that the dysfunction left the building when Haslam showed Lombardi and Joe Banner the door almost a year ago.

Think for a minute about what we know vs. what people think they know about the current Browns situation. Ever since Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine took over with the Browns, Haslam has mostly been out of sight – no press conferences (save some comments after the season’s final game) and no TV shots of Haslam laughing it up in the owner’s box during games.

Other than the notion, which has repeatedly been refuted by team officials, that Haslam ordered Farmer to draft quarterback Johnny Manziel, what has Haslam done in the past 12 months to give the suggestion that he is a meddling owner?

We’re not trying to paint Haslam as perfect – he definitely made his share of mistakes in his first year of owning the team – but what, exactly, has he done in the past 12 months to give any credence to the tired narrative of continued team dysfunction?

The reality is that Farmer and Pettine have been running the show like professionals, but apparently that doesn’t make for strong enough hot takes.

The fun continued when Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Mary Kay Cabot reported that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is desperately trying to get off the Johnny Manziel party bus and grab the first flight out of town.

Cabot, using unnamed sources, paints a picture of a coaching staff at odds with the front office on the direction of the team, most notably as it concerns the future of Manziel.

Shanahan is reportedly on the growing list of coaches who will be interviewed for the head coach position in Buffalo, and has also been linked to San Francisco and Oakland in a package deal with his father, Mike, who would supposedly take over as head coach with Kyle as offensive coordinator.

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” – Aldous Huxley

That arrangement presents a problem, though, as the Browns don’t have to let Shanahan leave for another position unless it is a promotion, and going back to working alongside dad wouldn’t necessarily meet that criteria.

If Shanahan is looking for a way to reunite with his dad, it’s not hard to see that he or his agent are the source on this story. It’s great that he’s willing to “accept” a lateral move out of town, but that’s not his call and it is certainly not the Browns problem.

We’re actually not surprised that Shanahan may want out of town, it’s just for a different reason than the one he’s claiming. (If he is the source of all this, of course.)

At the end of their time in Washington in 2013, La Canfora (of all people) wrote an article about how Kyle Shanahan was at the core of the dysfunction surrounding the Redskins.

According to “conversations with several people within the organization,” La Canfora reported that Kyle Shanahan was “empowered and enabled by his father, spending an abundance of time in his father’s office, given a wide swath of power, and rubbing many people – players, fellow coaches and members of football operations – the wrong way.”

A former (unnamed) member of the organization also claimed that, “Kyle bitches about everything, and then his father has to fix it. He bitches about the food in the cafeteria, he bitches about the field, he bitches about the equipment. He complains and then Mike takes care of it. Kyle is a big problem there. He is not well liked.”

And yet another (unnamed) staff member said that, “Kyle knows ball, but he is just so petty and he picks fights and holds grudges over small stuff. He’s a mountain out of a molehill guy, and he’s got entitlement syndrome. That’s why we ended up hiring all of his close friends and buddies, so no one can challenge him. But it makes you worse in the long run, because there is no accountability. Ultimately, it’s his father’s fault for pacifying his son.”

Reading that makes us wonder about the real motives behind Shanahan allegedly wanting out of Cleveland. Maybe it’s not because the front office is sending text messages with play calls during games. (Seriously?) Could it be because Shanahan can’t cope with being in a situation where his father is not there to protect him.? Or maybe that he can’t handle working for Mike Pettine – the son of a coach himself and someone who seems to have a low tolerance for nonsense – and accepting accountability for his work?

“The more I see, the less I know for sure.” – John Lennon

While we get that dismissing La Canfora’s report about the Browns while embracing the one about the Redskins may look a bit self-serving, if what he wrote about Shanahan’s experience in Washington is true, it paints a different picture as to why Shanahan may want out of Cleveland.

It also speaks to the perception issue surrounding the Browns. They have been dysfunctional in the past: Butch Davis quitting after having a panic attack, Phi Savage in a power struggle with John Collins, whatever happened to George Kokinis – but that doesn’t mean things can’t and haven’t changed.

Unfortunately, that perception may only change when the team starts winning consistently.

Until then, people will only see what their minds are already predisposed to comprehend.

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