A La Canfora hatchet job on the Browns? We’re shocked!
We were understandably a bit dismayed this afternoon when we stopped by Twitter and saw people freaking out about a “bombshell” from Jason La Canfora at CBS Sports about the Cleveland Browns.
You can imagine our trepidation as we clicked on the link to La Canfora’s “bombshell.” In a week that has already seen quarterback Johnny Manziel check himself into rehab, and wide receiver Josh Gordon be suspended by the NFL for a year for repeated violations of the NFL’s drug and alcohol policy, what could La Canfora be writing that had so many so dismayed?
So you can envision our surprise as we read the article and found that … there really wasn’t anything there that Browns fans hadn’t already heard about in recent weeks. It was really more Christmas cracker than “bombshell” and left us wondering what everyone was getting worked up about.
We read it again, certain that we must have missed something, but … nope. Still nothing.
Make no mistake, La Canfora made sure to hit all the appropriate squares on the Dysfunctional and Toxic Browns bingo card, including:
- A season “marred by the unraveling of the staff, the roster, and any faint hopes that for once, finally, this franchise might be on the upswing.” (Someone must have not told the secondary, which had three Pro Bowl players.)
- An owner who has “brought nothing but misery and instability to the franchise,” one who forced his head coach to play Manziel.
- A situation in Berea where everyone is looking for the nearest exit.
- A general manager who is “looking over his shoulder” and is nothing more than a “path of least resistance for the owner.”
- Growing “friction” between the general manager and head coach.
- A team president who is a “divisive figure.”
- And, of course, all of this courtesy of unnamed sources.
First off, let’s focus on those unnamed sources for those four or five people out there who don’t realize who is feeding La Canfora this compost heap of “news.” La Canfora is a well-known puppet for former Browns general manager Mike Lombardi, (this is a fun exchange) and we all know Lombardi loves nothing more than telling his friends in the media how great he is at evaluating NFL talent. (Lombardi certainly can’t point to his record as proof.)
As you read through La Canfora’s story, it becomes clear that his unnamed sources are some combination of Lombardi, Joe Banner, former quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains and former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
It is interesting to note that while La Canfora takes issue with the current direction of the Browns, he was all in when the team of Banner and Lombardi hired defensive coordinator Ray Horton, labeling him in August 2013 a “masterful hire.”
Of course, anyone who watched the Browns defense under Horton realized that he was anything but.
The biggest surprise came from La Canfora’s treatment of Shanahan, who was allowed to leave town because he wasn’t tough enough to handle the job of building the Browns’ offense.
La Canfora spins a different tale, though, writing that the Browns let “the best coach on the team’s staff … walk away by working out a settlement after just one season … in which he did an outstanding job.”
It was this passage that we found most interesting, though:
“At season’s end Shanahan, the lone bright spot on offense, perhaps, presented Pettine with a 32-point presentation on why he wanted to get out of his contract, sources said. And after much deliberation among lawyers and negotiation, in a bizarre precedent, a statement was crafted and Shanahan was a free man. He would end up in Atlanta, a coveted job, and a hiring that Banner, consulting for Falcons owner Arthur Blank, played a role in; Lombardi just won a Super Bowl ring as a personnel advisor to Bill Belichick. Allowing Shanahan to walk sent shockwaves through the building, with such a talented coach allowed to go at a time when the Browns desperately needed to develop a quarterback and with a quarter of the teams in the NFL needing a new offensive coordinator.”
We did a double-take when we read that, especially as it was none other than La Canfora who wrote the following about Shanahan at the end of the 2013 season:
“Conversations with several people within the (Washington) organization have revealed a similar perception of Kyle Shanahan as someone who 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.”
“As a former member of the organization put it: ‘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.’
“Several members of the organization said Kyle Shanahan was a cause of internal strife, surrounding himself with young coaches with inferior experience, and allowing for no checks and balances of outside voices in the offensive coaching rooms.”
So somehow, in the span of just a single season and solely on the basis that Joe Banner hired him in Cleveland and persuaded Arthur Blank to hire him in Atlanta, Shanahan has transformed from someone who used his daddy as a human shield to the second coming of Don Coryell?
As we’ve said before, the Browns have brought some of this on themselves by rolling out season after season of losing football. And, as the undisputed No. 1 team in town, they are never going to get the kind of pass that the Cavaliers (who would only be a rung or two above the Knicks if LeBron James hadn’t been born in Akron) and Indians (who are taking seats out at Progressive Field to hide that no one goes to their games) get for their own continued ineptitude. (Trust us, we’ve been watching Cleveland sports for a long time and there is plenty of dysfunction to go around.)
But you have to be intentionally obtuse to not see that the Browns made progress this past season under Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine, and that while there is still work to be done, the team is trending in the right direction.
So let’s all take a deep breath Browns fans, and save the dismay for when it’s warranted.
And since this is Cleveland, that day may be just right around the corner.