One week before the Cleveland Browns and the rest of the NFL are set to invade Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has fired General Manager Mike Lombardi and announced CEO Joe Banner is resigning.
Ray Farmer, hired a year ago as the assistant general manager, has replaced Lombardi. Farmer will run the draft and be responsible for forming the 53-man roster. Coach Mike Pettine will have final say on the weekly 45-man roster.
The changes come less than three weeks after Pettine was hired as head coach.
Under the new structure, team president Alec Scheiner, Farmer and Pettine will report directly to Haslam, who said he and Banner began talking about restructuring the front office “several weeks ago.”
“Joe and I, after lots of conversation, mutually agreed it would be best for the organization if we streamlined things,” Haslam said.
Haslam said Banner will be involved in a transition through May or June. No one will replace Banner.
Haslam spent much of a morning news conference fending off questions about the Browns being dysfunctional. The Browns were criticized nationally and described as “toxic” throughout a coaching search that lasted 25 days. Several candidates withdrew from consideration, including Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase declined to be interviewed.
“I would disagree with that,” Haslam said. “I think that's a perception you all have set out there. As I talk to people around the league, people view this as a great franchise. We're in great shape with the (salary) cap. We're in great place with the draft. If you talk to people around the league, they'll say this is a wonderful opportunity. Now we have to produce.”
Haslam began purchasing the Browns on Aug. 3, 2012. Since then he has fired two head coaches — Pat Shurmur and Rob Chudzinski; two general managers — Tom Heckert and Mike Lombardi — and one president in Mike Holmgren. Banner will be out in three or four months, if not sooner.
Lombardi spent five years outside of NFL front offices because no team would hire him before the Browns hired him 13 months ago. Haslam at the time praised Lombardi as a “great talent evaluator,” largely on the recommendation of Banner, who worked with Lombardi in Philadelphia in 1997 and 1998.
“Mike knows and understands football as well as anybody,” Haslam said Wednesday. “We feel Ray is the best person to handle the personnel side of our organization for the Cleveland Browns.”
Farmer's contract is for four years.