Cleveland Browns Head Coach Search is Losing Situation for Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi

Updated: January 22, 2014

By the time you read this article, the Cleveland Browns may have a head coach, or they may have four more potential interview candidates in what seems like the longest search for a coach in NFL history.

While none of us really have an idea who the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns will be, one thing is certain—the front office has put themselves in a lose-lose situation just one year into their tenure with the once proud organization. After firing their first-ever head coach in Rob Chudzinski after just one year on the job, owner Jimmy Haslam, CEO Joe Banner and even the non-existent general manager, Michael Lombardi, have seemingly put themselves directly in the crossfire of one of most embattled fanbases in the NFL.

It seems like ages ago when Browns fans were rallying around their new owner in Haslam and salary cap guru in Banner. They were supposed to be the two to save the town from the mess Randy Lerner and Mike Holmgren left behind before riding out of town with their millions in tow. Instead, it seems Banner—and likely Lombardi—are one bad hire away from being on the next bus out of Cleveland.

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Haslam was the anti-Lerner, as he came in preaching about wanting a winner and vowing to be visible at all times. While he has delivered on visibility and being present in the organization, the winning didn’t happen in year one and his pending federal issues with his private company have cast a negative shadow on the owner early on in his career as owner of the franchise. Even though the actions of his company do not actually have anything to do with the Browns at this time, it was just more ammunition for a fanbase just waiting for failure to reoccur like it has all but two seasons since returning to the league in 1999.

Banner’s fall from grace didn’t take as long as Haslam’s, as he was instantly crucified from the moment he hired Lombardi. The fans in Cleveland have a major problem with leaving the past in the past, thus Lombardi’s failures from his first tenure in Cleveland in the late 80s and early 90s cast the both of them in a negative light from day one. Despite doing the best they could in terms of upgrading the roster last season in free agency with the available options, and making moves to ensure they were stockpiled with 10 selections in what is looking more and more like a loaded 2014 NFL Draft, their efforts in just a year on the job have been viewed as a major failure.

All of this brings about the question, is there really anything Banner and Lombardi can do to put out the growing inferno of hatred and disappointment from Browns fans across the country?

Outside of making the playoffs in 2014, probably not.

No matter who the next head coach of the franchise is, they will instantly be on a ticking clock of “win now or be fired” in the eyes of the fans. After winning four games with six Pro Bowlers in 2013, the expectations are going to be high—whether that is fair or not is another question—for whoever takes the job. And if they don’t win, that is squarely on the heads of Banner and Lombardi. This may technically be Lombardi’s first hire (he was brought on after Chudzinski last season), but he is viewed as a package deal with Banner. So once that moment comes for Haslam to save face in front of the fans of the organization (likely with another one of his cherished press releases) he purchased a little over a year ago, you better believe Lombardi will find his way out the door right behind Banner.

It may seem like an unfair realization, but the fact of the matter is Banner and Lombardi are in a lose-lose situation—and it isn’t going to change any time soon. When you have been part of a losing culture for so long, patience is a virtue that flew out the door long ago. Even though it realistically takes two to three years to fix a mess of all the mistakes inherited from previous regimes, the current group in charge will likely not get that time.

Anything short of a winning record in 2014 will likely be met with a swift save of face by Haslam, so for Banner and Lombardi that will mean a quick boot out the door. Because as we all know too well, the only constants in life are change and the Browns losing, and neither appear to be changing any time soon.

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