BEREA, Ohio -- Mired in an 0-12 start to the regular season for the second straight year, the Cleveland Browns made a decision to part ways with Sashi Brown, their now former executive vice president of football operations, on Thursday morning.
And the news came as a surprise to offensive lineman Joel Bitonio, who was given a contract extension from Brown prior to the start of the new league year on March 9.
“I was a little bit surprised,” Bitonio said. “We came in from the walk-through and think someone told me or something. I thought they were joking for a second just because I didn’t know the timing of it or what was going to happen.
“You go 1-27, usually someone is at fault for that, and they picked out Sashi. It is tough. There was a slight surprise today. We have a few weeks left in the season and stuff, but maybe they want to move forward in their search for a new guy or whatever they are thinking.”
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Although the Browns elected to make the change 72 hours before kicking off their second-to-last home game of the season against the Green Bay Packers at FirstEnergy Stadium, Bitonio does not feel it will take away the players’ focus.
“I don’t think it is a distraction,” Bitonio said. “We are here, we are trying to do everything we can to win. Honestly, during the season, we don’t have much interaction with upstairs as it is, so for us, we are just focused on Green Bay.”
With their 12th consecutive loss of the 2017 season at the Los Angeles Chargers last week, the Browns dropped to 1-27 since the front-office regime of Brown and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta took control of the organization and hired Jackson as their coach in early January of 2016.
The Browns’ winless streak now stands at 348 days, and they have not won on a Sunday afternoon since December 13, 2015. The 29 straight Sunday losses are an NFL record, and their 4-45 mark in the last 49 outings is the worst in the league in that four-year span.
Additionally, the Browns’ 1-27 mark is the worst in league history over a 28-game stretch, beating the previous mark of 2-26 set by the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1976-1977 seasons.
While Bitonio addressed the change in the personnel department, others in the locker room chose to keep their focus on the task at hand, preparing for Sunday’s game against a Packers team that despite being 6-6 and playing without their starting quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, are very much in the thick of the NFC playoff race.
“I just come here to play football,” rookie defensive lineman Myles Garrett said. “I’m not dealing with any of the decisions from the higher ups.”
Offensive lineman JC Tretter added, “My job is to do what I can to win football games. I don’t get too caught up into thinking about that. Those decisions are well above my level and my [pay] grade. I’m going to go out there and do what I can to win football games.”