BEREA, Ohio -- In a stunning move, the Browns are shaking up their front office staff, again. The team has named Assistant General Manager Ray Farmer as the new GM. CEO Joe Banner and General Manager Mike Lombardi are out.
The move comes just weeks after the Browns hired former Buffalo Bills Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine as the team's new head coach. Pettine replaces Rob Chudzinski, who was fired in December after just one year on the job.
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Farmer will take over the team's football operations and lead the team through free agency and the upcoming NFL Draft. The Miami Dolphins had pursued Farmer as a GM candidate, but he elected to stay with the Browns. He told the media Tuesday that turning down the Dolphins and accepting the Browns GM jobs were unrelated.
Banner will be stepping down over the next two months from his role as CEO.
The team has also announced that General Manager Michael Lombardi is departing the organization. The Browns say team President Alec Scheiner will continue to run the business operations.
At a mid-morning news conference, owner Jimmy Haslam said in detailing the front office changes that it was best if the team's operation was streamlined. Farmer, Scheiner and Pettine will report directly to Haslam. He rebutted claims that the organization was perceived negatively due to the numerous shifts in key management positions
"I believe we have positioned this organization to become a winning football team," said Haslam. "We're committed to bringing a winner to this area,"
The organizational powers of new team of GM Ray Farmer and Head Coach Mike Pettine has been clearly defined. Haslam said Farmer will have final say over the 53-man roster and Pettine will have final say over the 45-man gameday roster.
As for additional hires, Haslam says this is the last of the major organizational changes, but he has left the door open to "tinker" with staffing.
"Ray [Farmer] will bring in the necessary talent to help him have a successful draft," Haslam said.
Farmer met the media following Haslam.
He says he felt, "like a kid on Christmas" when he found out Monday night about the promotion. He becomes one of the few African-American general managers in the NFL.
"I'm very proud and happy for this day... I wanted [my mom and day] to see this day," Farmer said.
Yet Farmer realizes that he has a massive undertaking in front of him.
"At the end of the day, we need to find a way to win football games," Farmer said in Tuesday's press conference.
Farmer believes that he will work well with new Browns Head Coach Mike Pettine, saying, "I have a really good relationship with Head Coach Mike Pettine. I'm excited about the opportunity."
Earlier in the day, the Browns released the following statements from Jimmy Haslam and Ray Farmer on the changes:
"First of all, we wanted to capitalize on the knowledge, experience and character we're fortunate to have in Ray Farmer. Ray has a tremendous football IQ, he's compelling, and he understands the types of players we need to acquire and develop in order to win in Cleveland. He embraces his partnership with Mike Pettine, which is critical in helping build the right team. Ray will provide excellent leadership in our front office.
"We appreciate Joe's contributions to the Cleveland Browns, especially in helping us as new owners. He was committed to creating a successful organization and bringing in talented individuals. We thank him for his work and dedication. We wish him and his family the best.
"Alec will continue in his role as President of this team. I think he's one of the most intelligent and innovative young executives in the NFL.
"We're also grateful for Mike Lombardi's efforts and commitment since rejoining our organization. He is an experienced and creative NFL executive with a unique ability to see the big picture. He has tremendous instincts and I know he'll be a valuable addition to any NFL organization. We simply wanted to give Ray this opportunity that he's earned. We wanted to move forward under his leadership and capabilities.
"The purpose of these moves is to unify our team with one, unequivocal goal: Provide our fans with the winning organization they have long deserved."
Joe Banner released the following statement:
"It is bittersweet leaving the Browns organization. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Jimmy Haslam and helping him set the infrastructure for this franchise. I am proud of the talented individuals we brought in to help lead this team and feel that the Cleveland Browns are in good hands moving forward."
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