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New report details Cleveland Browns' dysfunction under Jimmy Haslam

On Thursday, ESPN's Seth Wickersham unveiled an up close look at the turbulence that has surrounded the Cleveland Browns for the past six years.

CLEVELAND -- With Baker Mayfield at quarterback and Freddie Kitchens as head coach, the Cleveland Browns seemingly possess one of the brightest futures in the NFL.

But as any Browns -- or football fan, for that matter -- knows, it's been a long time coming.

Dating back to the franchise's return in 1999, Cleveland has laid claim to one of the most dysfunctional teams in all of sports. And the Browns' futility has only seemed to grow dating back to Jimmy Haslam's purchase of the team in 2012.

In the time since, Cleveland has amassed a 22-73-1 record -- the worst in the NFL by 8.5 games. On Thursday, ESPN's Seth Wickersham brought the Browns' dysfunction under the Haslam's into focus, with a report detailing the inner-workings of the last six years.

Among the highlights -- or lowlights -- for Browns:

  • When Haslam fired head coach Hue Jackson this past October, Jackson told Haslam and general manager John Dorsey to "Get the f--- out of my office."
  • Despite having "no true football compass," Haslam asks lots of questions of Browns employees, often pitting peers against one another or even their bosses.
  • "You think you're the one he trusts," a former high-level member of Browns management told Wickersham. "By the time you realize that he confides in everyone, it's too late. You're gone." 
  • As Pilot Flying J faced its federal investigation, Haslam became seemingly more heavily involved with the Browns.
  • Haslam never gave CEO Joe Banner a reason for his firing in 2014. He then promoted Ray Farmer to general manager without ever interviewing him.
  • The Browns war room for the 2014 NFL Draft was packed with guests of Haslam's. As has been widely reported elsewhere, the owner advocated for the drafting of quarterback Johnny Manziel. He also soured on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater because "something about Bridgewater's handshake rubbed Haslam the wrong way, he told team executives."
  • Farmer turned down a trade offer of a second-round pick from the Houston Texans for quarterback Brian Hoyer after feeling as though he surrendered his two first-round picks to head coach Mike Pettine and Haslam.
  • In an effort to monitor what fans were saying about the team amid Farmer's suspension for texting coaches on the sideline, team employees broadcast social media searches onto a giant wall at the team facility. One such search of a particular hashtag resulted in "an array of porn" being broadcast on the wall for at least 20 minutes until a tech employee killed the feed.
  • Team president Alec Scheiner and general counsel Sashi Brown sold Haslam on an analytics-heavy plan that resulted in Farmer's firing following the 2015 season and Brown being promoted to general manager. Despite Haslam buying into a plan that he knew would see his team lose plenty over the next two years, he went against his front office's wishes in hiring Hue Jackson as head coach. The front office had recommended now-Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott.
  • Haslam nicknamed the Harvard educated Brown, who is African-American, "Obama," a nickname that caused many with the team to cringe due to racial stereotyping.
  • The in-fighting between Jackson and Brown began early, with Jackson detesting a trade that sent All-Pro punter Andy Lee to the Carolina Panthers for a fourth-round pick. The two clashed several times over the next two years, as the Browns amassed a 1-31 record, including an 0-16 season in 2017.
  • In the lead up to the 2017 draft, Jackson advocated heavily for defensive end Myles Garrett, going so far as to tape pictures of the Texas A&M product to Haslam's office. He also made it clear he wouldn't publicly support the drafting of North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
  • Haslam "looked frayed" after firing Brown toward the end of the 2017 season, "knowing he'd gone back on his word" regarding the dramatic rebuild.
  • "We just don't know what we are doing," Haslam's wife and Browns co-owner Dee Haslam reportedly told employees. "If we'd known how hard it would be, we never would have bought the team." Through a team spokesperson, Dee Haslam denied such statement.
  • Offensive coordinator Todd Haley brought in a former Chicago area pastor who had been the subject of claims of inappropriate workplace behavior toward women to speak to the team during training camp. Haley, who referred to Jackson as "1-31" to other offensive coaches, was fired on the same day Jackson was last October.

A yet despite the laundry list of dysfunction they've faced, the Browns find themselves in a promising position, thanks in large part to Mayfield's emergence as a franchise quarterback.

As Wickersham's reporting denotes, it's now up to Haslam to foster an environment that adequately fosters such talent, as opposed to the culture that has thus far defined his tenure in Cleveland.

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