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CEO, GM depart Browns in stunning shakeup

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Feb 11 2014 09:47:08 AM CST
Updated On: Feb 11 2014 04:25:04 PM CST
Cleveland Browns helmet

NFL

The Cleveland Browns announced a stunning shake-up in their front office on Tuesday that includes the departure of CEO Joe Banner and general manager Mike Lombardi.

Ray Farmer will take over as general manager and lead the team's football operations during free agency and the NFL Draft. Team president Alec Scheiner will remain in charge of business operations.

Banner will transition out of his role as CEO over the next two months, the team said. Lombardi is departing the organization.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam downplayed the notion that the franchise is in disarray and had trouble attracting candidates to Cleveland during its coaching search last month.

"I will just tell you that the people I talked to around the country do not think this isn't an outstanding opportunity here in Cleveland, whether it's to coach, play or work," Haslam said. "And I continue to hear that."

Farmer was pursued by the Miami Dolphins after the 2013 season for their general manager opening but elected to remain with the Browns.

Haslam called the Browns' previous front-office setup "cumbersome" and said he and Banner agreed that it was best for the organization to streamline.

"First of all, we wanted to capitalize on the knowledge, experience and character we're fortunate to have in Ray Farmer," Haslam said earlier in a statement. "Ray as 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 (new coach) Mike Pettine, which is critical in helping build the right team. Ray will provide excellent leadership in our front office."

Farmer said he signed a four-year contract.

"I'm a big believer in relationships and how people come together and why those things are important, and it's communication," Farmer said at his introductory press conference. "Three tenets that I am going to hold near and dear to as I'm here with the Cleveland Browns are -- you'll figure this out about me in time, I'm a big acronym guy -- the first one is KTB, 'Know, trust and believe.'

"One of the bases behind relationships for me is that in order for people to believe you, they've got to know you; then as they know you, they'll trust you; and as they trust you, they'll believe in you. I think that connecting to people is critical in that way."

Farmer was asked about working with a head coach he didn't hire.

"I didn't have the hiring authority, but I definitely was well aware and communicated well with the search party that was out speaking (with candidates)," Farmer said. "I did my research on Mike Pettine. I have a really good relationship with Mike Pettine. I had a moment this morning to spend some one-on-one time (with Pettine), after the decision was made, to really kind of start to solidify that relationship. I'm excited about the opportunity; I think he is, as well; and I think we're going to work well together."

Farmer is confident he will be ready to run his first draft.

"Running the draft is as simple as the process," he said. "You have to have a process that you create that answers all of the questions in advance. The draft, the hay is in the barn by the time you actually get to picking players. It is the process that you go through to get to that point. I think I am definitely solidified in that process. I've been involved in that process numerous times. We'll be prepared when it's time to select the players, and players that fit what Coach Pettine wants to do."

Banner, 60, came to the Browns in October 2012 to work for Haslam after 19 years in the front office with the Philadelphia Eagles.

"We appreciate Joe's contributions to the Cleveland Browns, especially in helping us as new owners," Haslam said. "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."

Lombardi was hired by the Browns as vice president of player personnel in January 2013 in a move that was widely criticized by fans who associated him with the team when he worked for former owner Art Modell in the 1990s before the franchise moved to Baltimore. Lombardi was working in broadcasting before joining the Browns for a second time.

Banner and Lombardi worked together for two years with the Eagles, but were unable to land former University of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly last offseason. Kelly ultimately was hired by Philadelphia and led the Eagles to the playoffs, while the Browns settled on Rob Chudzinski as their head coach in 2013 and fired him after just one season.

"We're also grateful for Mike Lombardi's efforts and commitment since rejoining our organization," Haslam said. "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."

The Browns have posted records of 4-12 or 5-11 each of the past six seasons and skepticism about the franchise's leadership has escalated recently, prompting one reporter to ask whether the Browns were being run by the "Three Stooges" -- Banner, Lombardi and Haslam.

"It is bittersweet leaving the Browns organization," Banner said in a statement. "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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