The Browns hired new general manager John Dorsey within hours of firing Sahsi Brown on Thursday, but the process of securing a new football operations boss actually stretched back several months, according to league sources. Owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam made a determination to begin the process early in the season and by October headhunter Jed Hughes was already accumulating research and reaching out to perspective general managers.
It was apparent to many within the Browns organization that major changes were coming, again, even before the season began, and in September, with clashes between coaching and the front office ongoing, ownership held a conference call with its football staffand assuring employees they were safe (as first reported by CBSSports.com on Oct. 1). Mere weeks later the covert work of identifying a new general manager was already underway, with Haslam gathering information from confidants and discussing what changes to make internally, and Hughes reaching out to potential interested parties.
Dorsey received strong support from many established football people and was always seen as a front runner, sources said — his hiring on the same day Brown was fired indicated as much — while Haslam also courted Peyton Manning as a potential team president. Sources said head coach Hue Jackson was also in contact with ownership as this process played out privately over the past few weeks and was aware changes were afoot, with Haslam trying to identify a more-established talent evaluator to pair with a coach he decided would still be around for the 2018 season.
There were always trust issues between Brown and Jackson, well known within the Browns organization and around the league, as have been reported here, and the ongoing strife between coaching and the front office made change inevitable. Many expected Jackson to be gone as well, with the Browns winners of just one game since Brown and Jackson took over in 2016, but Haslam was convinced that the biggest problem derailing the team was personnel and talent acquisition, not coaching.
The decision to conduct the search in such a clandestine manner, and to be actively interviewing replacements while Brown was still on the job, has drawn ire around the league and has owners, coaches and GMs again asking questions about the way Haslam conducts business and goes about the process of hiring and firing coaches and general managers.
“They can’t get out of their own way,” one high ranking exec of an AFC rival said of the Haslams. “They keep doing everything half-assed, backwards.”
The Fritz Pollard Alliance is also upset with how this search was conducted, interviewing candidates in a clandestine manner before the GM was even fired and naming a replacement within hours of that firing. That group has honored the Haslams in the past for their record employing African American coaches and front office personnel, but is letting the NFL know that it does not believe this search complied with the spirit of the Rooney Rule. The NFL has not taken public issue with the manner in which this hire was made to this point.