The Browns fired head of football operations Sashi Brown on Thursday but will keep coach Hue Jackson for the 2018 season, owner Jimmy Haslam announced in a statement.
Brown was given final say on all roster decisions when Haslam and his wife and co-owner, Dee, promoted him after the 2015 season from executive vice president/general counsel to executive vice president of football operations. With Brown, Jackson and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta in charge, the team has gone 1-27 and passed on chances to pick quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson in the past two drafts.
No one else was fired Thursday, but more changes will eventually be made. The futures of DePodesta, vice president of player personnel Andrew Berry and other members of the front office are uncertain, though Brown's replacement will undoubtedly want to make his own hires. As for Jackson, Haslam said he's safe despite the Browns sitting at 0-12 this season after going 1-15 last year during the coach's first year on the job.
"We have great appreciation and gratitude for Sashi's commitment and leadership to our organization but believe transitioning to someone with strong experience and success in drafting and building consistently winning football teams is critical to the future of the Cleveland Browns," Haslam said in the statement. "Today we informed Sashi that we were going in a new direction. The 2018 draft and offseason is pivotal for our franchise, we need to ensure that we maximize our opportunity for success with our picks, free agency and building our roster.
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"Hue Jackson will remain our coach and will return for the 2018 season but we feel it is necessary to take significant steps to strengthen our personnel department. We have begun the process of having productive conversations regarding leadership of our football operations and will provide further updates when appropriate. We thank Sashi for all his hard work and dedication to the Cleveland Browns."
The Browns have 13 picks in April's draft and are in position to own two top-10 choices, including the No. 1 overall selection. The Haslams have fired four heads of football and three coaches since they took control as owners in 2012.
In the Browns' quest to find the next man who'll control the 53-man roster, they have already done research on former Kansas City Chiefs GM John Dorsey, Seattle Seahawks co-director of player personnel Trent Kirchner and Green Bay Packers director of football operations Eliot Wolf, according to NFL Network. Interviews could start this week, per ESPN.
Berry will likely make any rosters decisions that are needed in the final four weeks of the season.
Jackson has repeatedly said this season the Browns need to play a perfect game to win, a direct shot at the talent level of the roster assembled by Brown. The Haslams sided with Jackson and made him the victor of his power struggle with Brown.
Without a traditional playing or scouting background, Brown, along with DePodesta, the former Major League Baseball executive of Moneyball fame, relied heavily on analytics and launched an aggressive youth movement to tear down the roster in hopes of rebuilding it for sustained success. The Browns discarded valuable veteran players and, as part of a mission to stockpile picks, repeatedly traded down in the past two drafts, most notably when they could have picked Wentz, a Most Valuable Player candidate, second overall in 2016 or Watson, who set several rookie records before suffering a season-ending knee injury last month, 12th overall in 2017. The franchise drafted 24 players during Brown's reign and came away with more whiffs than hits.
Brown also failed to finalize a trade for Cincinnati Bengals backup quarterback AJ McCarron five weeks ago. The Browns and Bengals agreed to the deal, which would have sent second- and third-round choices to Cincinnati for McCarron – but the NFL didn't receive the necessary paperwork from the Browns before the 4 p.m. Oct. 31 trade deadline. The botched deal created more dysfunction between Brown and Jackson, who coached McCarron in Cincinnati and wanted him in Cleveland.
The tension between Brown and Jackson became intense enough to be in plain sight. Jackson was asked Nov. 20 if he thought the organization's rebuilding plan was working, whereupon he said, "I really don't want to get into that."
It obviously wasn't working, and the Haslams decided Brown was the one who needed to go.