Browns axe Banner, Lombardi
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — The Browns fired their coach after one season. Now they’re sweeping out their front office.
Owner Jimmy Haslam announced Tuesday that CEO Joe Banner will step down in the next two months and general manager Michael Lombardi is leaving the team.
“Mike and Joe have left us in good position in terms of free agency and cap space as well as this year’s draft, where we have 10 overall picks and three of the first 35,” Haslam said at a news conference.
It’s yet another stunning development for a franchise that has undergone nearly constant change in the past 15 years.
Haslam also said assistant GM Ray Farmer, who was pursued by Miami to be the Dolphins’ GM this winter, has been promoted and will immediately take the over the team’s football operations and lead the Browns during free agency and draft. Cleveland has two first-round picks in May’s draft and is well under the salary cap to spend on free agents.
Haslam added that president Alec Scheiner will keep his current role.
“Alec Scheiner will run our business side and remain as president, Mike Pettine will be our head coach and Ray Farmer will be our GM,” Haslam said. “We will not have a CEO and those three people will report directly to me.”
The shake-up comes one month after the Browns finally hired coach Mike Pettine. Banner and Haslam had fired coach Rob Chudzinski after a 4-12 season, the team’s sixth straight with at least 11 losses. Wisconsin said Tuesday that coach Gary Andersen was contacted by the Cleveland Browns for their coaching vacancy but decided not to pursue the position following a conversation with the NFL team, which spent 25 days to hire Pettine.
“Mike will have final say on the 45-man roster— who plays on Sundays — and Ray will have final say on the 53-player roster,” Haslam said.
Banner, who previously worked in Philadelphia, was hired by Haslam to run the team shortly after his ownership was approved by the league in 2012.
“We appreciate Joe’s contributions to the Cleveland Browns, especially in helping us as new owners,” Haslam said in a release. “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.”
Banner will transition out of his job over the next two months.
“It is bittersweet leaving the Browns organization,” Banner said. “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.”
Lombardi’s departure ends a curious second stint with the team.
His hiring was widely panned by some Cleveland media members and many fans because of his time with coach Bill Belichick when he was Cleveland’s coach. Lombardi kept a low profile over the past year in Cleveland and was not in attendance at any major news conferences.
“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.”
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, contributed to this report.