by Nick Wilson
Listen to The Nick Wilson Experiment, weeknights from 7 pm to midnight
Move over JFK assassination freaks, there’s a new conspiracy in town.
That town is Berea, and the principled parties are Browns ownership, key decision maker Sashi Brown, and head coach Hue Jackson.
The team’s failed attempt to land Bengals backup QB AJ McCarron is one of the more spectacular cluster-franks in team, nay NFL, history … and is at the center of said conspiracy.
The general gist of the story is that the Browns were negotiating to acquire McCarron around the NFL’s 4 pm trade deadline on Tuesday. After agreeing to compensation, the deal failed to go through due to procedural issues most likely on the Browns end.
The why behind the failure is the real story, and where conspiratorial forces may have been at play. Initially it was thought to be a clerical error, which makes sense given the Browns recent history of full blown incompetence.
One theory that’s gained traction since the trade fell through is that Brown purposefully killed the deal.
Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer sparked the initial this theory with his take on the deal.
“Multiple league sources told The Enquirer there was a disconnect in Cleveland between the personnel department and the coaching staff about McCarron, which has hindered talks between the two franchises about the quarterback dating back to the spring.”
It’s not the Zapruder film but it’ll do.
Jackson is clearly a fan of McCarron from his time in Cincinnati. He’s been complementary of McCarron both during his time in Cincinnati and now in Cleveland.
The Browns front office has no ties to McCarron and reportedly preferred Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo and spent the off-season chasing the now former Patriot.
Additionally, there is nothing about trading a 2nd and 3rd round pick for an unproven backup halfway through the season that screams analytics.
It’s a move that cries desperation in the face of a 1-23 start to the Hue Jackson era.
Flawed as they have been, the Browns front office has not shown the propensity to panic. The initial onslaught of free agency in 2016 didn’t cause them to panic.
Nor did the failed hardball negotiations of Terrelle Pryor’s agent. In both cases, the front office kept composure and moved on.
“If you don’t like what they are saying about you, change the conversation.” Don Draper uttered these immortal words to a client who was sick of being savaged in the press in an episode of Mad Men.
It’s clear that this was a panic move meant to satiate fans pissed off at a 1-23 record. Fans who are pissed that the quarterback the Browns spent last off-season chasing, Jimmy Garoppolo, ended up in San Francisco for a reasonable price.
So if this move is about desperation and alarm, who are the parties in the Browns organization prone to such thinking?
The Haslam ownership group has been one gross overreaction after another since taking over roughly six years ago.
From hiring to firing Joe Banner, promoting Ray Farmer to not lose him, drafting Johnny Manziel for the immediate relevance he’d bring as much as his actual prospects as a football player, and blowing up regimes after 1 and 2 years, this is the Haslam’s track record of composure.
Despite preaching patience at the start of the season, worry, and doubt have become a clear issue again for the Haslam’s.
“I have been told the Haslams are deeply concerned about starting to lose their fanbase,” 92.3 The Fan’s Brown’s beat reporter Daryl Ruiter shed light on the ownership’s struggles during an appearance on the Ken Carman Show Monday morning.
Make a headline now to placate and distract fans from the fact you can’t run your organization properly.
Hue Jackson has also shown he will lose reason in the face of pressure. Just this year he has benched his quarterback DeShone Kizer multiple times in the name of winning despite promising to ride out the rookie struggles, and bungled in-game timely decisions when the pressure hit.
This deal is eerily similar to one that Jackson made in 2011 as head coach/dictator of the Oakland Raiders. After a quick start to the season under future former Browns QB Jason Campbell, the team hit a skid when Campbell went down for the season.
Faced with the prospect of the season falling apart, Jackson traded a 1st and 2nd round pick for Carson Palmer who had retired in protest of the Bengals personnel decision to replace him.
Jackson played Palmer right away in a move that ultimately failed, costing Jackson his job at the end of the season. Overpaying for a quarterback mid-season as a hail Mary to get some wins? Jeez, that sounds familiar.
The only difference being that Carson Palmer was somebody before and after the trade. A former 1st overall pick in the NFL Draft and a Pro Bowler.
McCarron was a 5th round pick that has proven literally nothing in the NFL. He’s been equated with Browns backup Cody Kessler, a kid full of moxie but short on talent.
His real claim to fame is being Mr. Katherine Webb. (Brent Musberger approves.)
You have two entities known to panic and one who is known to stand their ground.
The aftermath of the failed trade is also telling.
Multiple reports say Browns ownership went “nuclear” on the team’s front office over the deal. Back and to the left.
Why? Simplest answer is the deal was THEIR baby.
Critics have contended that Brown is thought to have made the calls in the 3 o’clock hour to negotiate the trade with Cincinnati. So why would he blow it up?
He might have been the person on the phone, but that doesn’t mean it was his decision to negotiate the trade. Isn’t it plausible, given the history of those involved, that he was doing so under the orders of the Haslam’s?
The Browns knew the Bengals terms earlier in the hour and said no. What changed?
Did Sashi fall in love with McCarron since April? Or since 3:15 pm?
Or did the Haslams, full of dread at their team’s waning relevance, override the group they charged with turning around the team and buckle to the Bengals outrageous demands?
Whether you approve of Sashi Brown’s football acumen or not, it’s clear that he’s an intelligent and reasonable man.
Brown must have understood the Haslam’s sensitivity to PR disasters and how botching this trade would cause a gigantic PR snafu which would mean his job. Why would he risk his career to defy the wants of a panicked ownership group?
Simple: he’s spent 2 years building the organization to this point, and caving to public pressure isn’t reasonable or responsible leadership.
This is football, everyone is well compensated so I’ll spare you the violins but the failed McCarron trade should be a wake up call to reality for Browns fans.
It doesn’t make sense that Sashi Brown would want this deal and then willfully kill it. It also doesn’t make sense that a front office who has conducted multiple trades in 2 years would suddenly forget how they work.
The emotionalism of Browns ownership and Hue Jackson is dangerous when left unchecked. Spending massive assets out of panic is a colossally moronic idea, even if it’s a well-meaning attempt to find a win or two this season.
I have little doubt that Sashi Brown will be fired over this botched trade. The Haslam’s emotional reaction will again conquer reason and give way to more dysfunction.
The front office is also an easy patsy. Their Harvard degrees & analytical focus have been an ideological threat to a proud blue collar, football town in Cleveland. People have shouted their failures and whispered their successes from the start.
Yet if he intentionally killed the McCarron trade, Brown showed real leadership, the kind the organization has needed since 1999.
For that, he deserves your appreciation and maybe a congressional medal of honor.
My advice to Sashi Brown? Beware the grassy knoll in Berea. There is always some rage monster lurking with eyes on those displaying reason and accountability.
The Browns organizational incompetence runs from the top through its core. There’s never been a worse time to be the last reasonable man in Berea.