Cleveland rocked; Philly ties still strong

February, 11, 2014
Feb 11
11:40
AM ET
PHILADELPHIA -- Well, that was quick.

Tuesday's events in Cleveland stunned observers around the NFL, but nowhere more than in Philadelphia. The Browns’ recent history has been strangely tied up with that of the Eagles, a phenomenon that continued with the announcement that Ray Farmer would be the Browns' new general manager.

Farmer was the Eagles’ fourth-round pick out of Duke in 1996. He played linebacker and special teams for three years. Farmer’s last season in the NFL was in 1998.

In 1998, Joe Banner was the Eagles’ executive vice president and Michael Lombardi was their director of pro personnel.

Small league, huh?

Farmer’s promotion was not the big shock Tuesday, of course. He has been on the cusp of a general manager’s job for several years after working his way through the scouting and personnel ranks. Farmer interviewed for the Miami Dolphins GM job last month.

The stunning news was the ouster of Banner, who spent 18 years as the Eagles’ top executive, and Lombardi. Their bizarrely brief tenure was also entwined with goings-on in Philadelphia.

Banner left the Eagles in June 2012 and was named CEO of the Browns as they were being purchased by Jimmy Haslam. The head coach he inherited was Pat Shurmur, a longtime Eagles assistant under Andy Reid. Banner hired Lombardi as his GM and the two fired Shurmur at the end of the 2012 season.

Shurmur is now the Eagles’ offensive coordinator.

Banner and Lombardi interviewed a number of head coaching candidates, foremost among them Oregon head coach Chip Kelly. We know how that turned out. Kelly came to Philadelphia and the Browns hired Rob Chudzinski.

Kelly won the NFC East in his first season. Chudzinski won four games.

Still, it was puzzling, from this perspective, when the Browns fired Chudzinski after just one season. In 18 years with the Eagles, Banner worked with three head coaches -- Rich Kotite, Ray Rhodes and Reid. Mike Pettine, hired late last month, became his third head coach in less than two years in Cleveland.

And now Banner and Lombardi are out, Farmer is in and Pettine (a native of Bucks County in suburban Philadelphia) is working for a guy who didn’t hire him.

The Philadelphia connection to Cleveland remains strong, although Eagles fans probably wouldn’t trade places with their Browns counterparts right about now.

Phil Sheridan

ESPN Philadelphia Eagles reporter

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