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Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Browns name Ray Farmer new GM

By Pat McManamon
ESPN.com

BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns stunned their fans and the NFL on Tuesday by sweeping out the front-office structure that owner Jimmy Haslam set up only a year ago.

Haslam announced that CEO Joe Banner would leave the organization in two months and that general manager Mike Lombardi also is leaving.

Ray Farmer was promoted to GM effective immediately, with Alec Scheiner taking over as president. Farmer and Scheiner, along with recently hired coach Mike Pettine, will report directly to Haslam.

Haslam said he and Banner started talking about restructuring the organization two weeks ago, and the result is what was put in place Tuesday.

The end result is that Haslam has replaced the man he hired to build the organization along with the GM who Banner brought in to pick the players.

Ray Farmer and Mike Lombardi
Ray Farmer replaces Mike Lombardi, left, in Cleveland, becoming the seventh African-American general manager in the NFL.

"I think Joe will tell you that putting together an organization is what he was comfortable doing," Haslam said. "He's set us up for success, and now it's time to move forward."

"It is bittersweet leaving the Browns organization," Banner said in a statement released by the team. "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."

Haslam described the former structure that had Banner making final decisions on personnel as cumbersome and said the new structure would be more streamlined. He had nothing but praise and thanks for Banner and Lombardi.

Farmer becomes the seventh African-American GM in the league, a new high for a single season. Farmer said that reality is a matter of pride to him, and he's happy his parents could see it happen.

Farmer will be in charge of all football operations and decisions, including the draft and free agency. He will determine the 53-man roster, with Pettine deciding the 45 who will be active on game days.

Cleveland also is hiring former Kansas City Chiefs vice president of player personnel Bill Kuharich as a consultant to assist Farmer, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

The Browns have two first-round picks in the draft and are projected to have $35 million to $40 million in salary-cap room to spend on free agents.

Farmer previously interviewed to be the Miami Dolphins' GM but said that job was not right for him. He said he decided to stay in Cleveland without knowing this job would be his.

The changes were sudden and shocking, in part because they came almost a month after the Browns hired Pettine. Normally, if the front office is going to change, the team wants the new decision-makers to hire the coach. The Browns are the first NFL team ever to fire their coach and GM after a single season in which the two roles were held by separate individuals.

This season also marked the sixth straight year the Browns won five or fewer games. Only one other team has had a streak that long since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978. The Raiders had a seven-season streak from 2003-09.

"It's a learning curve to be an NFL owner," Haslam said. "If you want to look at me as being a work in progress, that's fair."

Haslam again denied that the Browns have a negative public image, and he also rebuffed questions about the federal investigation into rebate fraud at his company, Pilot Flying J, saying Tuesday was not the time to discuss that topic.

The shakeup came one month after the Browns hired Pettine after a 25-day search. Banner and Haslam fired first-year coach Rob Chudzinski after a 4-12 season, the team's sixth straight with at least 11 losses.

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.

Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, The Associated Press and ESPN Stats & Info contributed to this report.