To understand the wide chasm between the Ravens and the Cleveland Browns -- two teams at opposite ends of the NFL’s hierarchy -- you need only to look at how the organizations conduct their business.
Sure, talent evaluation, player development and fiscal responsibility are all factors in Baltimore’s success. But so is stability, something the Browns have lacked ever since the NFL put a team back in Cleveland.
The Browns restructured their chain of command once again on Tuesday, stunningly parting ways with CEO Joe Banner and general manager Mike Lombardi, whom owner Jimmy Haslam installed just 13 months ago. Ray Farmer was promoted to general manger and Alec Scheiner is the new team president. The changes come two weeks after the Browns hired Mike Pettine to become their new head coach.
Since Cleveland was awarded an expansion team in 1999, the Browns have hired eight head coaches and seven general managers, including this new regime. Those totals are tied for the most among NFL franchises since 1999. The Browns have had three separate general manager/head coach tandems in the past 14 months.
Uncoincidentally, the Browns have won just 77 games since 1999, tied for the fewest in the NFL, and none in the playoffs.
The Ravens, meanwhile, have had just three head coaches since moving to Baltimore from Cleveland in 1996 and one general manager, Ozzie Newsome, who is regarded as one of the league’s best talent evaluators. John Harbaugh has been the head coach since 2008. He has coached against four different Browns head coaches. Pettine will be the fifth -- well, we can assume as much, but I guess you never know with Cleveland.
The stability has helped the Ravens find their groove and become perennial contenders. Newsome and his scouting staff have found quality players and kept the best of them around long-term. Harbaugh has done a good job of putting those players in a position to succeed. And while there is rarely a perfect marriage between front office and coaching staff, Newsome and Harbaugh know what to expect from each other and know what they are looking for in players. And the players know what to expect from them. It has been a good fit.
Of course, it helps to have a quarterback. The Ravens have a pretty good one in Joe Flacco while the Browns have started 20 different guys since 1999, most in the NFL.
The Browns will be looking for a new starting quarterback in this year’s draft. A new general manager will select him and a new head coach will groom him. There has been so much turnover in Cleveland that Tuesday’s front office announcement -- the press release should have been typed up with comic sans font -- was presumably met with another prolonged sigh.
So for that small but vocal chunk of Ravens fans who were calling for Harbaugh’s head and for Flacco to be kicked to the curb after an 8-8 Super Bowl hangover, remember, change isn’t necessarily a good thing. Just ask the cellar-dwelling Browns.