The Sports Xchange
The Cleveland Browns announced a stunning shake-up in their front office on Tuesday that includes the departure of CEO Joe Banner and general manager Mike Lombardi.
Ray Farmer will take over as general manager and lead the team's football operations during free agency and the NFL Draft. Team president Alec Scheiner will remain in charge of business operations.
Banner will transition out of his role as CEO over the next two months, the team said. Lombardi is departing the organization.
Farmer was pursued by the Miami Dolphins after the 2013 season for their general manager opening but elected to remain with the Browns.
"First of all, we wanted to capitalize on the knowledge, experience and character we're fortunate to have in Ray Farmer," Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said. "Ray as a tremendous football IQ, he's compelling and he understands the types of players we need to acquire and develop in order to win in Cleveland.
"He embraces his partnership with (new coach) Mike Pettine, which is critical in helping build the right team. Ray will provide excellent leadership in our front office."
Banner, 60, came to the Browns in October 2012 to work for Haslam after 19 years in the front office with the Philadelphia Eagles.
"We appreciate Joe's contributions to the Cleveland Browns, especially in helping us as new owners," Haslam said. "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.
"Alec will continue in his role as President of this team. I think he's one of the most intelligent and innovative young executives in the NFL.
Lombardi was hired by the Browns as vice president of player personnel in January 2013 in a move that was widely criticized by fans who associated him with the team when he worked for former owner Art Modell in the 1990s before the franchise moved to Baltimore. Lombardi was working in broadcasting before joining the Browns for a second time.
Banner and Lombardi worked together for two years with the Eagles, but were unable to land former University of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly last offseason. Kelly ultimately was hired by Philadelphia and led the Eagles to the playoffs, while the Browns settled on Rob Chudzinski as their head coach in 2013 and fired him after just one season.
"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. The purpose of these moves is to unify our team with one, unequivocal goal: Provide our fans with the winning organization they have long deserved."
The Browns have posted records of 4-12 or 5-11 each of the past six seasons and skepticism about the franchise's leadership has escalated recently, prompting one reporter to ask whether the Browns were being run by the "Three Stooges" -- Banner, Lombardi and Haslam.
"It is bittersweet leaving the Browns organization," Banner said in a statement. "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."