The Browns fired executive vice president Sashi Brown, who headed Cleveland’s personnel department the past two years, on Thursday.
Head coach Hue Jackson will remain on the job and will return for the 2018 season, “but we feel it is necessary to take significant steps to strengthen our personnel department,” owner Jimmy Haslam said in a statement.
Other front-office members also are expected to be let go as the team reshapes its front office again, sources told ESPN.
Cleveland immediately will begin its official search for a new general manager, its ninth since the franchise returned to the city in 1999, though it quietly has been inquiring about others around the league for weeks now, per sources.
Former Kansas City Chiefs general manager John Dorsey is expected to emerge as a lead contender for the Browns’ GM job, sources told ESPN.
“We have great appreciation and gratitude for Sashi’s commitment and leadership to our organization but believe transitioning to someone with strong experience and success in drafting and building consistently winning football teams is critical to the future of the Cleveland Browns,” Haslam said in the statement.
The Browns, 0-12 this season, were 1-27 with Brown in control of personnel.
Brown leaves a Cleveland team that traded away the picks that became Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson, but also an organization that has stockpiled picks for future drafts and created more salary-cap space than any team in the league.
This team actually is well positioned for future years, many NFL executives have noted recently. Whoever takes over inherits some of the riches that Brown helped build.
The Browns have six extra picks in April’s draft — an extra first-, two extra second-round picks, an extra fourth-round pick, an extra fifth-round pick. Right now, the Browns also have $59.25 million cap space this year that they can roll over into next year, when they already are scheduled to have another $38.6 million of room, giving them almost $100 million in salary cap space.
“The 2018 draft and offseason is pivotal for our franchise, we need to ensure that we maximize our opportunity for success; with our picks, free agency and building our roster,” Haslam said in the statement.
The team also failed to execute a trade for Cincinnati Bengals quarterback A.J. McCarron seconds before the NFL’s Oct. 31 trade deadline, when the proper paperwork did not get processed, and a trade that looked like it was going through abruptly fell apart.
Haslam and his wife Dee are expected to interview GM candidates as early as this week, per sources, though they also already could have spoken with former NFL general managers Dorsey, Dave Gettleman and Scot McCloughan without any permission or any restrictions.
Thursday’s shakeup continues a run that has made Cleveland the NFL’s most unstable franchise. Since returning to Cleveland, the Browns had had eight different general managers — Brown, Ray Farmer, Michael Lombardi, Tom Heckert, George Kokinis, Phil Savage, Butch Davis and Dwight Clark. It also has employed longtime executives Paul DePodesta, Joe Banner, Mike Holmgren and Mike Keenan.
The Browns also have had nine head coaches since 1999, tied for fourth-most in the NFL. The Bills, Dolphins and Raiders have all had 10.