Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Larry and Curly are leaving Cleveland.
The Browns restructured their lightly regarded front office on Tuesday, dropping two of the "three stooges" in CEO Joe Banner as well as general manager Mike Lombardi.
Banner will be stepping down in the next two months as he transitions out of his role as CEO while Ray Farmer, a former draft pick on Banner's watch in Philadelphia, will immediately take the over the team's football operations in place of Lombardi.
A linebacker by trade, Farmer started his NFL front office career as a scout in Atlanta before moving on to become the director of pro personnel in Kansas City. The Duke University product was named assistant GM in Cleveland a season ago and interviewed for the Miami GM job earlier this offseason before being elevated by owner Jimmy Haslam.
"First of all, we wanted to capitalize on the knowledge, experience and character we're fortunate to have in Ray Farmer," Haslam said in a statement addressing the stunning moves. "Ray has 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 head coach) Mike Pettine, which is critical in helping build the right team. Ray will provide excellent leadership in our front office."
A second straight bumbled coaching search was probably the last straw for Haslam when it came to his old management team, which was viewed as toxic by the local media and fan base.
After firing former head coach Rob Chudzinski following the season, Haslam was asked: "Can you assure the fans that you don't have the three stooges running this operation?"
"We understand there are going to be some skeptics," Haslam said at the time. "Candidly, we deserve it. We also understand the importance of getting it right."
"This is the crucial offseason for the Cleveland Browns. We have lots of room on the cap, we have 19 draft picks, and we've gotta hire a new coach," Haslam continued. "If we get that right, we'll have a lot of really positive press conferences. If we get that wrong, the responsibility is on us. ... We feel a lot of pressure to get this right, for the franchise, for the city of Cleveland, for our fans."
The owner's actions Tuesday foreshadow that he's not all that confident Banner and Lombardi got it right.
Hindsight will be the ultimate judge of Pettine, but only the blindly loyal could fail to realize the ex-Buffalo defensive coordinator was hardly the organization's top option.
Pettine was an off-the-radar candidate given the job only after others spurned the Browns and the culture Banner created by his handling of Chudzinski, a Plan B choice himself after Chip Kelly chose Philadelphia over Cleveland a year earlier.
Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase was believed to be the Browns' first choice to take over this time around, but the 35-year-old wunderkind consistently turned downed overtures by Cleveland while focusing on the Broncos' run toward Super Bowl XLVIII.
New England offensive chief Josh McDaniels, who is very close with Lombardi, was believed to be the fall-back choice but bailed out once it was clear he was not Cleveland's top desire.
Making matters even worse was that Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn indicated he would have been very interested in the job after his unit put together a brilliant performance in the Super Bowl, but the antsy Browns pulled the trigger on Pettine the week before the big game.
When introducing Pettine back on Jan. 23 Banner quipped, "Since Mike Lombardi and I were Moe and Larry, we set out to find Curly, and we succeeded."
Self-deprecation aside, the "Three Stooges" narrative was a consistent one in town, but it was Haslam who was regarded as the lead stooge, not the kind of thing that is going to sit well with a man whose net worth was listed at $1.45 billion by Forbes at last check.
Perhaps nothing sums up the Browns quite as well as contrasting them with the AFC North-rival Pittsburgh Steelers, who have had a total of three coaches and six Super Bowl crowns since 1969. Conversely, Cleveland has had 17 mentors with no Lombardi trophies over the same time frame, and five coaches since 2008. The last four mentors in the division given pink slips have all been from Cleveland.
To be fair, Haslam has only been a part of that tortured history since 2012, but he was quickly becoming engrained in the organization's losing culture and many believed he just grabbed the baton from former owner Randy Lerner.
Tuesday's actions were an attempt to halt a destructive cycle and prove the past is not necessarily prologue to the future in Cleveland.
"It is bittersweet leaving the Browns organization," Banner said. "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."
Cleveland will settle for better hands.