Because it's only like the 16th most interesting thing to happen to the Browns in the last year, and because the Falcons are being punished—more harshly—at the exact same time, this latest Cleveland mini-fiasco threatens to fly under the radar. Do not let it. It's a perfect example of the team being dumb and dysfunctional and violating NFL rules without managing to gain a single competitive advantage. It's platonic Browns, really.
GM Ray Farmer will be suspended for the first four games of the season, and the team fined $250,000, after a league investigation found that Farmer, in violation of NFL rules, texted football staff from his spot in the coaches' booth during multiple games. It's not really a huge deal—Farmer admitted to it and apologized, and the league confirmed he hadn't been trying to gain an edge on opponents—but it needs to be emphasized just exactly what Farmer was texting, and to whom.
According to Browns beat reporter Mary Kay Cabot, at least some of the texts were second-guessing then-offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Sent by Farmer to then-QB coach Dowell Loggains, the texts "included thoughts on Shanahan's playcalling and use of personnel." If you've been following the sharply drawn battle lines in Cleveland, it's not hard to read between the lines here: Farmer was bitching about the Browns' offense and wondering when Shanahan and coach Mike Pettine were going to bench Brian Hoyer and put in Johnny Manziel already.
The Browns were kind of a mess by year's end, with Pettine and Shanahan, backing Hoyer, on one side of the power struggle, and Farmer, Loggains, and their chosen QB Manziel on the other. Loggains has since been fired, Shanahan unexpectedly quit, and Hoyer signed with Houston. Manziel is in rehab for the time being. That leaves Pettine and Farmer, who have to find a way to coexist. Pettine says he'll try.
"I would say that (the trust) had to rebuild,'' said Pettine. "I understood the root cause of it. Ray is very competitive. He's a former player and has his opinions that he voices. He made a mistake in trying to share them. It wasn't one of those where we're cursing at each other. There was no blindsiding. It was all very much out in the open, and he and I met like men and looked each other in the eye and moved on from it.''
Gossip and backbiting tore the Browns apart last season, and this year promises to be no different. Pettine and Farmer are still at odds, and Manziel still projects as a controversial backup, this time to new signing Josh McCown. Jimmy Haslam still owns the whole damn thing. The Browns can never stop being the Browns, no matter if the NFL punishes them for it.