Khari Thompson | Staff Writer
Fresh off of a tumultuous, drama-filled season, the Cleveland Browns are the picture of NFL mediocrity.
The team regressed under head coach Mike Pettine from seven wins in 2014 to just three this past season, resulting in the organization parting ways with Pettine. Former first round pick Johnny Manziel was supposed to be the Browns’ long-awaited franchise quarterback and the Browns are likely to let him go as well, further establishing a new era for the team.
On January 3, the Browns’ began their rebuilding process by hiring Sashi Brown as executive Vice President of Football Operations.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam describes Brown as smart, organized, strategic and a team player. Brown is also a Hamptonian. He graduated from Hampton University in 1998 with a degree in communications.
After graduation, Brown returned to his home state of Massachusetts to attend Harvard Law School where he received his Juris Doctorate in 2002. Brown later worked for Washington D.C. law firm Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale & Dorr, before joining the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars as general counsel, his last job before the Browns hired him.
While many dream of landing an NFL front office position, Brown admits that was not always the case for him. “I wish I could tell you there was some well-thought-out, sophisticated plan, but there really wasn’t,” Brown said.
“I was doing traditional corporate work. Venture capital and private equity. I got an opportunity to start working on some sports transactions.” And once he got his foot into the NFL door, Brown quickly gained a reputation as a savvy businessman with the ability to bridge the gap between business and football operations.
“Just having the opportunity to work with both sides of the organization is outstanding from my standpoint,” Brown expressed. “Personally, it can be challenging. But organizationally it has a tremendous amount of upside for the Browns as we move forward.”
Brown was named to the Sports Business Journal’s 40 under 40 list in 2015, confirming his status as one of the top young executives in professional sports. Surprisingly, Brown claims that he does not watch much sports outside of football but he has kept tabs on the Browns, who he says are making progress.
“I know there’s been some negative publicity, but the reality is we were a very, very competitive team in the division last year,” said Brown. “We are improving the roster. We’ve renovated the stadium. We’ve really transformed our game day experience with VP Kevin Griffin at the helm of that. We’ve taken the franchise in a lot of positive directions.”
Cleveland hopes that Brown can continue to build upon those transformations. The first step was to find a head coach and Brown accomplished this by hiring Hue Jackson on January 13.
Jackson served as the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals for two seasons (2014-2015) and has been involved with four other NFL team in various positions dating back to 2001.
Next, Brown must address the Johnny Manziel situation. Jackson said he is willing to evaluate Manziel, but Brown has the final word. After that, it is up to Brown and the rest of Cleveland’s front office to chart the rest of the path for the future.
And if Brown can replicate the success he found at Hampton, Harvard, and Jacksonville, the Cleveland Browns will find themselves with a bright future under strong leadership.