Jimmy Haslam, owner of the Cleveland Browns, is known to bend a rule or two. Now, it looks like he’s trying to pull a fast one on the NFL.
It has been widely-reported that Kevin O’Connell will be Cleveland’s offensive coordinator. But, the Browns have yet to officially hire an offensive coordinator…at least it appears that way on paper. Oh, by the way, Mr. O’Connell personally trains Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
How is this not against the rules?
That’s what many top NFL team executives are asking each other.
Are the Browns playing dirty pool or just exploiting a loophole in an NFL Draft rule?
The NFL has strict rules about teams contacting NFL Draft prospects. They cannot interact with the players before the NFL Draft Combine. The Browns, even though O’Connell isn’t technically part of Cleveland’s coaching staff, it appears they will have an unfair advantage over the rest of the teams. Worst case scenario, O’Connell could be even be teaching Mariota Cleveland’s playbook.
The Browns have the 12th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and according to many draft experts, he will likely be long gone before their pick. Cleveland and Philadelphia are both rumored to be very interested in trading up to take Mariota.
Cleveland would need to pull off some sort of Robert Griffin III-level trade in order to jump up to get Mariota. It seems unlikely. They may have ruined any shot at making a trade by pissing off some key general managers with this move.
At the very least, Cleveland has an advantage over the rest of the league from a scouting standpoint. Teams always trash prospects in hopes they fall in their laps. It has already started with Mariota. UCLA coach Jim Mora stood up for him and said the naysayers are dead wrong.
How can we stop teams like the Browns from doing this in the future?
I propose the NFL introduces a rule that prevents teams from hiring anyone who trains NFL Draft prospects for the upcoming season. I realize that would be very hard to oversee, but it would be quite easy to keep an eye on the top prospects. If a team tries to do this to get an edge because they really love a seventh-round prospect, we’ll just let that slide.
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.