These are clearly no longer Eric Mangini’s Browns.
I should be outraged by the Browns’ decision Monday to sign running back Kareem Hunt. The 23-year-old from Willoughby was captured on security video shoving and kicking a woman in the hallway of his apartment at the Metropolitan at The 9 in Cleveland, resulting in his rapid release by the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 30.
Hunt’s actions — posted on TMZ.com — were outrageous and disgusting. But my initial reaction, which should be anger, was tempered by the fact that this is no surprise.
Browns General Manager John Dorsey drafted Hunt in the third round out of Toledo in 2017. Dorsey saw Hunt lead the league in rushing as a rookie with 1,327 yards.
If anyone was going to give Hunt a second chance, even with Hunt facing a league suspension, it would be Dorsey. The man who started Hunt on his path to stardom wants to help save him. If Hunt had more than one second chance offered, it makes sense he would choose to play for the executive who showed faith in him in the draft.
Perhaps Hunt is genuinely remorseful and committed to becoming a better person as he said in a statement released by the Browns and reiterated by Dorsey during a news conference in Berea. Dorsey said the Browns will have a zero-tolerance policy in regards to Hunt.
What bothers me more is the path the Browns have taken under Dorsey.
They hired Mike Priefer as special teams coach despite a homophobic slur he made in 2012, which was detailed by punter Chris Kluwe. Now considered one of the league’s best at his position, Priefer was suspended by the Minnesota Vikings at the start of the 2014 regular season and required to complete sensitivity training.
“My faith tells me everybody should have second chances,” Dorsey said of Priefer, a Cleveland native, when coach Freddie Kitchens was introduced on Jan. 14.
In 2018, Dorsey traded up in the fourth round to draft receiver Antonio Callaway, whose past was littered with red flags. Callaway failed a drug test at the combine. He was cited for marijuana possession in May 2017 as a passenger in a car with a 40-year-old career criminal.
He was suspended for the entire 2017 season at Florida for involvement with a credit card fraud scheme, although felony charges were eventually dropped. He was suspended for 2016 spring practices during a sexual assault investigation, but later cleared of three charges after he admitted he was high on marijuana.
Drafting Callaway fit with Dorsey’s MO as Chiefs GM, when he overlooked the baggage and selected wide receiver Tyreek Hill, cornerback Marcus Peters and tight end Travis Kelce. All became Pro Bowlers.
But it all seems a bit incongruous when “a man of character” was the first trait Dorsey mentioned when he discussed the coaching search that landed Kitchens. And that’s no reflection on Kitchens.
Save for giving up on wide receiver Josh Gordon and trading him to the New England Patriots last season, the Browns are turning a blind eye to character issues. It is a far cry from the two 5-11 seasons under Mangini, who stressed character virtually above all else, even when it contributed to disastrous draft choices.
But that was 2009-10. Mangini’s goal was laudable, but likely unreasonable. The league’s bar may be lower now. NFL rosters are peppered with players with past problems. Still, it is curious that Browns co-owner Dee Haslam serves on the NFL’s conduct committee, yet Hunt was still allowed to become a Brown.
Perhaps Dorsey believes to build a franchise capable of winning a Super Bowl, he needs players and coaches with an edge, those driven to atone for past mistakes even if it means a rap sheet, a homophobic slur or kicking a woman in a hallway.
There’s no doubt he believes in second chances.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.