The Cleveland Browns fired longtime staff member Jerry Butler on Tuesday. Butler, who spent his entire NFL career with the Buffalo Bills, had been with the team since their inception, serving as their Director of Player Development since 2001.
Butler was Buffalo's first-round pick in the 1979 NFL Draft. He was voted AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year, and broke a team record in just his fourth game with 255 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He earned a Pro Bowl nod in his second year, but a series of leg injuries curtailed what could have been a stellar career. A knee injury in 1983 cost him games that year, and again in 1984. In 1985, he shattered his ankle on a touchdown catch and never played again.
Butler was a popular Bill, twice being name the team's Man of the Year. He is still in the top ten in Buffalo's major all-time receiving categories, and was No. 50 on Buffalo Rumblings' list of the 50 greatest players in Bills history.
Before joining the Browns, Butler worked for the Bills for six years in player development and alumni relations.
When Cleveland was awarded an expansion franchise in the late 1990s, Butler joined the team as wide receivers coach, holding that post for two seasons. From 2001 to 2011, he worked in the front office as Director of Player Development. From his Browns official bio:
Butler ensures the successful transition of NFL players into and out of professional football by administering a continuum of programs and services designed to assist players to succeed in their lives off the field. The programs address an array of off the field issues including degree completion, internships, counseling and financial education.
Butler's firing comes as a surprise to many, as he was well-respected around the league. In 2004, he received the Winston-Shell Award for innovation and commitment to player development, and in 2007 won Outstanding Financial Education Program for innovation. He also is a member of the NFL’s Player Development Executive Steering Committee.
Several key Browns were saddened by the news. Cornerback Eric Wright had this to say on Twitter: "We all understand that things change and business isn't always fair but the Browns fired one of the best guys in that building in Jerry Butler."
Former Brown LeCharles Bentley noted, "Players trusted him."
Linebacker Scott Fuijta also chimed in, saying, "It's a shame. Of all the teams I've played for, Jerry Butler is the best I've seen in that position. True professional & a valuable resource for players. He'll be missed at work, but will remain a friend to us all."