Browns-Bengals trade didn't go through because of an email snafu

We’ve all been there: An important email needs to go through to someone, it gets sent but never received and everything gets screwed up.

Usually that happens on, say, a Craigslist purchase for an old couch, not for the trade of an NFL quarterback.

The Cleveland Browns‘ failure to notify the NFL of a trade with the Cincinnati Bengals for AJ McCarron right before Tuesday’s trade deadline is funny and perplexing. How did that happen? Email issues. Seriously. At least the NFL has upped its technology game and the infamous Elvis Dumervil fax machine wasn’t involved.

Mary Kay Cabot of had the details of the stupefying story. Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown was working on the trade with Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin. They agreed to a deal and hung up with about 10-20 minutes before the deadline. Both teams had to send the NFL notification of the trade. Easy, right?

Cabot reported Browns director of football administration Chris Cooper, not Brown, sent an email with the paperwork to the Bengals at 3:54 p.m., six minutes before the deadline. The Bengals didn’t recognize Cooper’s name, and since Tobin had been working with Brown on the deal (and the Bengals were working on their own paperwork to the NFL), they never noticed it. The Browns didn’t email the NFL directly, figuring the Bengals would pass it along.

This would have been much funnier had it involved dial-up modem not working, a Nigerian prince promising to move a large sum of money to an American bank or the Browns seeing a MAILER-DAEMON error at 4:01, but it’s still incredible and crazy and hilarious nonetheless.

The NFL got the Bengals’ notification at 3:55 p.m., Cabot wrote, and copied the Browns on it. Had the Browns included the NFL on their email to the Bengals, the trade would have gone through, Cabot said.

I want to repeat this, because it’s one of the funniest things I’ve written in all my years covering the NFL: The Browns failed to execute a pretty major trade for a potential starting quarterback because they forgot to CC the NFL on an email. Amazing.

Also, it’s customary for teams to call the NFL to confirm receipt of the email, but the Browns never did that either. Basically the Bengals-Browns trade gaffe turned into a horrible plot for “Office Space 2.”

But just when you want to blast the Browns for simple incompetence, there’s a conspiracy theory involved. Cabot wrote that one anonymous NFL exec pointed out this Browns front office has made many trades — they have been one of the league’s most active teams the past two drafts — and if “they had really wanted to make this deal, they would have.” While that seems crazy, it’s also crazy for an NFL team to be reportedly trading a second- and third-round pick for McCarron. Maybe someone sabotaged the deal, as weird as that sounds. The Browns might have accidentally saved themselves from a bad trade, unless it wasn’t an accident after all.

Either way, the Browns’ email fiasco now enters NFL lore.

Cincinnati QB A.J. McCarron was the center of a trade between the Bengals and Browns, but Cleveland didn’t report the trade in time. (AP )

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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