Cleveland Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner held a press conference on Monday to explain the rationale behind the firing of 1st year Head Coach Rob Chudzinski. Frankly, there was nothing they could really say that would change any opinions in this town right now. To Mr. Haslam’s credit, he admitted as much. He knows it’s the “same old Browns” until they start winning.
I was not a proponent of the hiring just twelve months ago. I thought the team panicked after being rebuffed by the people at the top of their list (Nick Saban, Chip Kelly, Josh McDaniels, Bill O’Brien and Doug Marrone) and hastily grabbed the first candidate that they could get that could plausibly be sold as some type of “up and coming coordinator type”. The fact that Chudzinski was an Ohio kid who grew up a Browns’ fan helped. The fact that he would bring Norv Turner with him as Offensive Coordinator clinched it. But all of this was misdirection to fool most into overlooking the fact that Chud had done nothing to demonstrate proven ability as a head coach at any level. He simply had not earned the position. Like Pat Shurmur before him.
But that was the bed that Haslam and Banner made. They preached the importance of stability at the time. How would they stand behind their man? What would they do to help him move the organization forward and justify their selection of him? Well, very little as it turns out.
A Lost Season
The Browns entered the 2013 off season with the second most amount of free space under the salary cap of any team in the League. In a day and age where offense rules supreme in the NFL, what did they do to add weapons for a young QB and head coach? Davone Bess and RB Dion Lewis. Both players were acquired in minor trades. How about help in the draft? Nope. What picks they kept, the team’s brass spent on the defensive side of the ball. Kruger, Bryant, Groves, Mingo. Was it Chud’s fault that the defense blew lead after lead in the second half of the year? Perhaps. Was it his fault the defensive signees all underwhelmed? If you’re going to lay all of that at Chud’s feet, we’ve got a problem.
“I think the fact that this didn’t go well doesn’t change the track record we both have in attracting good people, recognizing good people and having continuity once we’ve done that.” – Joe Banner
So, the Browns “helped” their guy by ignoring the draft and failing to add any weapons to an offense that was sparse to begin with. No fullback. No offensive line help. A plan that called for Greg Little to be a starting WR. And they traded their starting RB after Week 2. True, Dion Lewis was supposed to help. But it was no one’s fault that he got injured during training camp. Not Banner’s. Not Lombardi’s. And certainly not Chud’s.
My problem isn’t that they hired Chud. That was their prerogitive. It’s that they apparently didn’t even want him and appear to have decided to ride him out for a year until they could get someone better all along. The evidence does not show they helped him in any way. They passed on the draft. They deferred spending in free agency. And they traded assets to load up for a big 2014 draft. What they did was give themselves a pass for the year. But not their head coach.
So what now?
So why should any prospective coach trust them now when they say “You’re our guy”? Will he be looking over his shoulder after each loss? Is that the kind of winning culture they are trying to instill here? As of Monday evening there are six openings in the NFL. There may be more on the way. Early rumors already have us focused on the type of guy they believe they can control. You know the type. Up-and-Coming Coordinator guy. Someone that hasn’t coached before who will eagerly accept any terms attached to the job. That includes not having say on the final roster. Ask the last guy how that worked out for him.
Lastly, I take umbrage at Mr. Banner’s remarks today that “this doesn’t change his track record in attracting good people, recognizing good people”. Do you need further proof that he gives himself a pass for the 2013 season? Please Joe. Spare us this nonsense. You’re not in Philadelphia anymore. Welcome to Cleveland. You’re a year behind. Time to get it in gear.