Browns’ coaching decision bold move

Posted Dec 30, 2013

Senior Editor Vic Carucci says Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and chief executive officer Joe Banner remained consistent with their boldness in firing Rob Chudzinski after one season.


That’s really what makes the Browns’ dismissal of Rob Chudzinski the subject of far more second-guessing than generally happens when a coach is fired after a 4-12 season, right?

It happened so soon, far quicker than any of us could have ever predicted. One-year-and-done usually doesn’t happen with coaches in the NFL. It is, in fact, a first in the long history of the Browns.

And the primary reason it’s so rare is because teams don’t make a habit of admitting they’ve made a mistake as blatantly as the Browns did in showing Chudzinski the door less than 12 months after making him their 17th head coach.

Usually, they wait two and even three years to make such a move, allowing the coach to essentially fire himself as losses mount and the decision becomes a virtual foregone conclusion. Media and fans tend to go along with that scenario, because it’s easy to process.

Not so with the firing of Chudzinski.

To many, it feels as if the Browns’ hierarchy is being unfair to someone with whom the fans felt a close kinship because he, too, was a fan of the team – chomping on dog biscuits and pretending to be Ozzie Newsome catching passes from Brian Sipe – long before he ever became its coach.

What chance for success could he have possibly had with three different quarterbacks and six different starters at the position? And with only one legitimate threat at wide receiver? And with no running game? And with no major impact from any of the key offseason acquisitions? And with the basic understanding that most of the player-personnel moves this year were done with an eye toward building sustainable success that wouldn’t fully begin to take hold until 2014?

Those are the small pictures that have mostly shaped opinions in the immediate aftermath of Sunday night’s announcement that the Browns weren’t going to retain Chudzinski.

But there was a much larger picture that team owner Jimmy Haslam and chief executive officer Joe Banner used to guide them on the way to concluding that a coaching change after only one season made perfect sense. Haslam trusted that picture enough to determine that the hefty price for pulling the plug on a head coach with three years left on a multi-million-dollar contract and, potentially, on assistant coaches with time remaining on their deals made sense.

“These are expensive moves,” Haslam told reporters Monday. “We’re talking with our pocketbooks here.”

Time will tell if Haslam and Banner did the right thing, but they certainly did the bold thing, which is consistent with the approach they firmly established since their arrival. They also stayed true to Haslam’s edict of holding everyone in the building accountable.

The big picture told Haslam and Banner that:

>The Browns had lost 10 of their last 11 games by 10 or more points, with repeated second-half meltdowns.

>Despite a roster whose average age is 25, the team wasn’t improving, and, in fact, was getting worse while other clubs that also struggled with first-year coaches – most notably the Jacksonville Jaguars – showed signs of getting better.

>Players were vocal in their support of Chudzinski, but didn’t always show it in their effort in the late stages of the season, particularly in the loss against the New York Jets.

>Game plans didn’t show enough creativity, as opposed to the cutting-edge offensive scheming displayed by the likes of Chip Kelly – the Browns’ first choice for the head-coaching job – in Philadelphia.

Haslam and Banner didn’t arrive at this decision in an hour or a week. They spent the better part of the second half of the season analyzing and evaluating all aspects of the coaching staff. Ultimately, they concluded that after all of the promise the Browns showed when they won three games in a row after a 0-2 start and beat the Ravens to go 4-5, there was too much regression.

And rather than following the more conventional timetable to determine a change was needed, Haslam and Banner did what they’ve done from the beginning: the bold thing.

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