Browns Fire Chudzinski: Haslam and Banner still have a lot of questions to answer

I have long maintained that continuity for continuity’s sake only leads to more losing. If a team doesn’t believe in a coach or GM or whoever then they should cut bait and move on instead of waiting to see if he pans out. Keeping a losing coach on just to have sense of consistency is how you end up with a situation like Gary Kubiak in Houston or Jim Schwartz in Detroit.[1]

So with that as a principle that I’ve already set for myself, I can’t completely pan the Cleveland Browns’ firing of first-year head coach Rob Chudzinski. Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi determined that he was not the right man for the job and decided it was better to cut ties after one season than hang on with a coach that they didn’t believe was up to snuff. However, when Banner, in particular, came into town he preached how it wasn’t going to be the “same old Browns” anymore and how we’d start seeing very quickly just how smart they were. He promised change and more importantly he promised winning. Maybe we’re suckers for believing that the new guys were going to be any different than the old “new” guys who said the same thing but never delivered. One year in we’re sitting on another losing season where the team actually managed to win fewer games than the previous year and on top of that they’ll be bringing in a new coach already.

One of the biggest problems that has plagued the Browns franchise over the years has been the lack of anything resembling a good quarterback. Outside of one good year of Derek Anderson we haven’t seen anything that would pass for a top-level signal-caller in this league. The other big issue for the Browns has been the lack of a good/competent head coach who is able to last more than a couple years. Chud only lasted one year. Before him Pat Shurmur and Eric Mangini each got only two seasons at the helm of the S.S. Berea. Romeo Crennel’s four years of proving his incompetence seemed like an eternity compared to the three who followed him. It would be easy to point to this constant turning-over of coaches and say that this is the reason why the Browns haven’t had any success. “You have to have some sense of continuity to achieve success” is what some will say.

However, that isn’t necessarily true. What you need is a good coach. The Eagles this past season cut ties with consistency and made the playoffs with a first-year college coach in Chip Kelly. A few years back the 49ers got rid of a guy they didn’t believe in in favor of Jim Harbaugh and have made the playoffs every season since. Same thing happened with Pete Carroll in Seattle. The problem for the Browns isn’t that they keep changing coaches…it’s that they haven’t hired a good one yet to replace the crappy one that they just cut. None of the men of who have coached the Browns since their re-birth has gone on to have any success coaching in the NFL after they’ve left Cleveland so to say that firing them was a poor move is just wrong. They all proved to not be right for this job, let alone any head coaching job.[2]

The problem with the current regime of the Browns is that they think they’re smarter than they’ve proved so far. Joe Banner promised that we’d see smart moves quickly. The first big move that he made was to hire a coach that no other team interviewed and claimed that he was the guy they liked best all along after spending a whole day wining and dining with Kelly only to get snubbed.[3]  Furthermore, they gave Chudzinski a roster devoid of a quarterback or a running game and a general lack of depth because they were hording $26 million in cap space. Banner claimed that things would be different but as we sit here today the new team looks a whole heck of a lot like the old one. It’s impossible for anyone to give this front office credit for getting rid of a bad coach without eviscerating them for hiring him in the first place. They bare the blame for this season, not Chudzinski. In their infinite wisdom they believed they found the right guy and equipped him for success but evidently they were wrong.

Now if their only criteria for whether or not to keep or fire a coach is if they see improvement over the course of the season then the firing of Chud is warranted. The team didn’t get better over the course of the year and probably got worse. I would argue that a big reason for the decline in play was because you can only go so far with the crapfest that they were rolling out there at quarterback and the lack of depth that the team had because of unused cap space. I don’t believe that Banner and Lombardi put a good enough team together to have a sustained winning season, mostly because of the quarterback situation. The only way that you were going to have true success this year was if Brandon Weeden panned out. The only way that was going to happen was for them to commit to him and let him grow and learn while playing. That didn’t happen. They cut out Weeden’s legs before he had much of a chance. I don’t know if Weeden will ever be anything in the NFL. His play to this point certainly doesn’t make a good case for a positive future. But once they moved on from Weeden and switched to Jason Campbell the season was lost as far I’m concerned, and I know I wasn’t alone in that thinking. I’m sure that many of the players in the locker room felt the same way. From saving cap space, to trading picks for future picks, to trading Trent Richardson for a future pick, it certainly seemed like they were building this team for 2014 and not for 2013. I don’t know what the Browns front office expected exactly from a thin team down the stretch that wasn’t playing for anything under a backup quarterback. But they didn’t see what they wanted evidently so they’re moving on after only one shot with Chud.

Going forward the biggest question that needs answering and will ultimately be born out is how a front office that demands so much power and has proven now that they have a quick trigger is going to be able to lure a good coach to this team. They will need to do a pretty good sell job to prospective coaches to get them to buy into a place that just canned an undermanned coach in his first head job after just one year.

In their press conference on Monday Jimmy Haslam did a really good PR job of stating that he understands and accepts the skepticism that people like myself have for the job that the Browns are currently doing of building a winning team. You’re right, Jimmy, talk is cheap and I don’t know where Browns fans are supposed to go from here. I’m glad I’m not a season ticket holder who needs to decide if I should re-up my hard-earned money for another season of crap football. How long before Browns fans turn on this team like they did on the Indians at the turn of the century? We’ve been the most loyal fan base in the world given how we’ve stuck through all this garbage. But how much more can we take? I named this website the GOAT in part because the Cleveland fans are the greatest for sticking through all the crap and supporting these teams. But it also stands for “the goat” in that we’re always the butt of the joke, and this debacle has only served to further the notion that we as fans are idiots for faithfully supporting these franchises when all they ever serve up is more pain and misery.

Sometimes I’m actually glad that I live 500 miles away from Cleveland so I’m not in a position where I’m investing financially in these teams. I’m only investing my time, energy, and emotions, and even those are running thin. When will the GOAT fans of Cleveland finally break and give up? I don’t have an answer for that but I know we’re getting closer and closer with every fruitless season that leads to wholesale coaching and personnel changes. And this year will be no different. At some point all the faithful fans who were born into rooting for the Browns will have died off and the younger generation that has seen nothing but losing will be left. And I doubt that my son’s generation will be as patient and loyal. I want my son to be a Browns fan and a fan of all Cleveland teams. But it’s going to be a tough sell as he starts to get older to talk him into rooting for a perpetually losing franchise when there are plenty of winners he could pin his hopes on instead.[4]

The Browns have probably the greatest fans in the NFL. But they can only handle so much. They will break at some point and I hope that Jimmy Haslam realizes that. If they don’t get this thing right soon then they’re going to lose the fans as well as the precious few good players that previous regimes have managed to collect in spite of their own incompetence.

The time for excuses and processes is over. It’s time to start winning.

I’m glad 2014 is only a day away.

[1] One thing they mentioned in their presser is that they would bring in a guy who they believe can win football games in the NFL. Schwartz, who has already been connected to the Browns, has proven that he’s not that guy. So bear that in mind as we go forward.

[2] Jury is still out obviously on Chud. One year isn’t nearly enough to determine if he’ll ever be a good head coach. Time will tell if he ever gets another shot.

[3] Despite what Banner claims, Chud was probably their fourth choice behind Kelly, Saban, and O’Brien.

[4] Especially, given that we live in Wisconsin, the Packers, who are the model of what winning looks like. Their fans treat 8-8 seasons like we treat 4-12. They’re so used to winning that even .500 feels like losing. What I wouldn’t give to live in that realty.


2 thoughts on “Browns Fire Chudzinski: Haslam and Banner still have a lot of questions to answer

  1. Pingback: Top 13 “Happenings” in Cleveland Sports in 2013 | Cleveland the GOAT

  2. Pingback: Browns and Haslam Fire Banner and Lombardi — A Month Too Late | Cleveland the GOAT

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