Kelly, Chudzinski, & Plan B….Was There One?

Rob Chudzinski

Rob ChudzinskiSo the Browns hired Rob Chudzinski. The city of Cleveland and Browns fans throughout the country run the gamut of opinions with regards to their new head coach. Outrage. Confusion. Laughter. Excitement. I’ve seen and heard it all. My uncle, who has been a season ticket holder since he was a child in the 1940’s and I attend every game with, loves the hire. My brother, who has never forgiven the NFL for allowing the Browns to move in the first place, thinks its brutal. I land somewhere in the middle.

On a daily basis here at WFNY, we have a ton of back and forth over email which often spawn pieces like this one. Our own Andrew came up with a theory that I completely buy into. Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner had their man targeted. He had all the prerequisites that Haslam talked about when he dropped the bomb on Pat Shurmur. A strong leader of men. An innovator on offense. A man who knew how to run a program. That man was Oregon coach Chip Kelly.

The second they had the opportunity to talk to Kelly, they did. Banner and Haslam flew to Arizona, checkbook in hand, ready to pounce. A reported seven-hour meeting plus dinner took place. Reports had a deal very close to getting done. In the end, Kelly punted, flirted with the Eagles, and eventually stayed at Oregon.

I truly believe Haslam and Banner thought they had Kelly all but in the bag.

Then Kelly left them at the alter and panic set it. Owners have massive egos. From all things we hear about Joe Banner, being unsure of himself is not something that is said about him. Chip Kelly was going to be theirs. And then he wasn’t. I’m not sure that they had a Plan B.

So the now famous “reboot” term was put out there to describe the coaching search. The original plan was to hire a sexy name, a big boy, someone who would get Browns fans jazzed.  However, Haslam and Banner quickly realized, to paraphrase Rick Pitino, Bill Cowher is not walkin’ through that door, Jon Gruden is not walkin’ through that door, and Nick Saban is not walkin’ though that door. So they turned to the retread and coordinator route. They had no choice.

Having a rabid fan base is great and all, but I think our collective view of the Browns franchise is very distorted, Banner and Haslam’s included. Outside of our our city, we are a bottom tier franchise. That is the truth. Show me why outsiders should feel otherwise?

So Plan B became to interview as many guys as the could as quickly as possible, and pick the best of the lot. The names certainly weren’t what any of us wanted. Ken Whisenhunt, Mark Trestman, Mike Zimmer, etc etc all received looks. Then came Chud. Things progressed quickly with him. Last night at 8:30 PM, I chalked Chudzinski up to just another guy they were interviewing. By 10 PM, he was the new head coach.

In all seriousness, we have no idea what goes on behind closed doors. Obviously Chud blew away Haslam and Banner and they acted quickly in locking him up. It is concerning that with six other openings, none of those teams requested an interview with Chudzinski. However, Chud’s offensive philosophy seems to fit well with the current Browns personnel. He has worked here before. He grew up a Browns fan. There will be no acclimation period.

But you can’t help but feel a little hollow today. Haslam and Banner talked a big game and had us all feeling as if they would undoubtedly reel in that big fish. And here we are with Rob Chudzinski.

The Browns have had the longest honeymoon in history in honeymoons. No matter what happens, the fans come out and bleed for the Brown and Orange. Regime change after regime change, nobody jumps ship. By contrast, the Indians have a fickle fan base who barely fill a quarter of Progressive Field regularly. Their brass – President Mark Shapiro and GM Chris Antonetti – had been all but run out of town on a rail after debacle season after debacle season since 2007. The Dolan Ownership threw Manny Acta on the sword with four games left, an oddly timed dismissal no doubt. In the process, Paul Dolan announced he was sticking with Shapiro and Antonetti. Nobody could understand it. But Shappy and Kid Chris had a plan. They had one final card to play to save their jobs and start mending the relationship with a broken and apathetic fan base.

They turned over their hand and had a full house.

Terry Francona is the exact kind of coup, big name hire that Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner failed to land with the Browns. Chudzinski replacing Shurmur feels a lot like Acta replacing Eric Wedge.

This could completely work out and Chudzinski could end up being a great hire. Really there is nowhere to go but up. Time will tell. Let’s see if he ends up with Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator. Let’s see if Dick Jauron stays on running the defense. Maybe he goes with Romeo Crennel, his former boss in Cleveland, as his DC. Maybe we see the return of Rob Ryan here. Who knows.

I am going to just sit back and see how this all plays out.


  • Markp

    Yessah! Preach.

  • Hopwin

    Absolutely brilliant.

  • Ritz

    I think the Browns wanted Kelly but he said no – so they hired the next best candidate as they saw it. Simple as that, and nothing wrong with that, just how things go.

  • Jason Mumaw

    I think that was pretty much stated in the headline.

  • Garry_Owen

    I still think that interviewing Kelly at the outset was just due diligence. I think that they might have thought early in the process that he could be their guy (thus the long dinner and second scheduled interview), but I’m not inclined to believe that they went into it with Kelly as their dream coach.

    Assuming he was though, this all makes sense, as you’ve spelled it out.

    Here’s hoping Chudzinski is a diamond in the rough, and other sweet metaphors.

  • stryker1121

    Splashy hires are nice but ownership is no way beholden to “impress” fans with one name that’s more famous than another. I’m ambivalent to say the least about Chud, but I’m more than willing to give him a chance. I hope fans and media are able to do the same.

  • TB

    Two things: First, anyone who has ever hired anyone knows that the first choice going in is just a hypothesis, an educated guess about who is likely to get the job, nothing more. Otherwise, why bother to interview? That means the hypothesis can be, and often is, disproven. For a variety of reasons, Kelly was disproven. Happens all the time, and it says nothing about the Haslem or Banner or the desirability of the job.

    Which goes to the second point: it is almost meaningless to try to identify a bottom-tier franchise in the NFL. NFL rules are all about maintaining equality of opportunity for every franchise, which means the Browns do not have any systemic disadvantage (at least now that they are well beyond the hosed-up restart in 1999). Cleveland might not be that enticing of a city to some people, but plenty of people would be just as wary about going to Green Bay or New York or Oakland or Nashville or wherever. Haslem or Lerner might be off-putting to some people, but I for one would want nothing to do with Jerry Jones, for example.

    We need to stop being so dramatic and oversensitive about being Cleveland fans. Every head coaching job in the NFL is top-tier, because every bad team, given the right leadership, can be a good team next year. That happens all the time too.

    Be happy. Chud has two things going for him that together no coach of the Browns has had since the return. 1. He was successful in his last job on his own; and 2. He’s a Browns fan, which means we’ve finally got someone there who cares as much as we do.

  • MrCleaveland

    “Then Kelly left them at the alter and panic set it”

    Aw Jeez, first we had the “debacle,” now we have the “panic.”

    TD, friend, how on earth do you know that panic set in? Do people who are sure of themselves panic? Doubtful.

    I still don’t get all the negativity. Kelly didn’t want to go the NFL. Why is that anybody else’s fault? What should the Browns do, go without a coach this year in the hopes that Kelly will change his mind next year?

    Kelly is dead to us. Let’s leave him be and never mention him again.

    We have a coach. Don’t worry, be happy.

  • Garry_Owen

    I’d give this an A+, if not for misspelling the owner’s name.

  • Garry_Owen

    Agree. I supported Shurmur to the bitter end. I can easily support Chud.
    Stryker? 2nd ID?

  • TB

    I’ll take it!

  • Phife

    TD’s words are smooth like butter.

  • mgbode

    based on personnel in place, I have a hard time believing that prospective coaches would pick many of these teams over the Browns.

    benefits: good pass-blocking OL. lots of youth on offense. talented DL and some more pieces on defense. more youth.

    negatives: QB a question mark along with LBers and still need lots of depth.

    JAX? No way. No QB, only Cecil at WR, aging star RB, mediocre OL, good defense.
    AZ? No. No QB, OL, WR (outside Fitz), RB. Good defense (potentially).

    KC? I don’t think so. No QB, Likely losing Bowe and no other WR stepping up, RBs are good, but OL has holes. Defense needs some depth but in the 3-4 they had some interesting pieces (rebuilding it to a 4-3 now though)

    Bills? I don’t get the media love for them. They have a low tier QB, a RB that cannot figure things out, and some interesting WRs (but their OL is a mess). Their defense has some pieces but just has underwhelmed.

    Bears? If you are talking the next 3years, then I get it. But, what if Urlacher leaves and some of their other aging guys retire/leave? Defense seems on the brink and the OL hasn’t been fixed (at least they have tried though) and Cutler is proving he just isn’t a franchise QB.

    Eagles? they might be in the worst shape of any team (outside AZ). just a mess. lots of good skill positions though (WR, RB, TE, CB). too bad you should build a team from the inside out.

    Chargers? I get this one. Their defense is aging and likely falling apart, but they have some pieces and were originally built from the inside out at least. I would prefer the Browns, but I can see an argument otherwise.

  • mgbode


  • nj0

    Don’t forget huge number under the cap.

  • TB

    Right, the point is that these issues are not about the franchise, but rather about the specific personnel at a given time. If a prospective coach is fortunate enough to have his choice between teams, which is actually pretty rare, he can look at city, owner, available talent, etc. But most of the time a coach has to take any opportunity to be a head coach and roll with it.

  • Harv 21

    thx for saving me the typing. Guys who have been methodically planning their post-season strategy flat out panicked because, ya know, we got all geeked up and crestfallen with talk show/twittter/internet hot air and we panicked.


  • mgbode

    yes, that is a big one especially if Chud does want to move to a 3-4 (allowing him to bring in guys like Spencer and Philips who are FAs and their teams possibly switching schemes in the other direction)

  • mgbode

    true. even a guy like Andy Reid didn’t risk getting on a plane to AZ once KC had the deal on the table.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    Agreed. I don’t understand why so many people are having such a hard time getting over Kelly. It’s not like he spurned us for another NFL job. Banner and Haslam tried to get him and for whatever reason, it didn’t work out. Not their fault. Just because you interview someone for a job doesn’t mean they have to take it. Not the end of the world.

    I guess you can put me in the rather small camp who would rather have Chud than Kelly anyway. Kelly having never coached in any capacity in the NFL scared the bejesus out of me. Chud has a great NFL resume, and I love his passion for the Browns. He wasn’t my first choice, but I can get behind this guy.

  • Ritz

    Not really

  • Vindictive_Pat

    You on point Phife?

  • Toddyus

    I like Debac-nic, myself.

  • humboldt

    To defend TD, this is a bit of a straw man built on his use of the word “panic”.

    It’s pretty clear that Plan A fell through when Kelly/Marrone/O’Brien got away, and that Haslam/Banner retreated to contingency plans for second-tier choices. Nothing has convinced me that Chudzinski is or was ever the “strong, dynamic leader” specified at the beginning of the search. He may turn out to be an effective coach, but clearly is not aligned with the organizational presence articulated by Haslam in December when the world was his oyster.

    I’m not sure they panicked, but there seemed to be a bit of hubris preceding the trip to AZ.

  • humboldt

    Agreed. But in December, the fan base was all but promised a dynamic leader based on the first-tier candidates Haslam/Banner had in mind. Fans should give Chudzinski a chance, but there should also be a recognition that it’s rational and acceptable for fan’s to be initially dismayed by the choice

  • stryker1121

    But it’s not like high profile guys (Gruden, Cowher, Saban) were out there interviewing w/ loads of teams and just slipped through JH3’s fingers. The ownership group did their due diligence and was rebuffed. I get disappointment but I feel like CHud’s already on a short leash w/ fans/media just b/c he isn’t a famous name.

  • mgbode

    surprised none in the media are going with this angle yet:

    there once was a kid who grew up a Browns fan. he went down to the University of Miami where he won a National Championship to prove himself worthy before doing everything in his power to help the Cleveland Browns regain their rightful place in the NFL hierarchy.

    it worked in the 80’s

  • CB Everett

    By “other sweet metaphors” I’m assuming you mean NOT my he’s the “fat girl at the bar you take home at 2 am” comparison?! I agree with your point on due diligence though as to Kelly. I think they were compelled to kick the tires on the guy, as well as explore all of the other “big names” who were/could be free.

  • Scott @ WFNY

    All the time, Tip.

  • Garry_Owen

    No, that was a great metaphor. And … we all went home with her. Lets hope she can cook!

  • bridgecrosser

    Perhaps Kelly demanded the interview first to escalate the process of him getting his ORE pay raise. We have no idea. So please, just know you are on thin ice with your credibility when you throw panic or debacle. You could be right. And you could be a horse’s behind.

  • FearTheRoo

    After going through coaching changes so often, with all cleveland sports, I honestly don’t care if they hired a bum off the street. I just want to win. Don’t care about first or last choices. Don’t care who they interviewed and didn’t interview. Just find someone that will win us games! Will Chud do that? Time will tell. I just hope Cleveland fans don’t treat him as poorly as they did Shurmur! Give the guy a chance and support him!

  • tikihat

    I thought that Haslam and Banner left Kelly, not the other way around? I’m sure that they found him intriguing, but have seen nothing more definitive than MKC’s tweets to suggest that he was their only real plan going into the search. It is just as likely that all the leaks from “sources” could have soured them on him during Saturday as it is that they left with their heads hanging.

  • porckchop

    To defend Mr C (not that it needs done). Your argument is a strawman at a strawman which make sit some sort of hybrid super hay not yet known to mankind.

    1st. Why is it “pretty clear” that Plan A fell through. Because Haslam and Banner went to AZ to interview the coach (Kelly) most likely to go off the board first? They had a 7 hour dinner with Kelly, and a similar amount of time split between 2 days with Chud. Kelly had suitors so if they wanted to know whether or not they wanted him they knew that they had to compress the time frame. Do you have some as yet unrevealed proof that that Haslam absolutely wanted these guys in some order similar to which you listed them? Its undoubted that if they wanted to even interview Kelly they had to be out West as soon as that game ended. So they started the search with the guy most likely to be off the board first but not necessarily the first guy off their board.

    Second, why does Chud “Clearly” not align with the organizational “presence”? Haslam said; “Our focus, and I want to say this over and over, is to get the RIGHT head coach”. He went on to say that they were seeking someone with “strong dynamic leadership”. By defintion if they chose him he is the “RIGHT” head coach for them. And how do you know so “Clearly” that whatever Chud said in his interviews did not meet their criteria for a strong, dynamic leader”? Remember its not “YOUR” criteria, its theirs, which means it might not be so clear.

    Clearly is a word you should not use as it means something different than you think.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Haha nice, I knew if I made the call someone out there would respond.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I think neither is true… I think that Banner/Haslam put out to the media that they were walking away from Kelly to save face since they had already found that he was planning to go back to Oregon. Also, there’s no way Kelly was plan A and they had no plan B. These guys (especially Haslam) are used to interviewing people for a job… they know you can’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

  • Folksingerwinger

    Are the browns switching uniforms next year? Has that been confirmed?

  • mgbode

    there may only be 2 stripes on the sleeve next year :)
    seriously though,I doubt there’s much change other than the “AL” patch being removed.

  • folksingerwinger

    wish they would go back to white face mask, or use a brown one. and overhaul the uni’s it’s time for change. keep base of helmet as is

  • humboldt

    I’m impressed by your ability to talk yourself into things…

    Remember that they structured their organization to give a potential coach significant power (i.e. full control of 53-man roster, etc). Clearly this was an enticement for the top-tier collegiate candidates they were targeting rather than Chud, who would have become HC under almost any circumstances.

  • DylonW