So 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.