“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” - Albert Einstein
“As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.” – Donald Rumsfeld
“Chip Kelly is close to a deal to become the Browns coach” – Ian Rapoport
In the wee hours of Thursday night/Friday morning, I found myself in conversation with two friends about the Browns new head coach, Rob Chudzinski. One the participants in this conversation is a huge sports fan who, like myself, is always one click away from twitter machine and the unhealthy, delicious rumors that are found within.
But my other buddy, he cannot be more disconnected from the sports world. He doesn’t watch Sports Center, not on twitter (certainly never listens to sports talk radio). It’s just not his scene. When he entered the Chud conversation, the dialogue went something like this:
- “Wait, so the Browns hired a new coach tonight? Is he good? Should we be pumped?”
- “I dunno. We’re just kinda surprised. The rumor today was that they interviewed a different guy for the second time. So we’re not shocked that they hired a coach, just wasn’t expecting this guy.”
- “Well, initially the new owners made a big play for the college “It” coach. The up-and-coming offensive genius. They flew down to Arizona, met with him for, like, seven hours and then there were a ton of reports that more or less said that he’ll be our next coach; they just gotta dot the tees and cross the eyes. It looked like the Browns are going to land the stud offensive innovator and the Next Big Name. But…. nothing ever became official. Turns out that the Next Big Name might just stay in school and so now, about a week later, the Browns have hired this relatively unknown guy, who actually used to coach for the Browns.”
- “So we look like a chump, don’t we?”
- “Ya, kinda.”
- “F@#%, that I hate when we look like chumps. This move sucks. [Long story about being "the Cleveland friend" while living in California during the LeBron years]”
I found it interesting that my non-sports buddy hated the move, solely based on the perception that the Browns “look like chumps”. I don’t think he’s alone1. Chud certainly doesn’t seem like Plan A.
Whether or not that makes him a good hire is an entirely different matter.
Generally speaking, I say that perception of our local sports teams is not very good. The Browns botched their coaching search. The Cavs are stupid tankers who think losing = winning. And, of course, the Dolans are cheap cheap cheap!!
Cleveland fans know the Dolans are cheap. We know this in our bones. Which is why fans, like the one above, get mad at promotions like Snow Days or all the fireworks2. Sure, you can point out that no new Tribe owner will deficit spend or that when the Dolans do spend, it has blown up in their face3. But we all know the Dolans are cheap, so we get mad when it simply looks like they’re spending money that could maybe, if we don’t think too hard, be better spent on Good Baseball Players.
Now, perception doesn’t always work against Cleveland teams. Take Dan Gilbert and his comic sans letter. At the time, I loved his post-Decision letter. It was real and it was raw. While it might not have been the smartest proclamation, it spoke to heart of many a Cleveland fan. But Gilbert’s off-the-cuff vitriol masked some other issues4. Do you think if Gilbert had had a “Plan B”, we would’ve seen that letter? I mean, you’d think the fact that LeBron wasn’t taking calls from Tom Izzo would be reason enough for Dan to form a contingency plan. But instead of a backup plan, we got insane promises and name calling.
Gilbert’s public perception of “having Cleveland fans’ back” has stemmed off a lot of local criticism of how the Cavs handled the summer of 2010 and beyond. I definitely feel that it’s bought the Cavs some time with regards to their rebuild (to his credit, the Cavs have been fairly open about their long term rebuilding plans). However, the letter also invited criticism at the national level and I believe it has permanently changed Gilbert’s national perception. Whether or not Gilbert’s national perception actually matters is another story.
I liked what Craig said in his media criticism piece:
None of us really knows whether Chip Kelly is going to be a good coach in the NFL. We don’t know if he has the right temperament and ego or even if he has the desire to leave Oregon. Unless you are sitting in those interviews and truly know the candidates intimately, you’re left trying to extrapolate unknowable things from disconnected realities, and from a big distance to boot. Ultimately, whether you’re picking from a pool of former NFL head coaches, NFL coordinators or college coaches, the failure rate is significant no matter what. If there was a magic formula that fans could see with the naked eye, then we wouldn’t see so many coaching vacancies appear every year.
So, yes I think the process has been a bit discouraging so far. The Browns seem to be missing out on their target, which is bad, generically speaking. Without an ability to know just how good a candidate is going to be, you are left rooting for your team to achieve whatever it is they’re looking to achieve. Their actions lead you to believe that Chip Kelly was the first on their list, so naturally it seems like a failure if they don’t get him. I understand that completely.
As Browns fans, we don’t know if Chip Kelly was Haslam’s first choice. It sure seems that way. But we don’t know ((the best part of the Browns not getting Chip Kelly is not having to hear Butch Davis’s name constantly brought up)). But the optics sure look bad; it looks like they had no “Plan B”.
If the Browns could’ve controlled a bit more of the story during the Kelly talks, maybe they’re perceived a bit better and maybe Browns fans are more excited about the Chudzinski hire. But perception can only take you so far. The Indians have had an excellent offseason that has fans actually feeling optimistic, but it’s all for naught if the team can’t win ballgames.
I’d rather have my owner pick the coach to win the game, not to win the press conference (even though this seems like a let down). Jimmy Haslam could run the organization ten times better than Randy Lerner, but if the Chud Era is a dud5, the perception of “the same old Browns” will remain, regardless of any other organizational improvements. If Rob Chudzinski can get the Browns to the playoffs (let alone through the playoffs!), no one is going to care about the perception of this debacle of a coaching search. Winning fixes everything.
There’s only so much we can know. We know the Browns met with Kelly for five hours. We don’t know how close things came to being finalized or what was discussed. Just because they’re perceived to have whiffed on Kelly, doesn’t mean that the Browns didn’t conduct a professional, thorough coaching search. That they failed to end up with a Big Name doesn’t mean they picked a bad coach.
The reality is that Rob Chudzinski is the coach of the Cleveland Browns. And we won’t know whether or not Rob Chudzinski is the right coach for the Cleveland Browns until they start playing the games.
Right now, it’s all just perception.
“It’s all in your mind, you know.” - George Harrison
- Also, there’s something somewhat disconcerting about hiring a former Browns coach. Sure, they’ve sucked since 1999, but they’ve also been grooming future head coaches? Really? [↩]
- not to mention it reeks of minor league promotions [↩]
- *Waives at Travis Hafner, Jake Westbrook, Grady Sizemore and Kerry Wood* [↩]
- Like catering to LeBron’s every whim [↩]
- HARDY HAR [↩]