I could sit here and break down what happened in the Steelers game, but I have no interest in doing that. The only thing on my mind right now is what an embarrassment the Cleveland Browns organization continues to be with today’s “one-and-done” rumors involving Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski. Granted nothing has happened yet, but just the fact that this rumor has legs across multiple analysts – From Chris Mortenson to John Clayton – is embarrassing. It may be even more embarrassing than the Browns’ bad record, which at 4-12 says so very much, but we’ve seen bad won-loss records plenty of times. I really hoped that the embarrassing Berea chaos of things like Mangini / Kokinis and even Phil Savage’s power struggle were long gone. If Rob Chudzinski gets fired after one year, it’ll be tough to believe that organizational dysfunction doesn’t flow through the pipes of even a renovated Browns complex in Berea.
Rob Chudzinski is not coming off of a good rookie head coaching campaign, to be sure. No matter what happened to the Cleveland Browns from a personnel standpoint, the fact is that only winning four games is a miserable failure. The Browns weren’t even able to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars at home. The fact that the Browns couldn’t win after having their bye week is miserable, but even given all that, I find it shocking to think that the Browns are going to fire Rob Chudzinski and his staff after just one year coaching a roster that wasn’t exactly loaded up on both sides of the ball by the front office. Yet, those are the rumors that persist today.
I asked the question last week. What does accountability look like in an organization where presumably nobody deserves to be fired? I expected some interesting quotes from the post-season press conferences talking about missed opportunities, promissory statements about the future and other general tough talk about how “unacceptable” this year’s record was. What I hadn’t accounted for was that the same front office – the same one that continually sent the message to its team that this current year was of little importance – could place so much stock in the coach’s performance in that same year.
Regardless of how you think about the Browns moves, it’s undeniable that many of them were forward-looking and for the future – at least in terms of what message it sent to the locker room. Trading Trent Richardson for a draft pick in 2014 is for the future. Remember that Chudzinski had to sit with Banner in the wake of that trade to talk to the media. Trading two picks on draft day to the Steelers and Colts is also clearly a move for the future. Signing and using a placeholder (at best) running back like Willis McGahee sends a message and it isn’t about trying to kick butt and take names in the current season. Maybe they’re all really smart moves, but they send a distinct message that the future is more important than the present.
Consequently, I find it disingenuous that the responsible parties could then be shocked by a lackluster won-loss record in a year where the Browns also were unable to keep a consistent name under center after injuries to all of their quarterbacks. Again, this isn’t to say that Chud’s been great and has earned unending amounts of goodwill, because I don’t think he has. I guess my conclusion from this season is that – while not impossible – Chud’s degree of coaching difficulty in 2013 was extremely high for many reasons that were completely out of his control.
The Cleveland Browns have stated many times that they’ll be bold in trying to re-make this football team. That boldness could include hiring a premier coaching candidate and firing Rob Chudzinski, but it’s hard to figure out how that’s going to be great for the team overall. It casts a shadow over Joe Banner and company for hiring the wrong guy in the first place. Firing Rob Chudzinski after one year says a lot about the people who hired and fired him. Some might even say that it probably says more about them than it does about the coach himself.
Unless the Browns have a direct line of communication with one of those candidates, it’s hard to understand how they could come to the conclusion to fire Rob Chudzinski this week. Unless there’s an internal candidate that they want to replace him with, it seems inconceivable from a timing standpoint. I highly doubt that the powers that be in Berea are grinding their teeth in anticipation of the moment they can elevate Norv Turner or Ray Horton to the head coach’s spot in the organization.
Even if they hire someone who turns out to be a clear upgrade, it’s exceedingly difficult to figure out how “missing” so badly on the first coaching staff to turn around your recently acquired NFL franchise wouldn’t reflect at least equally poorly on the executives in charge of overall franchise strategy. For the fans of this team, it would be yet another in a long line of embarrassments. You’d think that would make it easier, but it really doesn’t seem to be that way.