The Dude, Michael, and Joey…who loved bowling

Browns Lebowski

Browns Lebowski

“The Dude abides”

The Big Lebowski is one of the greatest movies of all time. Sometimes when life has you down, all you can do is try to laugh about it. With the Browns coaching search seemingly devolving into chaos once again, I thought it might be fun to intertwine some of my favorite quotes from the movie and paraphrase them through the context of the recent events.

The writing was on the wall. From the moment news started leaking out that the Cleveland Browns were going to fire first-year head coach Rob Chudzinski, the word that fans should look for Josh McDaniels to be the prime target of the team was almost immediate.

It wasn’t long before whispers began trickling through that former Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz was expected to be the Browns’ next defensive coordinator, as long as the new coach didn’t veto the move. If the Browns were high enough on Schwartz to hire him before a coach, it would make sense to look for a coach who specifically wouldn’t object. And what kind of coach wouldn’t object? How about a coach from the Belichick tree who shares the same agent as Schwartz and Browns GM Mike Lombardi?

“Oh yeah, how’d the interview go?”
”Went alright. Dude’s candidate got a little dinged up.”
”Walter, we didn’t make the f—ing hire, man! He didn’t get, the f—ing money and we’re not gonna – not gonna –“
”We’re not gonna hire that poor candidate.”

Last Saturday the Browns finally had a chance to interview their guy. After a 7.5-hour meeting, reports were coming out that Jimmy Haslam loved McDaniels. The feeling of inevitability was closing in. The only thing the Browns had to worry about was McDaniels not wanting the job. But that couldn’t possibly happen. Who wouldn’t want to coach the Cleveland Browns?

Well, apparently Josh McDaniels doesn’t. Head coaching searches rarely fail to offer up surprises. Well, maybe not for other franchises who are capable of identifying their target, going after him, and ultimately getting him to agree to a contract. But we are talking about the Cleveland Browns where coaching searches are an adventure.

This year appears to be no exception. Of course, fans and media can only know whatever information is allowed out of the machine. The only people who really know what happened the last two years are Jimmy Haslam, Joe Banner, and Mike Lombardi. But we know this front office is awfully quick to shut down rumors that aren’t true (the Jim Tressel interview rumor was deflated in record time). They didn’t seem to have a problem with all the national and local media proclaiming McDaniels as their prime candidate.

“The Browns are perfectly calm, dude. Calmer than you are.”

So what happened with McDaniels? It started with some quiet rumors that maybe McDaniels wasn’t exactly thrilled to throw away his sweet gig coaching Tom Brady to come join a dysfunctional circus. WFNY’s Craig Lyndall had the Akron Beacon-Journal’s Marla Ridenour on his podcast earlier this week, and she mentioned in it that she had been hearing from people that McDaniels might not want the job.

Late Wednesday afternoon, it was official. Josh McDaniels had withdrawn himself from consideration, and just like that, for the second year in a row, the Browns struck out on getting their guy.

It’s usually difficult to really remember the intricacies of a coaching search from one coach to the next. Generally there are at least a few years to buffer the searches. That’s not the case with the Browns. When you fire a coach after one season, you put yourself in a position of searching for a candidate while some of the battle wounds from the previous search are still raw. Nowhere is that more true than with the Browns and Chip Kelly.

Just one year ago the Browns went through the exact same experience. They fired a coach, and immediately went after the guy everyone knew they wanted. But they came up short and couldn’t secure that deal to make Kelly the coach of the Browns. Of course, the Browns have tried desperately to let everyone know it was their decision to not hire Kelly. All you can really do is take them at their word, but it’s awfully tough to do that when there are so many reports contradicting the Browns’ version of events.

With history repeating itself, it’s not surprising then that once again the Browns were quick to soften the blow by making sure everyone knew Josh McDaniels wasn’t their No. 1 choice. And again, maybe they’re telling the truth. Maybe all of this really happened the way they said it did. But Occam’s razor casts a lot of doubt on that. It takes about a two ton boulder of salt to buy the idea that Browns met with McDaniels for 7.5 hours, McDaniels thought it went great, Haslam loved McDaniels, everything was lined up…but then McDaniels, who the Browns can’t even hire until the Patriots are eliminated from the playoffs, demanded to know if he was the Browns’ top choice, and was then informed he wasn’t, and thus McDaniels withdrew himself only to save face.

The biggest reason for doubting this is just following the flow of information. Multiple reports from highly respected NFL insiders across the league had reported that McDaniels was high on the Browns’ list. When the news of his withdrawal came out, the reports had nothing to do with McDaniels asking about his position on the wish list. Instead, it was all about McDaniels deciding the timing wasn’t right. You heard reports that he didn’t want to uproot his family right now. You heard talk that he wasn’t comfortable leaving such a safe job for the uncertainty of the Browns coaching gig. The only time we heard anything about this being because McDaniels wasn’t the top candidate was later in the afternoon.

But, if we do believe the Browns, this is the second year in a row they chose to go in a different direction than what seemed like the likely path. Last year, they backed away from Chip Kelly. This year, they never really wanted Josh McDaniels anyway. It’s cool, everyone, the Browns are in complete control. They got this.

“You want a coach? I can get you a coach, believe me. There are ways, Dude. You don’t wanna know about it, believe me…Hell, I can get you a coach by 3 o’clock this afternoon…with nail polish. These f—ing amateurs…”

So if Josh McDaniels wasn’t their top choice, then who is? If they told McDaniels ‘no’, then that means somebody else is. Is it Ben McAdoo? Is it Adam Gase, who they haven’t been able to interview yet? Or is it perhaps Ken Whisenhunt?

The Browns had previously said they wouldn’t be considering anyone they interviewed last year. I guess they didn’t say anything about people they interviewed twice last year. Regardless, the Browns appear to be widening their search, not narrowing it. This feels a little counterintuitive when they evidently told McDaniels he wasn’t their top choice.

In a media world with so much misinformation and strategically leaked information, it can be hard to know what to believe. All we can really do is read the tea leaves, and fall back on our previous experiences. Joe Banner said in a recent press conference that we should trust their track records1. Well, we can trust our own track records as fans and observers of media.

None of this is playing out like a well executed plan. Once again, we had the unrealistic stabs at the pipe dream candidates like Bob Stoops and Gus Malzahn. Once again we have “something” happening that caused the obvious candidate to not be hired. Once again we have a widening of the pool late in the process. We’ve seen all of this before.

Maybe Adam Gase is their guy and they just can’t talk to him yet. It’s really possible. It requires a bit of a leap of faith, of course. We have to trust this process and believe in the Browns front office. We have to trust their track record, one year after that track record led to them hiring the wrong guy and firing him one year later. But maybe this team is different, no matter how much it feels exactly the same as the last time.

“Will you come off it, Walter? You’re not even a Cleveland Brown, man.”
”What the f— are you talking about?”
”Man, you’re a f—ing Pittsburgh Steeler from Tennessee…”
”What the f— are you talking about? I converted when I bought the Browns. Come on, Dude!”
”Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah…It’s all part of your sick Browns thing. Taking care of their stadium. Going to their games. Hiring the wrong guys. Firing coaches after one year. You’re living in the f—ing past.”
”Sixty eight years of beautiful tradition, from Otto Graham to Jim Brown…You’re g—damn right I’m living in the f—ing past!”

Who knows who the next coach of the Browns will be. It would be unfair to not mention that there’s a real chance all of this could work out; that Chud was the wrong guy and firing him now was the right move; that the next hire will be the right one; that the upcoming draft will pan out; that the Browns will turn things around and be a genuinely competitive team next season. It certainly could.

But nothing in life exists outside of context. The Browns have the reputation that they have for a reason, and nothing about this coaching search and the events surrounding it are helping. Fans are forced to suffer through one embarrassment after another, all while putting blind faith that these are the guys who are going to change it all. Again, fans are required to trust and have faith just one year after the Browns got it all wrong. There’s no way the fans can win. They are put in an impossible situation. All we can do about it is sit and watch the process play out.

Cross your fingers. Hope for the best. What else can we really do?


Horrible photoshop job courtesy of Andrew/WFNY

  1. Because Jimmy Haslam’s hiring record at Pilot Flying J is looking pretty damn impeccable these days, right? []
  • Garry_Owen

    Traditionally, the head coach and the GM are peers. One builds a team; the other coaches it. Neither answers to the other. Both answer to the President, and in turn, the owner. Sure, Lombardi may have some say in who he’d like to work with, just as the coach may have some say in the players he’d like to see, but under no circumstances should a GM’s coach infatuation be the organization’s “guy” anymore than a coach’s player infatuation should be the “guy” the team goes after.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Okay a new one how about the Three Little Pigs?

    We all know who is in the house made of brick any guesses who is in the house made out of straw? I think it rhymes with “ombardi” but that’s just my guess.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Tradition was lost awhile ago with this franchise especially when it comes to the front office so in the words of the immortal Cher, “SNAP OUT OF IT!”

  • BrownieBob

    Live down near Philly…..The word here has always been that Kelly turned them down because Banner was unlikable and a power monger., not my words just the feeling in Philly….Don’t doubt for a minute that Banner has all the say….Lombardi is a fool who got the job because he is fine with being totally emasculated in that position….he was desperate to get back in the game….and as such agrees to just do whatever Banner says and just shut up…..Banner’s ego reeks of jealousy that Andy Reid got all the credit ( and blame ) in Philly for all those years…Sounds eerily similar to another well known egomaniac..( Can you say Jerry Jones ? )

  • Andrew Schnitkey

    It’s not made up if a source tells them. You’re still dealing with faith and belief either way. You’re believing the Browns when they say McDaniels wasn’t their #1 choice. And you’re basing it on media reports. Same as I am. I just choose to believe the prevailing opinion of people I respect.

    Bottom line, neither of us knows for sure which one of us is right. We just have to have something to believe in.

  • Tron

    Is it too late to rehire Chud?

  • Garry_Owen

    Frankly, I’m agnostic on this. You’re right; I don’t know. I also don’t really care, and I choose not to believe prevailing “opinion” on much of anything, as prevailing opinion is too often demonstrated to be prevailingly wrong.

    My point was simply that any off-the-record reporting can never actually be anything more than “rumor,” whether you/I/or the Mayor Himself believes it.

  • Garry_Owen

    My sources say he’ll gladly take the job — for another $10 million.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Ah it’s all just rumors Bob Cleveland sports fans don’t believe in rumors. Even worse they don’t believe what they see every Sunday despite their third owner, however many GMs this makes and a new CEO. Or maybe it’s just that they are to scared to face the reality I don’t know but it’ll never end.

    It would be great to know from Philadelphians what they experienced and I’m sure they’d be more then willing to share.

  • Andrew Schnitkey

    I envision a Seinfeld scenario more than Big Lebowski for that one.

    “Chud, why aren’t you at work today?”
    “Am I crazy, or didn’t you fire me?”
    “Last Sunday of the season.”
    “What? That? We didn’t fire you. What? You took that seriously?”
    “You mean, ‘wouldn’t cut Little or Lavao’? All that stuff?”
    “Come on, stop it.”
    ” ‘Didn’t show enough improvement on the season’ ”
    “Okay, I don’t want to come back.”
    “I don’t know where you’re getting this from. I…you’re serious, aren’t you?”

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Garry said what I was going to that a lot of it stems from the whole “tree” narrative. Media loves narratives, and this fit that well; that it’s sometimes true only furthers that.

    If a source tells them something that’s different, but a lot of the time it seems like sources appear or confirm *after* a rumor has been floated. I always wonder if that’s a circle – rumor is floated, someone asks a source did you hear this, later someone else asks and they say “yeah, I’ve heard that rumor”. Or it simply could be insiders who speculate and like having the ear of a media member.

    The big issue I have with that is how often these sources prove incorrect. If sources are just peddling rumors, you’d want to ask why journalists keep using them; but the answer is obvious, in that it generates stories and revenues.

    In terms of who we choose to believe, I think that it’s different to trust people who are telling me something directly vs. trusting journalists (who’ve been often wrong) using rumors and anonymous sources. Sure, perhaps you trust the journalist; but can you trust their source, who themselves may be relying on hearsay or someone’s guess? With Banner or Haslam it’s a matter of trusting that they aren’t lying straight to us, which is certainly possible, but while I believe people can often be incompetent I hesitate to assume they’re purposely lying all the time.

  • mgbode

    I find it disheartening that there is likely a good portion of the readership here who is too young to understand how funny that post is.

  • Kildawg

    Here’s one on the perception of the current FO (note that perception is the key word here).

  • Andrew Schnitkey

    I know. I have all the Seinfeld seasons on DVD. I frequently will just blindly grab a season, pop in one of the discs at random, and watch every episode on it. And every episode will be awesome. It’s my favorite TV show of all time. Well, at least in the comedy genre, anyway.

  • Andrew Schnitkey

    Bear in mind, Josh McDaniels pulling out of consideration doesn’t mean he wasn’t the Browns’ top choice. It just means he doesn’t want to be considered for the job, for whatever reason. Just because something doesn’t play out, it doesn’t mean the original source was incorrect. In life, people are variables. They have feelings and thoughts, and thus they can change their minds at any point. Saying journalists are “wrong”, is tricky. This site has been through that before. You report what you know when you know it, but that information is only 100% for that exact moment. At any given time things can change that totally alter the outcome. But that doesn’t mean the report was wrong in the moment it was made.

    My general rule of thumb is to take single reports with a grain of salt. When multiple reports from highly respected and trustworthy media types are out there, I give them weight. It’s not like this Browns stuff is isolated to rogue journalists. It’s widely reported. The “McDaniels backed out because he wasn’t our first choice” is coming from a much more narrow pool. It’s possible it’s true, I just don’t believe it.

    Appreciate the discussion as always, though, Ezzie.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Well said, and I agree with the points in that first paragraph completely.

    With the specific example, though, I’m not actually guessing that McDaniels backed out because he wasn’t the first choice. I’m guessing he backed out for the same reasons he turned down job interviews last year, which is his family – as they got into the meat and potatoes of the interview they likely discussed aspects of the job that he had to decide whether it was what he wanted, and after going home decided it wasn’t. With the Browns in general, I just am very hesitant to jump with the rumors rather than believing what the management says, particularly when the rumors are so often wrong.

    If the Browns said something that turned out to be clearly false, we would jump on it and never trust them. I understand that the journalists are not presenting these rumors constantly as facts, but I find it difficult to trust them and especially go with these narratives from them when they so often are completely off base, and generally wrong even if they have some legs.

    Discussion is what brings us back to WFNY! :)

  • Garry_Owen

    I heard another “rumor” (unfortunately, I don’t recall where – national radio, I think) that said the Browns may have decided after the interview that they weren’t going to hire him, and told him as much. His “withdrawing from consideration” may have been an easy out provided by the Browns to preserve McDaniels’ reputation as a viable HC candidate.
    It could have been anything.