Ladies and Gentleman, your 4 -12 Cleveland Browns have fired their first year head Coach, Rob Chudzinski.
Everyone walk up to your Play Station or Xbox or Nintendo and press "reset".
For the hundredth time.
Whether you agree with the bold move or not, one thing that most of us can agree on: the overall product and results on the field did not improve this year and were not acceptable. That part is very clear.
This was the reasoning behind the highly speculated, and now official move to fire Coach Chudzinski. In essence, the expectation from Haslam to Banner to the team was that there should be improvement this season, yet there wasn't. In fact the team regressed and finishing the season on a 7 game losing streak, the worst in franchise history. The loss to the Jets last weekend reeked of players not trying and the ultimate nail in the coffin came in today's season ending loss to our supposed division rivals Pittsburgh Steelers. It didn't take long once back in Cleveland for Haslam, Banner and Chud to have the conversation and for the Browns to release a statement:
"We appreciate Chud's passion for the Browns, and we have great respect for him both personally and professionally. We needed to see progress with this football team. We needed to see development and improvement as the season evolved and, unfortunately, we took a concerning step backward in the second half of the year.
"Our fans deserve to see a consistently competitive team. We have high standards, and there's an urgency for success. When we believed we were not positioned to achieve significant progress in 2014, we knew we had to admit that a change was needed, and move forward.
"Browns fans are the most loyal and passionate supporters in the NFL. We're fully committed to bringing them the winning football team they deserve."
Meanwhile in Philadelphia, Chip Kelly and the Eagles were busy clinching a playoff berth.
If you peel back the layers you may realize that Haslam and Banner are really to blame. They missed on the most important hire of the off season and the hire that would set the course for the new regime, the head coach. Chip Kelly was their guy and they flew out to Arizona to court him but were left burned in the desert heat. They put all their eggs in his basket but when the smoke cleared and the wheels to the private jet landed back in Cleveland, Haslam and Banner "chose" Chudzinski.
Banner and Haslam would have you believe they did their homework on Chud; that they liked what he brought to the table; and that the main reason they hired him was because they felt confident he could assemble a set of coaches to help this team improve. And on paper, he certainly did that in bringing in both Norv Turner and Ray Horton. However, as we know by now, the results speak for themselves. And who knows, maybe they did like Chud, but what we got on the field was not what Haslam and Banner expected and I think that's because they didn't get who they wanted in the first place.
That being said, let's cut Chud a break, he was a first year head coach on the Browns and the current roster is missing the biggest and most important piece of a NFL franchise - the QB. Still, the rosters did and does boast talented players at several positions such as Pro Bowlers LT - Joe Thomas, C - Alex Mack, TE - Jordan Cameron, and WR - Josh Gordon. The expectation from up top was that the coaches could take that talent and build a team certainly better than 4 - 12. To finish as poorly as they did was heartbreaking for fans and I think they wanted to see a coach who gave the team a personality and a gameplan to win and that inspired all his people to break the cycle of a losing culture. When the season started to slide, and things didn't get any better and Chud couldn't right the ship, I can only speculate that Haslam became as upset and enraged with the results as many Browns' fans did.
For what it's worth, I've also heard reports from sources that the locker room was much more divided then their interviews ( even today's ) would lead you to believe and that everything internally wasn't as good as it was made out to be.
There's no doubt about it, any way you slice it, this isn't a good look or outcome for the organization. It just fired the new regime's first head coach after 16 games. But what it does show us is that there is "accountability" and that Haslam isn't going to be sold promises, he wants results. I had speculated several times throughout the season that I found it odd the front office grew quieter and quieter as the season progressed and the team regressed. They began to hold their cards very close to their chest, only really speaking when unveiling the new stadium renovation plans. I found this to be curious because at the beginning of the year they were pushing hard that this team and the fan experience would improve this year. When it didn't, you could almost sense the inner frustration because there was silence.
Fans have been screaming that the product on the field has been unacceptable and the team has now made a bold move that echoes these sentiments. The front office believes that if they can find the right coach, and more importantly the right QB, and then surround that QB with even more talent via the surplus of draft picks and cap space, that this team and roster should really only be one year away from being competitive and turning this franchise around. But should we be hopeful they can make the right decisions and make this happen?
We all know Mike Lombardi is gearing up for the draft and probably has some input on who the new coach should be since both will be a piece of the equation when it comes to bringing on new players and draft picks. That, folks, is scary. All along I was offered assurance that with Banner, Chud, Lombardi, Farmer and Haslam that the consensus would help shield the Browns from Lombardi's history of draft failure, but bringing in a coach who could very well align with Mikey, this to me is very scary.
Still, I will try to leave you with some hope that could possibly make you feel a better about our situation. While our first try was a failure, there are several recent examples of NFL teams with new head coaches and / or new QB's that have had successfully turned things around during their first year campaigns. Seattle, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Arizona and even Chicago had a decent year with their first year head coach. And I'm not talking playoffs, or a specific record, just generally speaking. But again, how confident are you that Banner and Haslam will get it right? Haslam is relying on Banner, and Banner already is 0 - 1, so you have to think his leash is beginning to be shortened, well with all this accountability and all.
The endangered Browns fan has every right to be upset and frustrated and insert your favorite adjective here ______ . We deserve better. We've endured too much, and this is really like another episode of déjà vu. We've been here before. We've heard the promises. We've seen this and we know how it turns out. We're tired of it. We just want to win. And if Haslam and Banner and Lombardi don't get this right, they could very well bury this franchise once and for all.