“New” and “Cleveland Browns head coach” seem synonymous. On Friday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, the new Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski spoke to the media.
I’ll leave others to break down what Chudzinski said. Shockingly, nothing earth-shattering was shared and the Browns still don’t have a clear-cut quarterback.
Anyway, after a few quiet weeks, Chudzinski’s reappearance to the daily news cycle got me thinking back to the recent coaching search.
Yes, the Chudzinski hire was swift. According to the timeline shared by Jimmy Haslam at last month’s press conference, Chudzinski’s hiring all happened within a week.
When considering the other options, should we feel a bit more confident in this selection than the previous two choices - Pat Shurmur and Eric Mangini?
Look, offseason coaching searches for the Browns happen often.
1999 - Chris Palmer
2001 - Butch Davis
2005 - Romeo Crennel
2009 - Eric Mangini
2011 - Pat Shurmur
2013 - Rob Chudzinski
Right now, Romeo Crennel has been the longest-tenured Browns coach since 1999. Here’s an even more Cleveland Browns-esque stat: Crennel has produced the Browns best regular season record since 1999 - 10-6 in 2007 - but that did not net him a playoff appearance.
OK, so in recent years, the coaching carousel has sped up. Patience is thin, but more than that, front office turmoil has been rampant leading to all these changes in Berea and crappy play on the field.
Why will this time be different? Why, this time, will that carousel finally slow down and finally land with Chudzinski as the right choice?
Joining Chudzinski in the class of 2013 were:
•Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals
•Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars
•Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles
•Doug Marrone, Buffalo Bills
•Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers
•Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs
•Marc Trestman, Chicago Bears
It is hard to know if this list will encompass as many failures as the ones in 2009 or 2011 or even if there are a few gems, one of which being Chudzinski. During the search the Browns were tied to Trestman, Marrone and, most notably, Kelly. Arians, the NFL’s reigning Coach of the Year, was not interviewed by the Browns.
The arrival at Chudzinski as the Browns new head coach was anything but swift.
First the rumors of Chip Kelly started the process, but the Browns continued to interview more candidates. It was quite a different style than the last two times the Browns hired a new coach.
Let’s start with Shurmur. So many red flags flew at full staff when he was hired. It was an easy fix for then president Mike Holmgren. Shurmur and Holmgren shared the same agent.
Shurmur was the nephew of Fritz Shurmur, who Holmgren work closely with in Green Bay. It was quick. It was easy and once the Rooney Rule was satisfied, it was a done deal.
Here are the other coaches that were hired in 2011:
•John Fox, Denver Broncos
•Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings
•Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
•Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers
•Hue Jackson, Oakland Raiders
•Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans
•Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers
Jim Harbaugh’s name stands out. That one stings. In addition, Frazier and Fox have since led their teams to playoff appearances.
Two years previously, then-owner Randy Lerner had his sights set on recently fired Eric Mangini. It was foreshadowing. Lerner wanted one guy in charge of all the football operations so he didn’t have to be seen or heard. That led to the Holmgren debacle.
Like Shurmur’s hiring, Mangini-to-the Browns was swift.
Here are the other coaches that were hired in 2009:
•Tom Cable, Oakland Raiders
•Todd Haley, Kansas City Chiefs
•Josh McDaniels, Denver Broncos
•Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
•Rex Ryan, New York Jets
•Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions
•Mike Singletary, San Francisco 49ers
•Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams
Ryan and Schwartz are still in those same positions.
Aside from Harbaugh and maybe Fox, any of those other coaches really work out?
Unlike 2009 or 2011, this time felt different for the Browns. It felt more vetted. Perhaps this time the Browns got the right man for the job.
If he does turn out to be the right guy, that begins with the front office. We can hold an endless debate on Jimmy Haslam’s amount of time spent in Berea vs. CEO of Flying J, Joe Banner’s amount of clout or Mike Lombardi amount of competency.
These are the guys. Haslam’s previous NFL experience was in Pittsburgh where stability is the name of the game. It is hard to think these guys will be going anywhere anytime soon.
No doubt they want Chudzinski to end this carousel. For that to occur, it must be done with talent on-the-field. The Browns actually have talent on this roster to build a team around. Can these guys build upon the perceived positive path former GM Tom Heckert started to lead this team down?
The Browns aren’t perfect. No team is. But the last three reboots that started Crennel, Mangini and Shurmur needed to start from scratch.
Just last season, the Browns were three plays away from finishing 8-8. Not a bad starting point, but these 5-11 season need to end now.
Otherwise, we’ll be back here in 2015.