As part of my ongoing desensitization to all things Browns, I was surprised for about 30 seconds upon hearing of Rob Chudzinski’s firing. Surprise was quickly followed by apathy – solely because there is nothing truly surprising about the actions of the Cleveland Browns during the longest expansion era in sports history.
As for the move itself, let’s not make it too complicated. Someone had to be responsible for a 4-12 season, one marked by yet another depressing December exodus.
And you know that somebody wasn’t going to be either Joe Banner or Mike Lombardi.
In simple terms, Chudzinski was the scapegoat for a front office that was never prepared to field a competitive NFL team.
Surely, the first year successes of Andy Reid and Chip Kelly played a role in evaluating Chudzinski’s relative lack of success. Given how virtually every NFL team outside of Cleveland has the potential to go from worst to first, Chudzinski’s four-win campaign serves as an indictment of sorts.
Yet, any team with even a remote chance of turning their fortunes is at least partially stocked with successful drafts worth of players, or at the least has a marginal vision of long-term success established.
Chudzinski’s Browns – if such an identifier can be used – had neither, as evidenced by the cavalier attitude the front office exhibited toward last April’s draft and the scattershot approach to free agency.
Team strengths were bolstered while obvious needs ignored – creating a roster pockmarked with subpar talent.
But all of this is rather obvious. The continual fourth quarter crumbles showcased the Browns’ lack of depth – the classic sign of a team that fought hard for its head coach, yet didn’t have enough resources to pull out wins. Throw in the league’s most unstable quarterback situation, an absent running game and tepid defensive play calling and it’s a wonder Chudzinski could even pull out four wins.
Now the Browns’ front office will now seek out a new Head Coach, a candidate who somehow would want to inherit the twin offerings of a messy roster and non-existent job security. In the realm of the even more obvious, the same types of coaches who turned the Browns down a year ago – likely for the reasons outlined above – will be offered the most untenable coaching job in football.
Or, what exactly is appealing to a prospective coach about the following?
1. A half-baked roster that has no identity and more importantly, no viable quarterback.
2. A locker room with a thin variety of veterans – most of whom have already pronounced disappointment in the front office.
3. A team that is built to play a specific style of offense and defense.
4. An overwhelmed front office that has already proven it will cut the legs off their handpicked coach to save their own jobs.
5. An owner whose financial and legal fate is far from secure.
Not to mention that any new Browns’ coach will face an extraordinary mandate to achieve stunning success in 2014 – something that has eluded the franchise for nearly 30 years.
With all of these qualifiers in place, it’s only natural to hear Josh McDaniels’ name bandied about. Given what the job now entails, the best candidates the Browns can summon will be either retreads or coaches wanting to make a quick payday. Somewhat similar to how Chudzinski was the third or fourth best choice a year ago, the newest Browns’ Head Coach will be exactly no one’s top choice.
Yet, the irony is that Chudzinski was the ideal candidate to inherit such dysfunction. No one other than a North Eastern Ohio native would have viewed the Browns’ Head Coach job as a desired opportunity. To other coaches, the Browns were either used as a platform to a better job or leverage against another team. The masterful way Chip Kelly used the Browns for leverage will certainly be repeated by a new coaching candidate in the coming weeks.
To think that someone would actively want to coach in Cleveland is a remarkable realization. Given the entrenched dysfunction and impossibility of achieving success, it’s amazing that the front office even found someone like Chudzinski.
Yet, the thing is Chudzinski wasn’t that great of a coach.