SBD/December 30, 2013/Franchises

Browns Fire Coach Chudzinski After One Season, Continuing Franchise's Turnover Trend

Chudzinski has three years left on a four-year contract worth more than $3M annually
The Browns on Sunday night fired coach Rob Chudzinski after one season, citing a "concerning step backward in the second half of the year," according to Mark Kay Cabot of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. The announcement came "about five hours after the Browns closed their season at 4-12 with a 20-7 loss" to the Steelers, the Browns' seventh straight loss and tenth in 11 games. A source said that the firing came "after a lengthy meeting" among Chudzinski, Browns CEO Joe Banner and Owner Jimmy Haslam III "in which Chudzinski had an opportunity to plead his case." A source said that the Browns "regretted having to fire Chudzinski after one year, but that they saw the team regressing and felt it was time to cut their losses" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 12/30).

SUDDEN MOVE: In Akron, Nate Ulrich writes fans "should know to expect the unexpected with the Browns, especially" with Haslam and Banner in charge. The "only thing the new regime could’ve done to blindside the public more severely than trading" RB Trent Richardson to the Colts in September "was to hand Chudzinski a pink slip less than a year after hiring him." Chudzinski "has three years left on a four-year contract worth slightly more than" $3M a year. Browns LT Joe Thomas after Sunday's game said, "You look at the great franchises. They don't fire your coach after the first season. You can't do it. ... It sets everything back. You just hit the reset button. Anytime you hit the reset button, it severely damages the organization" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 12/30). NFL.com's Marc Sessler wrote the firing was "a move nobody saw coming as recently as a few days ago, when it was assumed that Chudzinski was part of a front-office plan to restore a sense of continuity to a franchise that has chewed through coaches like cotton candy since returning to the league" in '99 (NFL.com, 12/29).

BAD SIGN? In Akron, Marla Ridenour writes the Browns' move "illustrated the height of their arrogance, the cartoonish level of their dysfunction." The Browns "actually believe there’s a future NFL coaching star out there who wants to work with an owner under federal investigation" and a CEO in Banner and GM in Mike Lombardi "who have yet to prove they know anything about talent evaluation." The firing showed Haslam "learned nothing from his days as minority owner of the Steelers, who pride themselves on continuity." Ridenour: "If Paul Brown were alive, he’d want his name removed from the team he founded." If Haslam "thinks he sent a message of accountability by firing Chudzinski, it’s coming with a side dish of hypocrisy." Chudzinski "received no support when it came to personnel moves and no patience from his bosses." Haslam, Banner and Lombardi "believe they can do better." The "only hope of that would be to make the next coach a quasi-GM, power that Banner and Lombardi would never cede" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 12/30).

ONLY CONSTANT IS CHANGE: In Cleveland, Tom Reed wrote few NFL franchises "have shown greater instability than the Browns in recent years." Chudzinski was the team's fourth coach in the last six years, and only the Raiders and Chiefs "have gone through as many coaches in that span without an interim in the mix." Chudzinski "becomes the sixth NFL coach fired after only one season" since '07. A seven-game losing streak "tested the patience of the organization’s decision makers." Haslam’s legal issues with Pilot Flying J "only add to the uncertainty surrounding the organization." The team recorded its seventh 12-loss season since '99 and has had "20 starting quarterbacks in the past 14 seasons." Reed: "The revolving door in Berea keeps spinning" (CLEVELAND.com, 12/29).

WHO'S NEXT? ESPN.com's Pat McManamon wrote the Browns "just blamed the band for the fact that the Titanic sank." McManamon: "Good luck to whoever is next, because you’re walking into a losing environment and losing culture, and you won’t have a say in how things go." That is "where the Browns are right now." Many in the NFL "are not chuckling at a team that has perfected the term 'dysfunction' in so many ways and from so many people." While teams like the Steelers "hire a guy and stand by him in down times and share responsibility as an organization," the Browns franchise "jettisons that type of coach with kind words and a big check." A new Browns coach "will walk into this system: Joe Banner guides football." There is "no sense kidding about it; he makes final decisions on personnel." Lombardi "assesses personnel, and the coach has input," but Banner "makes the decisions" (ESPN.com, 12/29). In Cleveland, Terry Pluto writes, "Let's hope the Browns have a firm plan in mind." The team "better have a good idea for a better candidate" than Chudzinski, "not another career assistant who has not been a head coach before" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 12/30).
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