2014 and the beginning of the Cleveland Browns’ Offseason:
Just under a week since the NFL regular season concluded, and there are many topics to discuss with the Cleveland Browns. Thankfully many deal with more on the field aspects (as opposed to FBI raids, player suspensions, etc.) and the changes that accompany them. Let’s review what happened and where the franchise goes from here.
The firing of Rob Chudzinski: The regular season was only a couple hours old when the Browns released a statement that the head coach would not be returning to the team in 2014. Many (I, for one) was rather surprised and caught off-guard by this news as the coach only received sixteen games to prove himself. (This is the quickest firing of a head coach in franchise history.) It’s rather obvious that I believe Chud got the short end of the stick as the leader of the Browns – for a few reasons.
First, he was not given a tremendous chance to succeed this year. This relates to the trading of the assumed franchise running back and not replacing him with a solid option. Additionally, the team’s quarterback situation was dire – before and after injuries. Brian Hoyer looked promising until an ACL injury ended his season, and Jason Campbell was mediocre and also missed time with a concussion. That leaves Brandon Weeden, who never appeared confident this entire season. He made countless mistakes and never took command of the huddle.
Second, several athletes on the team seemed to like Chud and were unhappy he was let go. This includes veterans D’Qwell Jackson and Joe Thomas. The former was shocked and could not believe that he was not given ample time to turn it around. Thomas felt the Browns will have trouble getting out of this funk if they keep firing staff members so often. From a fan’s perspective, it’s extremely hard to disagree with the duo.
Management’s Point of View: Despite these facts, Joe Banner and Jimmy Haslam determined a change needed to occur immediately. The realized that Chud was not the right guy for the team and quickly admitted their error from a year ago. I believe they had a few justifiable reasons in this difficult decision.
The attitude in the locker room got worse as the season wore on. Even when it was evident that the postseason was not in the cards for the team, the players did not go “all out” for their coach. Take a look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Jacksonville Jaguars; all started horribly (a worse record than the Browns) but managed to have much improved second halves of the season. A loss can be tough for an organization, but the coach must make sure to wipe the slate clean and get the team ready for the next contest. One thing that Jason Campbell admitted was his lack of focus after the crushing loss to the Patriots. Winners never let this happen and Chud was held accountable.
Secondly, there is a chance that the front office has another guy in mind whom they want to hire. By opening up the position, the Browns will not have to settle for the coach that they did not necessarily deem as their top choice a year ago. I understand this is speculative, but already having the wheels in motion behind the scenes could ease the transition along. Rumors that Chud undermined management definitely did not help things either – whether it was not releasing a certain player or two (asked by the front office) or alleged spats with his assistants. However it played out, the Browns are now looking for another leader on the sidelines, albeit with some media scrutiny.
The Next Coach: It’s extremely early to guess who the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns will be. Several guys have/are/will interview for the position but one will ultimately get the gig. I will analyze this decision down the road, but for the time being – this remains a question mark.
Quarterbacks of the Future: Over the next few weeks, I’ll take a look at eight signal callers – reviewing their 2013 season and Bowl performance. I omitted a few injured athletes like Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger; they will get opportunities to shine after rehabbing, however. Not all will declare themselves eligible for the NFL Draft, but it will be good to learn more about the guys who could be donning the orange and brown in the near future.