Written by Daryl Ruiter- @RuiterWrongFan)
BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam detests losing.
Haslam showed once again winning is the only thing that matters by firing Rob Chudzinski Sunday night after 1 season.
Haslam also admitted that he and CEO Joe Banner made a colossal mistake and miscalculation by hiring Chudzinski in the first place in January.
After finishing 4-12, the Cleveland Browns have a help wanted ad for a head coach for the seventh time since 1999, and the second in as many years under Haslam’s ownership.
Former majority owner Randy Lerner won’t be picking up the tab on the final 3 years of Chudzinski’s contract this time.
Not wanting to drag his fate out overnight into Monday morning after being peppered with questions about his future, Chudzinski asked that the meeting with Haslam and Banner happen when he and the team returned from Pittsburgh.
He got his wish. And then his walking papers.
Chudzinski was out of the building within 2 hours of getting off the team bus from the Browns’ 20-7 loss to the Steelers.
Despite having 5 Pro Bowlers on the roster, maybe a sixth, Chudzinski won 1 fewer game than Pat Shurmur, who was fired despite finishing 3-3 over the final 6 games of 2012.
The team statement said it all about the decision which shocked players, media and fans.
“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.”
In Pittsburgh players unanimously supported Chudzinski and were angry about reports that their coach was about to be fired.
One could reasonably argue their true love for Chudzinski didn’t show the last 2 months of the season that saw the Browns lose 7 straight – a franchise record to end a season – after climbing to 4-5 and back into the playoff picture, albeit briefly.
Blown fourth quarter leads – 3 in December alone – plus end of half implosions and fundamental breakdowns led to the Browns losing 10 of their last 11 following a 3-2 start.
Armed with assets and improved talent, Haslam and Banner did not feel a worst to first turnaround would take place under Chudzinski in 2014 and so they cut their losses.
And put themselves front and center on the hot seat.
As has been the case with a few other regimes – namely the Phil Savage, Romeo Crennel marriage, which ended in 2008, philosophical conflicts when it came to personnel began to surface between Chudzinski, his staff and the front office – namely general manager Michael Lombardi.
Lombardi did Chudzinski no favors by punting during the 2013 Draft, angling for 2014 instead. Although it turned out to be a brilliant move, dealing Trent Richardson after 2 games sent a poor message to the locker room.
Injuries, including at quarterback also helped sink the ship but in Haslam and banner’s eyes, those were mere excuses.
They see the other first-year successes around the league – only the Jacksonville Jaguars equaled the Browns inability to win by also finishing 4-12.
Chip Kelley, whom Haslam and Banner swung and whiffed badly on trying to hire before settling on Chudzinski, turned around a 4-12 Eagles team to 10-6 NFC East champion.
Andy Reid, fired by the Eagles, flipped the 2-14 Chiefs into an 11-5 playoff team.
Although they got left out of the playoffs, Bruce Arians led the Cardinals to a 10-6 record after a 5-11 2012.
Marc Trestman went 8-8 in Chicago, but it should be noted that the Bears were 10-6 in Lovie Smith’s final season.
And San Diego fired Norv Turner, who landed in Cleveland as the Browns offensive coordinator after a 7-9 season, and the Chargers secured the second AFC Wild Card Sunday night with a 9-7 record.
For the Browns’ brass it came down to cold hard math.
Haslam and Banner better get it right a second time because they won’t get a third chance to sell fans the same bill of goods they’ve had shoved down their throats for 15 years.
At some point, as the losses and severance checks to former coaches continue to pile up, the paying customers are going to say enough is enough and just walk away.
And who in their right mind could blame them?