We begin our story, Sunday, with a defeat of the Browns by Pittsburgh. Bothersome, but not surprising. Pittsburgh was playing for the playoffs — the Browns were playing for nothing. Or were they? (Spoiler alert: They were.) Am I saying that if they beat Pittsburgh, Chud doesn’t get fired? Yes. Yes I am. But, this level of stupidity deserves more analysis. Here’s Terry Pluto.
I do know that Chud looked pretty good when he had a respectable quarterback in Brian Hoyer.
That’s right, Internet — you just saw “respectable quarterback” and “Brian Hoyer” in the same sentence. CLEVELAND! Terry Pluto, quite rightly, says this is a matter of the front office not knowing what it wanted. I still think they don’t know what they want, but at least they are categorically convinced it isn’t Chud. Maybe. However, this is the Browns. There can’t be just the one reason (the front office fucked up). What do you have to say, Tony Grossi?
The coaches became unsatisfied with the front office’s response to holes in the roster. For example, management wanted to blend in more younger players and expected the coaches to get them up to speed. When the toll of additional injuries taxed the roster, Chudzinski was expected to win with a threadbare roster. [...]
At one point, Chudzinski was urged by Banner to “shake up” the locker room by cutting wide receiver Greg Little or guard Shawn Lauvao. Chudzinski declined, and that was interpreted as Chudzinski not holding players accountable for their failings.
In recent weeks, a disagreement arose about a future role for receivers coach Scott Turner, the son of coordinator Norv Turner. Chudzinski, a source said, wanted to switch Turner to running backs coach. Norv Turner objected and the brushfire became another strike against Chudzinski.
I have to put the blame squarely on Chud here. When he was hired, it was clear that he was just expected to be the Xs and Os guy. And, to be fair, the team sucked. Since we had more Pro Bowlers (5) than wins (4), obviously the front office did a great job, so it must be that the coach sucked. Fire his ass!
Bill Livingston, Old Coot, tried to work in a Ghostbusters reference that, really, really didn’t work. The column’s kind of rambling, but that’s the big take away I got.
Mary Kay Cabot had the analysis of the press conference with Haslett and Banner.
[Haslett] noted that it was an “expensive move” to fire Chudzinski, who’s still owed $10.5 million.
“We’re not only just saying it, we’re talking with our pocketbook here,” he said. “So these are not cheap moves to make, and I’m not saying that should be the guiding factor, but we’re doing everything we can to get this right.”
Excuse me while I shed a single tear of sympathy for you having to pay for your own incompetence. Okay, I’m done. So, in the immortal words of pro wrestling’s Goldberg: “Who’s next?”
Mike Tanier, Sports on Earth:
What Went Wrong With the Last Guy: Rob Chudzinski could not win with Jason Campbell at quarterback and guys like Fozzy Whittaker at running back. In other words, he was neither Vince Lombardi nor Alexander the Great.
Boss Rating: D. From the Trent Richardson trade to Brian Hoyer’s depth chart leapfrog to the Chud firing, Mike Lombardi (no relation) and Joe Banner have established themselves as impatient hands-on executives trying to win back-to-back Super Bowls in early October. At times, it appears that Lombardi acts quickly so he can beat Banner to a decision, or perhaps it’s vice versa. The Browns may be Lombardi’s team, they may be Banner’s, the execs may duke it out in the parking lot, or the IRS may confiscate the whole shebang if owner Jimmy Haslam’s diesel receipts don’t add up. But they will never be the head coach’s team, unless he wades into the Game of Thrones.
Quarterback Situation: C-minus. The Browns have two first-round picks and Brian Hoyer, a steady young journeyman with a little upside who is also Lombardi’s pet project. The franchise has 14 years of experience making dismal quarterback controversies out of first-round picks and pet-project journeymen.
Building Blocks: B. Two first round picks, the best deep threat receiver in the NFL in Josh Gordon, and Jordan Cameron, a cross between Antonio Gates and Jason Witten at tight end.
Young Talent: B-minus. There’s a sprinkle of young stars and solid prospects around the roster, from Gordon and Cameron to Joe Haden. Mitchell Schwartz, Phil Taylor and Barkevious Mingo. There are also glaring deficiencies, starting with an entire backfield in need of replacement.
Salary Cap Situation: A-minus. The Browns will eat $6 million of Trent Richardson’s dead money next year, but should clear the cap by at least $25 million, giving them wiggle room to extend Gordon and/or Cameron, pursue a free agent or two, or cut bait on Brandon Weeden without choking on the cap hit.
Free Agent Issues: B-plus. Center Alex Mack and safety T.J. Ward are the biggest names; Mack will likely be prioritized. The Browns have the space to play ball with any lower-tier free agents they like.
Quick Turnaround Potential: C-plus. Enough rebuilding took place in 2013 to allow two top rookies and an upgraded quarterback situation to make a difference, but the AFC North schedule remains an endurance marathon against three challenging opponents.
Overall Desirability: C-minus. The next Browns coach is the fifth in seven years, and he walks into a power struggle above him which is likely to undermine the roster below him. Cap money and draft picks are nice, but there is little evidence that the next coach will have any say in how they are used.
Terry Pluto says much the same, but with less snark, here.
At the end of the day, this is nothing less than a catastrophic failure. I don’t care what Haslett and Banner say — it began and ended with Chud wanting some control over the roster. Banner and Haslett wanted the football equivalent of Joe Torre — do what you’re told and shut up. Of course, Joe Torre had a great roster, and being a baseball manager is more about dealing with personalities.
I wish you all the best, Chud, if you’re reading this blog (and I know you aren’t.) To the Browns front office: You handled this better than Dan Snyder did with Mike Shanahan. That is the nicest thing I can say.