As Mike Florio reported following the Browns final loss of the season, Rob Chudzinski is set to meet with the Cleveland Browns brass Monday morning and many signs are pointing to a coaching change on the horizon. ESPN's Chris Mortensen is reporting that Chud will, in fact, be fired and that the Browns will be looking for yet another head coach only one year after hiring one.
Chudzinski wasn't the Browns first choice for head coach. He wasn't even their second, third or fourth choice. Chud, the fifth person interviewed for the Cleveland head coaching vacancy, was considered by many a relative long shot to land a head coaching job coming into this season. His success in Carolina notwithstanding, there were many qualified former head coaches available as well as multiple coordinators with equal recent success and longer resumes.
Cleveland has had a rough year, to say the least. After staring the season 3-2, the Browns offense lost its wheels and the team lost 10 of their next 11 games. The coaching staff has made highly questionable calls throughout the season on both sides of the ball.
The quarterback situation has been an absolute mess since the offseason and the only quarterback to win more than one game, journeyman quarterback Brian Hoyer, ended up on the Injured Reserve after Week 5. No quarterbacks on Cleveland roster finished the season with a rating higher than 60.0. The inefficiency from the quarterback position was an Achilles heel all season, stalling drives and squandering good field position.
You can't blame Chudzinski for the poor quarterback performance, however. Chudzinski had to choose between a 29 year old journeyman quarterback, a 30 year old second-year player, or a 31 year old backup quarterback with questionable decision making skills. Add to that the Week 3 trade of Trent Richardson and it's fair to say that Chud wasn't put in the best situation to succeed. That's no excuse, however. As an NFL Head Coach, your job is to win and that's it.
It's not like the Browns don't have talent. Cleveland had five players voted to the 2013 Pro Bowl, four of which being offensive players. Left tackle Joe Thomas, center Alex Mack, wide receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron have had very solid seasons and are among the best in the league in their respective positions. Gordon finished the season as the league's number-one receiver, recording 1,564 yards and 9 touchdowns. Cameron had a breakout year, finishing with 1,107 yards and 8 touchdowns. The Browns have a solid foundation to build on offensively but, as this season has shown, are a franchise quarterback away from being a playoff contender.
When it comes down to it, Chud failed to win games. Cleveland finished the season in a tail spin and they lost three times as many games as they won. It's believable that Chud lost the locker room, with players calling him a "douche" and a "joke" via text after the Week 17 loss to the Steelers. Being a hometown boy and lifelong Browns fan only goes so far, at the end of the day the NFL is about wins.
Those familiar with Occam's razor will understand the thinking behind this decision. With all variables the same, the simplest solution is often the correct one. The Browns had equally as many wins in Chud's first season as they did in Shumur's first season, with less talent on the field as well as less talent in their coordinators.
Of course, there's an infinite amount of variables to be calculated when judging a head coach's impact.
Sources claim that Browns CEO Joe Banner is unhappy with Chudzinski's ability (or lack thereof) to make big-time decisions as well as his inability to hold players accountable. It would seem that Banner is prepared to rectify that, holding Chud accountable and firing the first-time head coach only one year into his contract. The rumors are circulating that New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could be in line to be the next Cleveland Browns head coach. Browns GM Mike Lombardi, a Belichick disciple, is close with the former Broncos head coach and believes he can be a viable NFL Head Coach. Other names include current Detroit Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz and current Penn State Head Coach Bill O'Brien. Whoever it is, they'll apparently have a short leash.