October 23, 2014

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(Updated) Browns owner, CEO defend decision to fire Chudzinski, vow to get it right in 2nd try

Cleveland Browns CEO Joe Banner answers questions during a news conference at the Browns' training facility Monday. Owner Jimmy Haslam, right, listens. Head coach Rob Chudzinski was fired Sunday. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Cleveland Browns CEO Joe Banner answers questions during a news conference at the Browns’ training facility Monday. Owner Jimmy Haslam, right, listens. Head coach Rob Chudzinski was fired Sunday. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

BEREA — Jimmy Haslam has owned the Browns for a little more than a year and is already conducting his second coaching search. That happens when you fire two coaches in your first 15 months on the job.

Haslam sat in the same seat Monday as he did 364 days earlier and said many of the same things. The names had changed, this orange tie had stripes and a Browns helmet pin had been added to the lapel of his dark suit.

“There’s nothing — and y’all have every right to write it — that galls me more than to read on Monday mornings ‘same old Browns.’ It’s our single mission to change that,” Haslam said during a 30-minute news conference hours after firing Rob Chudzinski and nearly a year after canning Pat Shurmur. “We deserve the skepticism, we accept it. We have to prove to you all we’ll get the right guy.”

The significant difference from a year ago was that Haslam and CEO Joe Banner inherited Shurmur. They hired Chudzinski and believed he was the right guy to lead the turnaround.

After a 4-12 season and a seven-game losing streak to end the year, Haslam and Banner admitted they made a mistake in giving Chudzinski his first head coaching job. Actually, they made the decision Saturday before the finale in Pittsburgh after a week of discussion.

“As unpopular and undesirable for us to be sitting here right now and acknowledging that we didn’t get it right, the fact that we’re making this change makes a statement that we’re not going to accept not being really successful, and I think that whether you agree with the decision or not, that that’s an important message for our fans to hear,” Banner said. “We’re going to demand of everybody, including especially and starting with ourselves, that we be successful and if we’re not, we’re going to do what we need to do to get there.”

The search for a replacement began immediately as the Browns requested permission to interview several assistant coaches around the league. Haslam wouldn’t put a timeframe on the length of the search.

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, a Canton native, is an early front-runner. The Browns want to interview him this weekend during New England’s bye week. They also requested permission to interview Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

Banner said they hadn’t decided if they’d interview a member of Chudzinski’s staff — defensive coordinator Ray Horton interviewed last year — and didn’t think they’d interview any of the same outside candidates from a year ago. That would eliminate Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

“We want an individual who’s a strong winner who knows how to win football games,” Haslam said.

The firing shocked Chudzinski, the players and the fans. After all, just a year earlier Haslam and Banner had preached the value of stability.

Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski stands on the sidelines against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski stands on the sidelines against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

“We understand the importance of continuity,” said Haslam, who reminded those listening of the “track record” of Banner and himself in sticking with personnel decisions. “But I think it’s really important for you to hear this, we also understand the importance of getting it right.”

According to Haslam and Banner, the reason for the firing was simple: The team regressed as the season progressed. Banner praised Chudzinski when he was 4-5 at the bye, but the Browns didn’t win again.

“We had a young team, but if we reflect on it we would all say a young team should get better and we simply didn’t feel like that was happening,” Haslam said.

Banner compared Chudzinski unfavorably with first-year coaches in the league this season and in the past. Haslam referred to his preseason comments that he expected improvement throughout the year.

“We felt the trajectory was actually moving downward,” said Banner, who defended the front office’s questionable roster moves and talent evaluation. “We felt that the answer was more than time and that led us to conclude we needed to make this change.”

The Browns haven’t won a playoff game since 1994, before they moved. They’ve had only two winning seasons since the return in 1999 and have lost at least 10 games 12 times in 15 years.

Chudzinski was supposed to stop that cycle. He grew up a Browns fan in Toledo and had his dream job.

“I was shocked and disappointed to hear the news that I was fired,” Chudzinski said in a statement released by the team. “I am a Cleveland Brown to the core, and always will be. It was an honor to lead our players and coaches, and I appreciate their dedication and sacrifice.

“I was more excited than ever for this team, as I know we were building a great foundation for future success. While clearly I would have liked to see the long-term vision through to the end, I am very grateful to Jimmy Haslam and the Haslam family for letting me live my dream.”

Chudzinski was fired Sunday night after the bus ride home from Pittsburgh. He met with the players Monday and receiver Josh Gordon described him as emotional but professional.

“I can’t say what’s fair, what’s not fair,” Gordon said. “It’s the business of the league.

“But I figured any coach in the NFL would get at least two (years). I didn’t even know that was possible.”

Chudzinski was the first coach in franchise history to be fired after one season. The next Browns coach will be the seventh since 1999. The Browns have fired four coaches since the end of the 2008 season, while the rest of the AFC North hasn’t made a move.

Chudzinski has three years left on a four-year deal and is owed $10.5 million. Shurmur has another year left on his four-year deal.

“These are expensive moves, OK?” Haslam said. “And so we’re not only just saying it, we’re talking with our pocketbook here. We’re doing everything we can to get this right.”

Haslam insisted the Browns job remains an attractive one, despite firing the last coach after only a year. He cited the 10 draft picks coming in May – two each in the first, third and fourth rounds – and tens of millions in salary cap space.

“I have no idea whether we’ll interview three people or 10 people, and they are intense sessions with these individuals,” Haslam said. “I feel confident that we’re going to be able to convince people that this is not a good but a great place to coach where they’ll have great support and everything they need to be successful. We’ll know a year from now or two years from now or maybe six months from now if we’re successful with that. But we feel confident we can do it.”

Haslam said he and Banner fully realize the stakes have been raised as they head into another offseason of uncertainty.

“You all have heard this way more times than I have because most of you have been around here a lot longer,” he said. “This is THE crucial offseason for the Cleveland Browns. Joe and I accept that, we accept the responsibility. We understand how important it is.”

Follow Scott on Twitter @scottpetrak for updates.


  • stiltz

    You did what you could! Appreciated the 4 & 1 calls…..those were exciting.
    You were to easy on soon to be has-been Haslam.

  • danofamherst

    I agree being a Brown’s fan to the core and having the
    desire to be the coach are two of the major factors in being an effective
    coach, then coupled with one of the best supporting fan bases such as
    Cleveland, should provide for a successful football record. Unfortunately, the players who are upset
    about Chudzinski being fired didn’t come through as a cohesive group nor did
    the defensive coach and his players.
    Those two shortcomings are examples of the coach’s inability to observe
    weaknesses and to motivate through them.

  • stop ur whining

    Banner and Lombardi are 100% a joke. This season could have gone better certainly but you have a QB issue since ’99 that has yet to be addressed. Blaming Chud is nothing more than a cop out. There is little to no talent on that roster and everyone, management included knew that this was going to be a building year. Embarrassing that Haslam let the real losers (Banner & Lombardi) off the hook. Now we are going to pick McDaniels because that is Lombardi’s boy and we begin the rebuild all over with yet another HC from the Bellicheck tree that has failed to ever bear fruit.

    Dear Browns,

    I officially resign as a life long Browns fan. From now on i root for whomever plays the Browns.

  • Jennifer Williams

    Stick with a coach for more then a year and maybe there will be a difference. The coach had no support Haslam and Banner are jokes!

    • stilitz

      Agree big time Jennifer…..why should we suppport them when they (owner & the back room chair sitters) don’t know the meaning of support? Watch what happens when they recruit the next HC……the dollar to get the next HC will be greatly weighted in that person’s favor! Why would any prospective coach want to “risk” his reputation on Cleveland….for the right buck it’ll bring anyone. Haslam – Make a gut call, surprise eveyone……re-hire Rob – and make it mandatory for Lombardi to be at the meetings/press meetings, get him involvred in the front lines….or better yet – get rid of Lombardi…..my gut says he had this as a scheem from the start to get who he wanted here……Rob was a “skate goat” fir that to take place. Oh yeah, can’t wait to see what our score board looks like! That’s going to be our most exciting moment in our town! JOKE – JOKE – JOKE !

  • tickmeoff

    We were all upset when Richardson got traded, and now it looks as if it was a good decision. Losing seven games in a row! I would be expecting to get fired.

  • Michael

    Haslam might be a good business man, but he is not a good team owner. “We promise to get it right next time”. Chud stepped into a donkey dung mess and had the existing team to work with. Nothing changed – oh, wait, they gave up Richardson, whom was a good thing for the team, and then they fire him after 1 season?

    Word to the next candidates – the Browns, well, they pretty much stink. The odds of turning them around are not in your favor, miracles not pending. Don’t purchase a home the first year, as you most likely won’t be here for the second.

    The Browns legacy – which is not a good one, just continues on and on.