Browns add to Confusion as 2013 Comes to a Close

When Joe Banner and company traded Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts, the majority of the Cleveland Browns’ fan base plunged into a full fledged meltdown. It wasn’t until everyone was able to catch their collective breath that it became pretty clear that the new front office may have pulled off a virtual heist of a first round pick. Richardson has done everything but blossom into a superstar in Indianapolis, and having multiple first round picks is an undeniable advantage for a rebuilding roster. The Browns’ brass that had been doubted by most from the outset of their tenure did something that nobody saw coming, but it made sense. Some amount of faith had been either earned or restored, depending on your opinion of Banner and Mike Lombardi when they were hired.

Then came yesterday, when the Browns rocked the world of basically everybody by firing Rob Chudzinski, a coach that players and fans alike seemed to like and respect. He’s “one of us”, and he never had a fighting chance. Neither did his two coordinators, who will likely now be gone as well. Maybe that is the bigger shame in all of this.

Sure, the season ended horribly. There were heartbreaking losses that seemed to only be explicable using the infamous utterance, “Only in Cleveland”. This season was ridden with the typical factors often associated with losing, the main one being Brian Hoyer’s ACL tear. It’s already been said over and over again, but it’s likely that Chudzinski is still the coach of the Browns if it weren’t for that unfortunate injury.

Hoyer’s injury changed the entire course of the season. It gave way to the offense being handed back to Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell, who were known quantities at the quarterback position. Hoyer was the only signal caller on the roster who had yet to get his shot to prove himself, and it looked like he was in the process of doing just that. It remains remarkable just how well the Browns’ offense operated with Hoyer under center, and it’s a shame that we may never see it again. The obvious disclaimer here is that quarterbacks aren’t the only players that win games, but it’s fairly ridiculous to argue against Hoyer’s perfect record as a starter with a team that couldn’t win with Weeden or Campbell under center.

Chudzinski’s ability to engineer an effective scheme with Hoyer as the quarterback and essentially no proven running back should have been reason enough to at least see what he could do in a second season. Norv Turner obviously deserves credit here as well, as he is a well known offensive guru in his own right. With the decision that was handed down officially today, neither of them will get a chance to continue that growth.

Seven-time Pro Bowler Joe Thomas said yesterday that it would be “devastating” to start over again, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of what has just transpired in Berea. The Akron Beacon Journal’s Marla Ridenour wrote perhaps the best take on the situation yesterday evening, and you can read the whole thing here.

Today’s press conference announcing Chudzinski’s firing was awkward (a euphemism), and provided no solid answers other than the fact that Banner and owner Jimmy Haslam realized that this season was a failure. Perhaps they were the biggest failures of all in their first season at the helm, but they are the lucky ones who will get another shot. Waiting for Next Year’s Craig Lyndall has an excellent analysis of the afternoon in Berea.

Speaking of the afternoon in Berea, it provided 5 milliseconds of fame for Believing Since 1999 after the photo at the top of this article was picked up all over the internet. You can see it here on Deadspin, Bleacher Report, Kissing Suzy Kolber, and SB Nation. It’s a good thing that I happened to be in Berea for lunch and had extra time to swing by the headquarters. It’s also a good thing that there happened to be a guy sitting outside with a bag on his head. All of this was thanks in large part to a friend of the blog, Josh Poloha, who passed the photo along to his much larger group of followers. He writes a blog of his own that provides some thorough day-to-day coverage of Cleveland and Ohio State sports, and you can check it out here.

The Browns are apparently wasting no time in starting up their coaching search, and you can see all of their early candidates here. Josh McDaniels came to mind immediately, and he is apparently one of the guys that the Browns are going to be in touch with in the coming days and weeks. We’ll speculate more as the week continues.

We’re a day closer to Indians baseball than we were yesterday, which is positive. The Cavs still could do something good this season, it’s just that nobody really knows how that’s going to happen yet. We’ll stay tuned.

Finally, have a happy New Year’s Eve tomorrow. If you are going to be in Cleveland, you may want to head downtown to be a part of what the folks at Ohio Homecoming have put together on Public Square. All I know is that if Krewella and Drew Carey are going to be there, everyone who’s anyone should be there.

Just remember that tomorrow won’t be today, and that it will include champagne, crystal balls falling from the sky and Ryan Seacrest on TV.

In other words, it should be pretty good.


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