The Browns didn't even wait for Black Monday to fire their coach, announcing yesterday that Rob Chudzinski will be out after one season at the helm.
Chudzinski went 4-12 in his one season in Cleveland and was doomed by the team's second half swoon. After showing some promise with former Patriots backup QB Brian Hoyer under center, the Browns closed the season by losing 10 of their last 11 games.
The Browns released the following statement to the press today:
"We appreciate Chud's passion for the Browns, and we have great respect for him both personally and professionally. 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.Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and former offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien are reported to be two of the leading candidates to replace Chudzinski. The Browns wanted to interview McDaniels for the job last year, but the Ohio native wasn't ready to leave New England a second time.
Our fans deserve to see a consistently competitive team. We have high standards, and there's an urgency for success. When we believed we were not positioned to achieve significant progress in 2014, we knew we had to admit that a change was needed, and move forward.
Browns fans are the most loyal and passionate supporters in the NFL. We're fully committed to bringing them the winning football team they deserve."
According to cleveland.com, a source told them last year that McDaniels "would jump at the chance" to coach his hometown Browns when he feels he is ready to give head coaching another shot. Remember, McDaniels left the Patriots in 2009 to become the head coach of the Broncos, but was fired after following up a six game winning streak to begin his tenure with a dreadful 5-17 stretch. McDaniels also drafted Tim Tebow IN THE FIRST ROUND, which is certainly a black mark on his resume.
As for O'Brien, he interviewed for the Browns vacancy last year but ultimately decided to return to Penn State. His buyout price has been lowered from $19.33 million to $6.48 million since, making him a more palatable option, but O'Brien is already heavily rumored to be the front runner to take over in Houston, who certainly have a more enticing roster than Cleveland.
It shouldn't be surprising that the Browns have their eyes on two candidates with Patriots ties. Browns GM Mike Lombardi has ties to Bill Belichick dating back to Belichick's days in Cleveland, where Lombardi was Belichick's director of Player Personnel.
Whoever takes the job, they'll inherit a locker room that is incensed at Chudzinski's firing. Several Browns players, including veteran leaders like D'Qwell Jackson and Joe Thomas, have spoken up since the news broke in defense of their former coach.
"That’s ridiculous,'' said Jackson. "He’s a great head coach and that’s all I gotta say about that…. That pisses me off in a sense. That’s not going to happen. I don’t know how a report would get out like that about Chud. Chud’s a great coach. He’s had our attention from Day 1. We have great coaches that are coaching us up."
Joe Thomas noted how constant turnover has set the franchise back in his time there. Chudzinski becomes the fourth Browns coach to be fired in the past six years.
"To start over again, it would be devastating. It sets everything back. You just hit the reset button. Anytime you hit the reset button, it severely damages the organization, and it lengthens the amount of time that it takes to get back to the playoffs and turn the team into a consistent winner.”
Will the allure of coaching his hometown team be enough to tear McDaniels away from his cushy coordinator job in New England? Stay tuned.