It's OK, Green Bay—He's Back

rob-chudzinksi-800
(Tony Dejak/AP)

What in tarnation are the Browns doing?

A little more than a year ago, when Jimmy Haslam bought the Browns from Randy Lerner, the most sensible thing he said concerned the coaching merry-go-round the team had been on. Haslam was a minority owner of the Steelers when he bought the Browns, and stability, obviously, was the Pittsburgh way of doing business. As he told me of the Browns: “They’ve averaged a new coach once every 2.8 years [since the franchise returned to Cleveland in 1999], and that’s just not a good recipe.” He was right. Excluding interim coach Terry Robiskie in 2004, Cleveland had five head coaches in the 14 seasons between 1999 and 2012, and that’s 2.8 seasons per coach.

More Haslam, from October 2012: “One thing I learned from watching the Steelers is the importance of consistency in coaching, and how much it sets you back when you’re always making a change. When you change coaches, it can be a three- or four-year deal to get back.”

That brings us to Rob Chudzinski. The new regime led by Haslam and president Joe Banner went through a battery of interviews, clearly preferring Oregon’s Chip Kelly. But Kelly wasn’t ready to commit, and then he committed to Philadelphia, so the Browns turned to Chudzinski, a Browns fan since his youth in Toledo.

The Browns have battened the hatches this year, preferring all information to come from Chudzinski and Banner. GM Mike Lombardi rarely speaks, on or off the record, and so the news that began to leak Sunday afternoon was stunning: Chudzinski’s job was in danger. Actually, it was more than endangered—the team had decided to fire him Friday, after less than a full year on the job, and tell him Monday. But when speculation following the season-ending 20-7 loss at Pittsburgh ran rampant, the club decided to move up the timetable, telling Chudzinski when he returned on the bus with the team from Pittsburgh Sunday night. By 9:15 p.m., it was done.

“We’ve had some crazy things happen since I’ve been here. … But this one, this tops the list. This is just crazy.” —D’Qwell Jackson

The Browns will meet the press today at 12:30 to explain themselves. I doubt it will go well. And it shouldn’t. If you give a man a four-year contract to coach your team and fire him after 11-and-a-half months, clearly you have either misjudged the man severely, had a shoddy coaching search in the first place or panicked. Or all three.

I expect Cleveland brass will say, politely, that the team simply wasn’t improving. The Browns looked like a strong defensive team in the first month (Cleveland started 3-2) and disintegrated into one that lost 10 of its last 11. The team that spent $40 million to import Paul Kruger in free agency and drafted Barkevious Mingo high in the first round was supposed to use those two as cornerstones of a ferocious pass rush; but Cleveland had only two more sacks this season than in 2012, and Kruger and Mingo combined for only 9.5. If Banner and Haslam tell the truth, maybe they’ll say not everyone is cut out to be an NFL head coach, and maybe Chudzinski was one slot above the job he does best: offensive coordinator.

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And if they kept Chudzinski, they’d be asking him to develop the next quarterback, along with offensive coordinator Norv Turner. What if there was a disconnect between the quarterback the front office wanted (I hear Cleveland really likes Johnny Manziel, who is not the Aikmanish pocket passer more to Turner’s liking) and the one the coaches preferred? If they made a clean break now, they wouldn’t be delaying what they felt was inevitable.

The front office will definitely have to sell the players on the move. Because the players Sunday night were not happy. At all. The ultimate team guys and longest-serving Browns, D’Qwell Jackson and tackle Joe Thomas, were both upset by it.

Jackson told me: “On the bus back to Pittsburgh, [defensive teammate] Jabaal Sheard showed me a text from his agent that said Chud could be fired. I said, ‘No way. No way.’ After the Trent Richardson trade and our quarterback injuries, I thought for sure he’d get a pass. Not one year. Come on. One year? There’s no way. Chud was good for us, good for the team. He came in and did everything right, I thought.

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to trust Banner and company know what they’re doing, and have something planned for us.”

Today, I hope someone asks Haslam about his statement to me 14 months ago. If I can talk to him, I certainly will. And about this: Pittsburgh has had three coaches since 1969. Cleveland will be hiring its 17th coach since 1969 in the coming weeks. Is that any way to run a railroad?

“Three since 1969?” Jackson said. “That’s incredible. Next year will be my ninth season here—and it’ll be my fifth head coach.”

Jackson sighed. “We’ve had some crazy things happen since I’ve been here. This is actually the second time a coach got fired after we bused back from our last game in Pittsburgh. It happened to Romeo Crennel too. But this one, this tops the list. This is just crazy.”

It’s going to be a crazy day in Cleveland. And the craziness isn’t over there.

* * *

Five things all over the map.

1. Miami sounded Sunday night like a place of change. I wouldn’t be surprised to see coaching staff changes, and I’m hearing mixed messages about GM Jeff Ireland. Stay tuned. Owner Stephen Ross seems like he was ready to make some changes when he left the stadium after eight disappointing days for the Dolphins.

2. Be careful about making Josh McDaniels the next coach of the Browns. There is no doubt the Browns will be interested in northeast Ohio native and New England offensive coordinator McDaniels, even after his failed tenure in Denver. But those who know McDaniels tell me he’ll only take a job he’s convinced can be a winner. Right now, the Cleveland job has a moat surrounding it, with alligators swimming in it, so I think Cleveland will be hard-pressed to convince McDaniels it’s a great job for him. Maybe Detroit, if it opens, with a good quarterback who needs to be coached and some very good defensive talent, would be more up McDaniels’ alley. But he’s not the kind of guy itching to be a head coach, I’m told. He’s happy coaching Tom Brady and working under Bill Belichick, I’m told.

3. Once a Eufaulan, always a Eufaulan. As Rams GM Les Snead (a native of Eufaula, Ala.) sat in a Seahawks luxury box Sunday, watching the early games to see where his team would be picking in the May draft, he saw an unknown wideout, Jerrel Jernigan, lead the Giants to a win over Washington … and hand the Rams Washington’s No. 2 overall pick. Jernigan’s a Eufaula kid too, and had six catches for 90 yards and a touchdown, plus a 49-yard touchdown run. “He went to my high school,” said Snead. “He was the quarterback on the team, and I’m watching him, and here he is, helping us get the No. 2 pick.” Snead made it clear that, with the second pick, the Rams are open for business. He’d like to get an extra first-rounder out of the deal if possible, and with a major bargaining chip like Jadeveon Clowney or Teddy Bridgewater (if the Louisville quarterback comes out, as expected) in play, he may be able to reach his goal. “There are going to be some teams that want to pick a quarterback,” said Snead, “and that could increase the value of our pick. I have told people I’m not sure I know how to draft without multiple first-round picks, so I’m always going to be interested when it comes to making sure I can continue to do that.”

4. Fletcher and Gonzalez say goodbye. Any doubt Gonzalez could keep playing? His first year with Atlanta, at age 33, he caught 83 balls for 867 yards and six touchdowns. This year, at 37, he finished with 83 catches for 859 yards and eight touchdowns. He’ll go into the sunset to a TV job. As will Fletcher—or so he hopes. After his final game against the Giants Sunday (and it is final, unless he’s sitting around unemployed next fall and some team calls), Giants tight end coach Mike Pope, who has coached against Fletcher for years, found him on the field and told him, “I appreciate the way you play the game. I’ve been a fan of you for years.” Said Fletcher: “The key to my career was I never got complacent, and I always studied the great ones.” Talk about two players, and two people, who will be missed.

5. Remember this about being the top seed. In the last 19 seasons, only once (2009, New Orleans and Indy) have the two top seeds entering the playoffs advanced to the Super Bowl. In the last generation, home-field advantage has become decreasingly important. My two low seeds to watch this year: No. 5 San Francisco and No. 5 Kansas City.

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556 comments
jordanN
jordanN

"London Fletcher, gone.
He loved the name I gave him.
“The Black Seau.” Thoughts?"

My thought is that it's pretty tacky. Why can't he just be London Fletcher? And why does his race have anything to do with it? 

King seems like he's been slipping in general lately.Maybe this whole MMQB thing is a bit too much.

JasonHorton
JasonHorton

Steelers stole a Super Bowl because of bad officiating. This isn't even close to getting even ... 

LennyHersh
LennyHersh

BALL ON 1 YARD LINE 99 TO G0 FOR TUCHDOWN LINEMAN MOVES BEFORE SNAP. PENALTY HALF THE DISTANCE BALL SOMETIMES MOVED INCHES.WHYNOT MAKE IT 5 YARD NEEDED AT THE END OF STICKS FIRST AND 15 INSTEAD OF FIRST AND 10.

JohnSmith25
JohnSmith25

And, for the record, no 8-8 team should ever get to whine about how they got screwed out of a playoff spot.  If you want to make the playoffs, you can start by having a winning record. 

JohnSmith25
JohnSmith25

Boy, Peter loves whining when an East Cost team like the Steelers doesn't get into the playoffs.   Not losing their season on a formation penalty that had absolutely nothing to do with the outcome of a FG attempt seems like a pretty ticky tack thing to focus on in an epic game the Chargers won last Sunday.  What about Weddle's gutsy fake punt in OT on 4th and 2 from his own 28.  Or the first game with the new overtime format to decide a playoff spot?  Or the Chargers falling behind to the Chiefs backups?  Or them rallying from down 10 in the 4th quarter?  There were so many more interesting things in that game that King could have focused on.  But I get the sense he did not watch the game.  His only interest in the game was that it knocked the Steelers out of the playoffs.  If the Steelers wanted to make the playoffs, they should have finished better than .500.

FredFlintsone
FredFlintsone

Careful with McDaniels. Aside from his own version of video gate he traded up 2  1rst round picks to grab Tebow in 1rst round and wasted boatloads of picks Broncos got for Cutler and Marshall trades. He might be a good offensive coordinator but don't give that guy any say over personnel.

Thomas15
Thomas15

 "3. Denver (13-3). Love this line from Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post midway through the first half at Oakland: “This score just in: Denver 17, Oakland doesn’t care.”


Awwwwww, are you sore abut Peyton Manning DESTROYING tomasina brady's TD record? brady could NEVER go to another team and throw 50 TD's, unless that team hired ERNIE ADAMS to help tommy the FRAUD on new england's patented 2nd frequency not only past the NFL's 15 second limit but probably even past the snap. But you keep telling yourself "every team does it" and bellichek is a genius lol. 

Thomas15
Thomas15

Here's what King's column SHOULD say about the below: 


2. Be careful about making Josh McDaniels the next coach of the Browns. Unlike other Coaching trees, like Andy Reid's or the storied Bill Walsh's, which have known great success, every coach that's ever worked for bill bellichek has been an unmitigated failure outside of new england. eric mangini, charlie weiss, romeo crennell are the most widely known and mcdaniels is perhaps the most infamous, for at least attempting to create his own video surveillance program ala new england's. When you consider that the patriots go 8-0 or 7-1 at Home EVERY YEAR, even in years when they lose a roster full of pro bowlers to injury and replace them with veritable walk-ons; as well as in years when THEY HAVE HAD NEITHER AN OFFENSIVE CO-ORDINATOR AND/OR A DEFENSIVE CO-ORDINTAOR, it might be wise for Owners to ponder just what it is that ERNIE ADAMS has been doing up there in new england these last 13 years, and that maybe, it's only a matter of time before the NFL Universe finds out that "SPYGATE" being labeled "the most overblown scandal in sports history" is almost as successful propaganda as global warming. 




CoreyLivermore
CoreyLivermore

I'm probably being a complete homer here - and if I am, then so be it - but should Aaron Rodgers be in the discussion about MVP this year?


The guy missed 8 games, and the Packers went 2-5-1 in those 8 games.  He comes back, shakes off the rust, and in what has to be one of the most unbelievable final drives this season, he near-wills the team to a win, pushing them into the playoffs.  3 converted 4th downs on that drive.  48 yard TD pass on 4th and 8.  Even after throwing a pair of early picks, he was able to lead them to a victory.


The award is supposed to go to the player who means the most to his team; that one player who makes the entire team around him so much better that without him the results are catastrophic.  I know what Manning means to the Broncos; I'm not delusional, and I know there is no way that team would be that good without him.  Talented, yes.  But not that good.


But we have an honest example here of what the Packers look like both with and without Rodgers in the same year.  I'm not saying he should win the MVP award (ok, I am saying it, but I'm a homer), but shouldn't he at least be in the discussion?

Brice O'Brien
Brice O'Brien

How come not more is said about Kansas City benching half of their team??  In the NBA the Spurs rested their stars for a meaningless game in the middle of the season and they got fined. The Chiefs bench their stars on the biggest weekend of the year for a lot of teams and nothing is said. Doesn't sound right. Any thoughts. Would love to know what you think Peter.  

TDawg
TDawg

Brilliant article, Peter. 


Nearly 9,000 words about the NFL and not one mention of the Seattle Seahawks, other than naming them the BEST DAMN TEAM IN THE ENTIRE LEAGUE.


You'd think you might have something to say about that.

TruthTeller
TruthTeller

I am sorry, but to count a QBs "Passer Rating" when they have not played every game of the season is ridiculous.  Manning did what he did over the course of 16 games.  On his best day, Nick Foles dreams of being as good as Manning.  When the defensive coordinators in the league have an entire offseason to go through tape on Foles, he will find it tough sledding.  


So, stop with the Nick Foles has the highest passer rating in the league. If you are going to do this, then take Peyton Manning's 11 best games of the season and aggregate the passer rating from those games, to compare them to Nick Foles.   When Foles does it for an entire season, I will recognize his rating.

m.51.thomas
m.51.thomas

I would expect any KC/Pittsburgh fan to complain bitterly about the missed FG penalty during the Charger-Chiefs game, not a journalist! As a charger fan, we had a bad call made in the Texan-Charger game during a FG attempt that cost us (chargers) the game and no one seems to care about that one (NFL admitted the mistake then as they do now). 

Besides its a tick tacky rule designed to keep a massive number of players from ganging up on the guard or end and hurting someone. But our 7th guy was way outside, the 8th guy was clear off the line of scrimmage and neither had any impact on the play. But that is just a Charger fans perspective which is admittedly biased.

vince2
vince2

May be time for someone else to take over this column. Someone who doesn't constantly suck up to Aaron Rodgers and the nauseating Patriots. According to PK they don't deserve any of their losses. According to me, they didn't deserve at least four of their wins. At least it's playoff time and soon GB and Tom Brady will soon be done.

JPG
JPG

Just read that Percy Harvin is schedule to practice with the team Thursday and even tweeted that he will be playing in the January 11 game.


Federico Casillas
Federico Casillas

Peter, I think we all agree that the current officiating level is the worst in years, even accounting for last year's replacement refs and I wonder if Blandino's job is in jeopardy as it should be. Still, I am surprised at your dismay over Pittsburgh not advancing to the wild card game. First of all, the Steelers did not lose the playoffs with that call, they lost them through almost five quarters yesterday and a full season of mediocrity. In my humble opinion only teams with a wining record should be eligible for postseason play.


Thanks for the great job at MMQB!


Federico Casillas

Mexico City


ToddBennett
ToddBennett

This league is concerned about kicking being too easy?  How about it be concerned about the fact a 12-4 football team is headed to GB, one of the best home advantages in sports, to play an 8-7-1 ballclub?  How about that same ballclub being in the playoffs, and a 10-6 team being home?  How about we go back to two divisions, and the rest of the WCs go in order?  How about we go by record with home field advantage, not an often meaningless championship over three other teams?  But no, lets worry about line stacking and kick difficulty.

Alan16
Alan16

Thoughts on the haiku ... here's one ... that's no haiku. It doesn't deal with nature or evoke contrasting images.


But then again ... you still think that a "factoid" is a small true statement. Look up the definition. You're a writer. Elevate your game here.

GT500456
GT500456

I have  to admit how stunned I am that I read an entire PK article and did not encounter any Tom Brady slurping.  Yes, there was a Tom Brady mention, but no slurping (cue the Jobba The Hut tongue sound here) like PK enjoys doing to Brady.


Also, the haiku........yeah, I'm not feeling it at all.   "The Black Seau"??   Seriously?     

mpm101
mpm101

At the halfway point of the season when the Eagles were 3 -5 (coming off of a four win season) Peter King called the Eagles offense the biggest disappointment of the season at that point, despite the fact that Philly had to use their rookie, 3rd string QB for almost two complete games.  They then proceed to go 7-1 in the 2nd half yet Peter ranks them only 11th, behind teams like Green Bay who barely snuck by a team that the Eagles beat by 43 last week, as well as Indy and Cincinnati.  He clearly disrespects an Eagle team that went 10-6 and was one of the hottest teams in the NFL for over two months.  I'm sure that Peter will not respond to this post but I would like to hear his comments.  This column has declined in quality in the past couple of years, P. King has too much on his plate right now and it shows.  Lazy journalism, and the lack of quality analysis and insight are evident.

JohnDooms
JohnDooms

Guess Peter missed the Chargers getting screwed on a call that cost them the game during week one, which if righted would've made this game against irrelevant. It's bad officiating, but in this case it evened out.

Tommy K
Tommy K

c. Come on, Jay Gruden. Run it in from the 1, especially when you’re running it so well. Why risk a bad fade? And a pick to keep the Ravens alive?


one of the worst play call I ever seen, on 1st and goal from a yard out, when you have BJGE and Gio working well. Absolutely dumb play call for the INT. Luckily Flacco was just as dumb all day himself. 

Mood_Indigo
Mood_Indigo

To choose Robert Mathis over Novorro Bowman for the Defensive Player of the Week is beyond ridiculous.

madcow5x5
madcow5x5

As a longtime fan I just wanted to go on record as saying the Steelers are the reason they aren’t in the playoffs. You should never have to rely on other teams to make the playoffs. You need to go out there do your jobs and take care of your business. That being said I wish they would've made it to the dance......

Jesus Hitler
Jesus Hitler

Remember when the "regular" refs returned from their money-grubbing sabbatical and people gave them a standing ovation for some reason?  

blynder
blynder

The AdIeu Haiku.

Why I appreciate the attempt at giving love to a fabulous player who should go to the HOF, I'm thinking the formation of that particular haiku is awkward, reductive and a bit trite.  How about we let Seau and his legacy be his own; and we let London Fletcher be in his own space and time in history.  

AlainLapointe
AlainLapointe

THOMAS15 Would you please elaborate on that " 2nd frequency thing " and that ' 15s limit '. Could interest a lot of people , sincerely .

Happy new year everybody !!

Frotoon
Frotoon

Football's a different sport than basketball, that's why. In basketball, the team is much smaller with typically two or three big stars that the fans want to see. If a coach sits his main stars in the middle of a season, the fans who bought the tickets feel screwed. 

In football, players undergo huge physical punishment. If a team wraps up a playoff seed and the last game is insignificant to them, they've earned the right to rest the starters to be better prepared for the playoffs.

Daniel B.
Daniel B.

@Brice O'BrienThe Spurs almost won that game, too.  Fined a ridiculous amount.  As a Spurs/Steelers fan I am surprised I didn't make the correlation before reading your comment.  Well said, sir.

IRG
IRG

@TDawg Try being a Bills fan, barely a mention all season long. I think we still play in the NFL...

patmrhoads
patmrhoads

@TDawg I agree. I would have thought at least that Golden Tate would have been an Offensive Player of the Week mention. Considering the way the Rams were gunning for him, and he had a monster game, I thought that might merit a word or two, heck, maybe even a paragraph. Or maybe a note about our stifling defense? Nope. Figures.

blynder
blynder

@TruthTeller 

I don't think anyone, PK included, thinks Foles is better than Manning (statistically or *actually*) - just noting that his stat line from this year places him behind another QB.

TomPuterbaugh
TomPuterbaugh

You are correct: the formation had ZERO affect on the outcome of that shank. Every team in this league has benefited from a blown call at one time or another, and consequently, every team has been the victim of a blown call. It's the NFL, it happens. Lord knows the Boltshave been on the losing end of more than their share of controversial calls.

Frotoon
Frotoon

@Federico Casillas "In my humble opinion only teams with a wining record should be eligible for postseason play."

So what would you do when the second wild-card team is only 8-8, which is not a winning record, and which almost happened this year? Have one less team in the playoffs and an undeserved bye to a third team? The playoff setup is very simple. Win your division, and you're in. That is your "winning" record right there, even if you're 7-9 like the Seahawks a few years ago.
And if the second wild card is only 8-8 like almost happened this year, you still have to take them otherwise there aren't enough teams in the playoffs.

blynder
blynder

@Federico Casillas 

Is it actually worse, or are we just getting more & better information about the officiating w/the advent of better technology?

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

@mpm101 Relax dude.  I'm an Eagles fan and 11th in the rankings (which mean absolutely nothing) is about right to me.

jwest
jwest

@JohnDooms and missed the Chargers getting screwed at the end of the Washington game. It's only a big deal because it's the Steelers we're talking about. If a big market team got the fortune SD got, everyone would be talking about their upcoming playoff game.

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

@psychsports You're the guy who called Romo irreplaceable.  If you watched last night, Orton did a perfectly fine job of replacing Romo, even threw in a late game interception just like Tony.  

AlainLapointe
AlainLapointe

Please leave Rodgers out of this especially after what he did last sunday !

berdosux
berdosux

@FrotoonBecause football doesnt have big stars and even less games played than basketball?  DOes football ever have back to back games?  This logic you are spewing is hurting my head!!

CoreyLivermore
CoreyLivermore

@Frotoon

"with typically two or three big stars that the fans want to see."

Because in football, no team has any stars that people would want to see and be irritated over if they sat a game, right?

AlainLapointe
AlainLapointe

Thanks a lot Reedster , never had it explained or read about it before , hate them before 'cause of the refs calls going their way , hate them even more now !!!

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