Browns fire coach Chudzinski
By Gary Horvath
Published: Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013, 7:24 p.m.
The Cleveland Browns lost seven straight games and 10 of their last 11 to finish the season 4-12, and it cost coach Rob Chudzinski his job.
After just one season.
The organization announced Sunday night that it had fired Chudzinski.
“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,” the team said in a statement. “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.”
Speculation about Chudzinski's future was so rampant during the Browns' 20-7 loss to the Steelers at Heinz Field that the organization issued the following statement mid-game: “We will not discuss any evaluation of the season until this upcoming week.”
They waited less than six hours.
After the game, Chudzinski said he hadn't discussed his future with ownership.
“This next week we'll look and start reviewing the season and looking at every aspect of the program and doing those evaluations,” he said.
Chudzinski insisted he was “on the same page” with team owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner. Chudzinski said he expected to be back next season.
The team's dismal performance after a promising 3-2 start prompted a change. Still, Browns players voiced support for Chudzinski after Sunday's loss.
Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas went so far as to say that if Chudzinski is fired, it “severely damages the organization.”
Many players offered support despite reports the locker room lacked accountability.
“I think everybody in this locker room is held accountable, not only by Coach but by the other players,” safety T.J. Ward said.
“If we didn't believe in him, then we wouldn't play for him. If you have guys playing until the end of the season when there's nothing to play for, you know you have a good coach.”
Thomas and Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron endorsed giving Chudzinski more time to create a winning culture.
“I would say we need some stability,” Cameron said. “To move forward with the same group of coaches is definitely a plus.
“I like (Chudzinski). I like everything he stands for. I believe in him, and he's a fighter. He has everything that we need in a head coach.”
Chudzinski said questions of his future “come with the territory” of being an NFL coach on a losing team.
Ward, who finished his fourth season with the Browns, echoed that sentiment.
“Nothing surprises me,” he said. “I've been through three coaches.”
As much as his players support him, Chudzinski failed to produce results. His 4-12 record was a game worse than the 5-11 mark that got Pat Shurmur fired after last season.
The Browns finished at the bottom of the AFC North and are locked into the fourth pick in April's draft, giving them two first-round selections thanks to the trade that sent running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts earlier this season.
Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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