Just when you thought the Cleveland Browns couldn’t hit anymore rock bottom, they did. With the firing of head coach Rob Chudzinski after losing ten of his last eleven games in typical Cleveland fashion, owner Jimmy Haslam and his stooges find themselves on the hunt for the second coach in two years. However, though the franchise might appear to be in shambles, they’re really not. The ingredients are halfway there, they just need to find that missing spice that brings it all together. With that said, let’s look at the three obvious things the Browns must do in the 2014 off-season.
Dawg Bone #1
Find a Head Coach…again.
Although I was very vocal about the firing of Chud after just one season, you have to wonder what would have happened if Chud didn’t produce in 2014 and won five or six games. On the flip side, what if there would have been a dramatic increase in victories? This is where finding trust in Joe Banner and the front office is hard to swallow. Regardless, the Browns must find a head coach, preferably with NFL head coaching experience. At this point, Cleveland needs a no-nonsense and fiery guy that can take this talented team to the next level. For years, Browns fans have wanted to see a guy that has the same passion as they do when they’re cheering. The Cleveland faithful got glimpses of it in Chudzinski, but it never came into full fruition. Chud was living a lifelong dream and at times looked overmatched by opposing head coaches.
Most Browns fans do not want another former assistant coach (offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator), they have been there-done that. Some fans do not want a former college head coach either, but the fact of the matter is that it is very much a possibility. No matter what the case may be, the Browns must find a head coach that will still be coaching this team ten years from now.
Dawg Bone #2
Who is Quarterback #21?
Let’s be honest, the Browns quarterback play throughout the season was less than stellar. Don’t believe me, here are some facts. The three quarterbacks that played combined for 6.4 yards passing per play this season. That was good for a 28th ranking in the league. So much for Norv Turner‘s vertical attack. Browns’ signal callers were sacked 50 times in 2013, which ranked them third most in the NFL. While some of this can be blamed by a sub-par performance from the offensive line, much of this can also be blamed on zero mobility or pocket presence. The Browns need a mobile quarterback that has the internal clock and athletic ability to vacate the pocket as needed. If you believe in QB rating, Browns quarterback’s combined for a 75.7 rating in 16 games. Finally, the most telling stat of them all. The quarterback group as whole combined to complete just 55.7% of their passes this season. That is an awful rank of the 31st in the NFL. Now, I know that there were a good number of drops, but 55.7% completion percentage is unacceptable.
Who the Browns 21st starting quarterback is still up for debate. More to come on that…
Dawg Bone #3
Earn Back this Distraught and Disgusted Fan Base
On December 31st 2012, Haslam and Banner said a lot of things to the Cleveland media and fan base in his press conference talking about his search for the next head coach (which became Chudzinski) of the Browns. Here are two quotes that stand out.
(On how he and Banner’s impatient personalities are to mesh with giving the new head coach 2-3 years to get the job done) – “I think it’s a balancing act and we are very impatient, but we’ve said numerous times and Joe used the word sustainable, that’s a good word. We want to put together a team that has sustainable, measurable progress. I think everybody in this room will know next year and the year after that if we’re making progress or not. Our goal is create a consistent winning team. There are lots examples of that in the NFL and if we don’t it is the two guys up here up front’s fault, but I think we can do that.”
This statement made over a year ago backs up their actions that they shocked everyone with last Sunday night. Here was the other quote from that same press conference.
(On if the team has the personnel to be a playoff team next year) – ” It might be a little unfair to put that pressure on that new coach already. Let’s face it, the way the NFL operates, there is no relative parity, and you can turn things around quickly. You’re looking at two of the most impatient people in the world up here on stage, but I’ll reiterate what I said. The key is to get it right, where we’re good over a long period of time and where people expect the Cleveland Browns to be in the playoffs every year. We want to still be preparing for games in January and not packing up and sending everybody home. That’s the goal to do it that way.”
In a way, the writing was on the wall in these two statements. Heads were going to fly if solid production and encouraging progress was not seen. Some fans see the firing as “Here we go again…” in a negative mind frame and others see it in a positive tone in the fact that Haslam means business and stopped a train wreck before it could happen. Whether you believe in either of them is your choice. However one thing is for certain, despite another coaching turnover, the 2014 season isn’t a rebuild, it’s make the playoffs. The idea of getting seven or eight wins is not acceptable now.
Winning cures everything to this fired up fan base in Cleveland with all sports. And, that’s what needs to happen all around. The Browns must win the fan base back over with every move they make. To finding the “right” head coach to landing a franchise quarterback to having a phenomenal, memorable, and productive draft with the ten picks they have, to using the forty-something million they are under the salary cap and re-signing important free agents-to-be to inking more free agents that can make an immediate impact, Haslam, Banner, and Lombardi have now put themselves under the microscope more so than they already were. They must prove to the orange-and-brown bleeders that they have a successful plan and know what they’re doing. If they do not, the consequences could be fatal to their Cleveland Browns fan base they speak so highly of.
Ryan Ruiz is the Cleveland Browns Beat Writer for The Inscriber: Digital Magazine. You can follow him on Facebook: Ryan (BrownsWriter) Ruiz and Twitter @ryanpruiz24. Ryan is also a Browns correspondent for The Sportsfix. Tune in every Friday at noon on www.thesportsfix.net. Have a question or comment for the “ASK Ryan” column on Fridays? Email Ryan at [email protected]