CLEVELAND — Rob Chudzinski didn’t even get a full year to fix the dreadful Browns.
Cleveland’s front office fired Chudzinski on Sunday night following his first season, which started promising but ended with a seven-game losing streak and a 4-12 record.
Chudzinski had only been in place since Jan. 11, when the Ohio native and lifelong Browns fan was hired for his dream position by owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner. The Browns were 4-5 after a win over Baltimore on Nov. 3, but they collapsed in the final two months, blowing several late leads and the organization decided to cut ties before heading into a second season with Chudzinski.
“We appreciate Chud’s passion for the Browns, and we have great respect for him both personally and professionally,” the team said in a statement not attributed to any person. “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.
“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.”
The Browns scheduled a 12:30 p.m. news conference on Monday to explain Chudzinski’s shocking dismissal.
Cleveland ended its sixth straight double-digit lost season with a 20-7 loss in Pittsburgh. Although the Browns dropped 10 of their last 11, players were united in support for Chudzinski and were stunned to hear his job was in jeopardy.
“I think he’s done a good job,” Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas said, “and if you fire coaches after one bad season, it’s not like we won the Super Bowl last year, and we were coming back with the same offense. We had tremendous changes philosophy-wise, offense, defense, and so many different players that we brought it. To get that consistent winning is by having consistency in the coaching staff and the philosophy of management, to me, that’s how you become a winner.
“I’d just be really surprised.”
Chudzinski had plenty to deal with as a rookie coach, including an unsettled quarterback situation as the Browns were forced to use three starters because of injuries. The team also traded running back Trent Richardson and never adequately replaced him. The Browns didn’t give Chudzinski much help in the draft as No. 6 overall pick, linebacker Barkevious Mingo had a disappointing season.
So, the Browns, who have made the playoffs just once since 1999, will embark on yet another coaching search. They’ve gone through four coaches in the past six years and their next hire will be their seventh full-time coach since their expansion rebirth.