As the NFL braces for Black Monday, one head coach who appeared to be safe can't — rather suddenly and shockingly — feel too comfortable about his situation.
We've heard about the usual candidates who could be let go, but the biggest stunner might be the Cleveland Browns' Rob Chudzinski. Just one season into his tenure, Chud ... could be a dud.
ESPN Cleveland's Tony Grossi first reported of tension (and NFL.com's Ian Rapoport added texture to the story) between the Browns' higher-ups and Chudzinski prior to the Browns' Week 17 20-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But before the end of that loss, the Browns issued this limp team statement through the P.R. director on the rumors:
“Our focus is on the game today. We will not discuss any evaluation of the season until this upcoming week.”
Uhh ... not exactly a ringing endorsement. Frankly, this is kind of stunning.
Pro Football Talk is reporting that Chudzinski will meet with Browns officials Monday morning, and that it's not for doughnuts and coffee. That has to be a bad omen for his future with the team.
Typically, first-year head coaches are nearly bulletproof. Even in this knee-jerk league, most owners and front offices feel that one year isn't enough to evaluate the credentials of a new coach. (Two? Yes. One? Not often.)
So that's why the reports coming out and the Browns' statement have to alert people to the very real possibility that Chudzinski and his big-name staff could be in serious trouble on Monday.
The inner circle of owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner, along with the front-office staff, picked the seemingly progressive Chudzinski as the engineer of their rebuilding efforts, and they surrounded him with big-name assistants Norv Turner and Ray Horton. But a quarterback mess, injuries and the typical Browns dysfunction led to another poor season, which concluded Sunday with a 4-12 mark.
A poor record to be sure, and disappointing. But grounds for firing? That's the decision the Browns' brass now faces. But if the team has determined that Chudzinski is absolutely not the man they want leading this team forward, kudos to them for realizing and admitting their (somewhat expensive) mistake.
A city cloaked in football failure now has even more eye-rolling material for another "fresh start" offseason. Sigh.
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