Rob Chudzinski winds up in a good place

February, 8, 2014
Feb 8
1:57
PM ET
video 

Good for Rob Chudzinski.

The one-and-done Cleveland Browns coach wound up with a good team, a great young quarterback, a good coach and a good organization when the Colts hired him as a special assistant Saturday.

He deserved it after what he went through this past season, where he was hired in his dream job, then given all the support of the bottom row of a deck of cards. Chudzinski won’t be the last guy blindsided in the NFL, but it’s not pleasant to see.

Among the less palatable elements of the way the move went down were the leaks to national reporters during the Browns' final game. Among them -- which nobody has stood up and taken responsibility for -- was the claim that lack of effort from players did in Chudzinski as Browns coach. That claim was a farce. The Browns played for their coach; they had one stinker of a game against the Jets, something that happens to every team in the league. But to say there was a lack of effort from the Browns was simply not true.

Could Chudzinski’s decisions be questioned?

Of course.

Every coach has head-scratching moments. To think a first-year coach would not have them would have been ludicrous. Chudzinski made some decisions that didn't help him (like the timeout before the two-point conversion in New England).

Is it fair to wonder why the Browns didn't play better as the season went on?

Absolutely. And the coach bears some responsibility for that, but so too does the front office who built the team he was leading. Consider that every key free agent signed before 2013 was a backup with their former team. Consider the roster littered with guys who were signed for 2014, not 2013. Consider the complete absence of a running game and the mess at quarterback. (None of these are going to magically solve themselves for 2014, either.)

Then, too, consider the draft choices traded and choices acquired. The Browns gave up on the 2013 draft for picks in ’14. They made what looks like a smart move with Trent Richardson, but they did it for ’14.

Mike Pettine and his staff will benefit from all those moves, at Chudzinski’s expense. Pettine deserves a fresh slate and clean start, but to scapegoat one guy for all that happened in 2013 was simply wrong. And unfair.

CEO Joe Banner said the move to make Chudzinski one-and-done was not that unusual when he spoke the day Pettine was hired. It has been done before. Jim Mora was let go in Seattle, Mike Mularkey in Jacksonville, Hue Jackson in Oakland, Cam Cameron in Miami and Art Shell in Oakland, among a few others.

It happens. Not often, but it happens.

One of the guys it happened to was Pete Carroll way back in 1994. That stung Carroll badly. But he went on to win at USC and win the Super Bowl in Seattle.

Who knows where Chudzinski’s path takes him.

But he winds up in a good place, which he deserves.

He just deserved better in Cleveland.

Pat McManamon

ESPN Cleveland Browns reporter

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