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Sunday, December 29, 2013
Chudzinski's dream turns into nightmare

By Pat McManamon

PITTSBURGH -- Memo from the Cleveland Browns to their fans regarding the excitement over the hiring of Rob Chudzinski: Never mind.

Yes, the team that typically grinds up quarterbacks hit the daily double this season: It ground up a quarterback, and now it has ground up and spit out a coach -- after one season.

Good luck selling belief in the new hire.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen at about 6 p.m. ET Sunday changed the chatter about Chudzinski’s future to hard news when he cited his sources and reported that the team had decided to fire Chudzinski early this week.

After one season.

Browns spokesman Zak Gilbert said the team would not say any more than the statement it released in the fourth quarter: "Our focus is on the game today. We will not discuss any evaluation of the season until this upcoming week."

The statement, of course, only led to speculation mushrooming, the logic being that if the Browns were going to stand by Chudzinski, they would have, well, stood by him. Instead, they said they’d talk during the week.

UPDATE: The Browns made the firing official Sunday night.

Speculation will immediately fall on Penn State coach Bill O’Brien and New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as options to be the next coach -- both of whom are close associates of Browns general manager Mike Lombardi.

The Browns' ship went nowhere this season, but to pin the blame on the coach is one of the ultimate scapegoat jobs in Browns history. There were failings up and down the organization.

Chudzinski had to start three quarterbacks. He had no second or third wideouts (Greg Little and Davone Bess). He had five running backs: The most clever event of the week usually came when offensive coordinator Norv Turner tried to somehow explain the team’s running game.

The Browns lost seven in a row, but the same front office that touted this coaching staff as some sort of miracle workers traded draft picks, provided little from the draft and gave Bess a contract extension.

More than $20 million in salary-cap space went unused, as the front-office focus seemed to be on 2014 while the coaches and players tried to win every week. Now it seems that less than a year after Joe Banner told the fans that he had his eye on Chudzinski for years, he decides he’s not worthy.

A person really runs out of words to describe the constant schlock the Browns provide their fans.

There are times when a coach should be let go after one season. Chudzinski’s 4-12 mark is not good, and so is the seven-game losing streak that ended the season.

But this season’s follies can be shared. That they won’t be is a sad reality about (alleged) NFL football in Cleveland.

Chudzinski talked about the Browns being his dream job when he was hired. Little did he know how quickly it would turn into the nightmare after Christmas.