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The Cleveland Browns fired coach Rob Chudzinski on Sunday night.
Less than a year after touting Chudzinski as one of the brightest young coaches in the NFL and a guy CEO Joe Banner said he had his eye on for a long time, the Browns let him go after one season as coach.
The Browns still owe Chudzinski $10.5 million, league sources told ESPN Senior NFL Insider Chris Mortensen.
A seven-game losing streak to end the season and a 4-12 overall mark apparently were too much to overcome.
The team released a statement with the announcement.
"We appreciate Chud's passion for the Browns, and we have great respect for him both personally and professionally," the statement, which was not attributed to any person, read. "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."
Cleveland plans to commence its head coaching search immediately, with former Denver Broncos coach and current New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt expected to be among the candidates, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
|Cleveland fired coach Rob Chudzinski on Sunday after only one season on the job. It was the third time the team relieved him of his duties since 2004.|
Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase is also on the Browns' radar, with the team having already formally asked Denver for permission to interview him. The Browns have also requested permission to interview Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, a source told Schefter. Quinn can interview Jan. 5.
Because the Broncos have a first-round bye, Gase could interview with Browns officials, including general manager Mike Lombardi, who spent one season with Denver late in former coach Mike Shanahan's tenure.
The Broncos, with 606 points, set a season scoring record, and Peyton Manning set league records for touchdown passes (55) and passing yards (5,477). Gase has also been lauded by many in the league for his work as the team moved toward a read option offense for Tim Tebow as well as his work with the team's receivers when he arrived on McDaniels' staff in 2009.
Chudzinski was hired Jan. 11 after the Browns fired Pat Shurmur less than a year ago.
"I was shocked and disappointed to hear the news that I was fired. I am a Cleveland Brown to the core, and always will be," Chudzinski said in a statement released Monday. "It was an honor to lead our players and coaches, and I appreciate their dedication and sacrifice. I was more excited than ever for this team, as I know we were building a great foundation for future success.
"While clearly I would have liked to see the long-term vision through to the end, I am very grateful to [owner] Jimmy Haslam and the Haslam family for letting me live my dream."
The Browns, including Haslam, became convinced they made a mistake and did not want to continue down the path with Chudzinski, sources told ESPN.
After Sunday's 20-7 season-ending loss to the Steelers, Chudzinski called it simply "a difficult day."
Chudzinski had to deal with an unsettled quarterback situation as the Browns started three players at the position, going with Brandon Weeden in the opener, turning to Brian Hoyer shortly afterward before he suffered a season-ending knee injury, and ending the season with veteran Jason Campbell.
This is the third time the Browns have gotten rid of Chudzinski, who grew up a Cleveland fan in Toledo, Ohio.
Chudzinski coached the Browns' tight ends for Butch Davis in 2004, and then returned to the team in '07, when he served two seasons as offensive coordinator under Romeo Crennel.
ESPN.com Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold and Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.