CLEVELAND - At their end of season briefing, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam called himself and CEO Joe Banner two of the most impatient people in the world. Haslam would be better off recognizing his Pittsburgh past to see that patience is the most important virtue in building a winning tradition.
Friday morning, Haslam kicked off another new era in Browns history, announcing Rob Chudzinski as the franchise’s 14th head coach.
The Browns need to do everything possible to make sure they’re not naming number 15 before Ohio’s electing a new governor or current high school juniors are saying bye to mommy and daddy. The two-year plans need to be put in the past.
Chudzinski’s introductory press conference was good, if not typical, in many ways. It’s difficult not to like a coach in one of those. They tell you how they’re going to put a winner on the field and how excited they are to do it.
But with Chudzinski, the Toledo native and Browns fan, the meaning this job holds all feels a little more genuine.
“For me, personally, it’s the best job. There have been other head coaching jobs that I’ve seen or potentially had opportunities for but this is the one that is special to me,” Chudzinski said.
Passion is what showed through when Chudzinski spoke for the first time as the Browns’ new head coach. It wasn’t just passion for the game of football but for this team, the orange helmets and the Dawg Pound.
“I was the kid that in the backyard playing, pretending I was Ozzie Newsome or Brian Sipe or the greats that played for Cleveland,” Chudzinski said.
You will never have to have the feeling this fall that the man on the sidelines wearing a Browns coat and headset will be apathetic to your cause. As you cheer on the Browns, take solace in knowing he understands your place.
“We wanted to be in that stadium, in the Dawg Pound so bad that we would watch games in December out in the snow and we’d flip the TV around in the window so we could be there,” Chudzisnki said.
Now Chud will not only be in the stadium but down on the field leading his favorite team, trying to prove that Haslam and Banner took the right risk.
Haslam called finding a head coach an art and science. If it’s a science, it sure is an imperfect one.
There’s no book on what type of coach is the perfect hire. Look at the head coaches who have won Super Bowls in the past decade. Half were fired and given a shot with another franchise, the Patriots’ Bill Belichick and Giants’ Tom Coughlin combining for four and Colts’ Tony Dungy another. First-job head coaches Bill Cowher, Mike Tomlin, Sean Payton and Mike McCarthy account for four and Jon Gruden comes in as an anomaly, a coach who was traded.
All that says is it’s nearly 50/50 in recent history on what gets you to the promised land and yields a Lombardi trophy.
Eric Mangini fit the profile of a Belichick or Coughlin, while Pat Shurmur was in the vein of a Tomlin. Both ended up out of a job in two years.
It all comes down to personnel and patience. There were a number of times where Coughlin was on the hot seat but narrowly clung to his job. Had he been fired who knows if the Giants would have reached Super Bowl XLII and pulled an upset for the ages.
Haslam should know that patience pays dividends when it comes to coaches. The Steelers, for whom he was a minority owner, stood by Bill Cowher through a 15-season tenure. Cowher didn’t win a Super Bowl in his first six years and after two sub .500 seasons in 1998 and 1999, he could have been on the hot seat.
But Cowher became a Super Bowl-winning coach later in his career because the Steelers never cut ties with him. They hired him young, at the age of 35, and let him grow in the Steel City until he finally hoisted the Lombardi in his 14th season as Steelers head coach.
In the past 44 seasons, the Steelers have had three head coaches. They also have 26 playoff appearances, 20 division titles and six Super Bowls in that time. The Rooneys do it right.
Their model shows change is not always for the better in the NFL. New is not en vogue if you want a consistent winner. Whether Haslam gets that is up for debate.
When describing the coaching search Friday, he struck a different tune than the note of impatience a couple weeks earlier.
“"Joe [Banner] and I have both come from organizations where there has been little change in terms of leadership. This organization has had a lot of change in terms of leadership. We wanted to spend a little bit more time,” Haslam said.
Chudzinski may not be the “sexy” hire. He’s not the big-name college coach or fired NFL head coach with Super Bowl experience. But he was the Browns’ choice and one they now need to stand by to end the revolving door of head coaches and establish a new identity as a formidable contender.
It would be all too whimsical, a story written in fairytale, if Chudzinski could be the man to get his boyhood team its first Super Bowl title. Dreams can come true though - just ask Chud.
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