Chudzinski’s patience to be tested this year
One of Rob Chudzinski’s attributes that surfaced during training camp was his patience.
That could change about eight weeks into the season. The unfulfilled aspects that usually surface for a Cleveland Browns head coach can age a man quicker than a U.S. President after two terms.
Unfortunately, NFL coaches don’t have the long-term job security enjoyed by most Presidents. Football fans and hot-tempered owners often line up to throw the bum out after two losing seasons.
The concept of devising a plan and letting it mature went out with mullets in the 1990s. Give a disgruntled owner a pair of bad seasons and a second martini over lunch and he’ll have the coach fired before the hangover subsides.
No one knows how Browns owner James Haslam will react if the Browns start poorly again. This is the first season in which he’s had his team of front-office personnel fully in place, which, in essence, qualifies him as a rookie owner.
For all we know Haslam could adhere to a coach’s 24-hour rule and put a loss behind him after one day. Then again, he is an owner that is spending $1 billion to purchase his brown-and-orange play toy. The best guess is that each loss will linger in his mind deep into the following week.
That means dreaded trips to the owner’s office for Chudzinski to explain why the offense can’t get untracked or the defense was torched by a certain quarterback. Then there will be the stops at the offices of CEO Joe Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi, both of whom will want answers about whatever problems might be ailing the Browns.
This is all assuming, of course, that the Browns will be their usual 2-6 or 3-5 at the halfway point of the season. It could be different this year. They might win their first opener since 2004. Quarterback Brandon Weeden might develop into a quality player, and running back Trent Richardson could be that game-changing back that rode in from Tuscaloosa to save the day last year before two cracked ribs made it difficult for him to run, let alone turn over in bed.
There’s a palpable feeling in the building that better times are ahead. It starts with the confidence that Haslam brings to the table. Legal issues aside from his main business at Pilot Flying J, Haslam radiates positive vibes that can’t help but matriculate through every level of the organization.
You can feel it simply by walking through the renovated second floor at the Browns’ practice and administrative facility in Berea. If you don’t feel like getting work done after one view of the joint, then there’s something seriously wrong with your work ethic.
The players should feel some sense of loyalty towards Haslam, but he’s not the man that will deliver the key speech moments before they enter the field for kick off. That responsibility falls to Chudzinski, who is coaching in a city located not far from his hometown of Toledo.
Rational minds will see that the Browns lack the overall level of talent needed to make a run at the playoffs. Now try telling a fan that has each side of his face painted either in orange or brown, is chomping on a dog biscuit and barking loud enough to wake up the neighbors in Lakewood that it’s going to be another rebuilding season. Most of them don’t want to hear of it.
It goes without saying that a win today would be huge for Chudzinski, not to mention the fortunes for the remainder of the season. Getting the first opening-day victory in nine years would make the locker room a very friendly place to be next week.
Beyond today’s game against the Miami Dolphins, the Browns face the usual struggle of two games each against the Steelers, Bengals and Ravens. There will be four games against the NFC North Division and four against AFC East teams.
Anything above .500 would be a success. Reaching the 10-win mark should qualify Chudzinski for a spot in the Ring of Honor.
A more realistic probability is breaking even. The Browns will improve upon last season’s 5-11 record and finish with an 8-8 record.