Expectations for the Browns in 2013/14

AndyVance's picture
January 11, 2013 at 3:07p

With the news that the Cleveland Browns have tapped former offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski to be the team's sixth head coach in 13 years, fans have shifted from speculation over who the new play caller would be to "why in the hell did they hire him?" As fans, it is practically our moral obligation to call into question the management decisions made in the running of our favorite teams (see similar conversation among Ohio State fans circa 2000 under heading "Jim who?"), and the Browns hire is no different.

The key question, posed by the always-astute TennBuckeye here, is what exactly is the appropriate expectation for the Browns moving forward?

As a kid who grew up rooting for the other Ohio NFL team and who married into a family of rabid Steelers fans, I'm well aware that expectations vary widely among fanbases, and that expectations are the key to success in the National Football League.

Perhaps then it would be useful to examine recent history and pose scenarios that might be qualified as a "success" for a hire that appears to have summarily underwhelmed (or in some cases outright infuriated) fans looking for a bigger "name" to take the tiller.

With only a single playoff berth to their credit since 1999, is simply making the playoffs sufficient, and how likely is that given their divisional competition in Ohio and Pennsylvania? Is another wildcard-game appearance enough for fans to stop pondering who the next head coach should be?

Or perhaps a simple improvement in the W-L column is enough to keep the pitchforks and torches safely stowed for another season. But there again, as TennBuckeye pointed out, does that mean just six or seven wins, or is .500 the minimum standard of performance?

To give us some frame of reference, it would be useful to consider other coaches in the division for a moment, to see what the standard of excellence looks like. The other team with Paul Brown's fingerprints on its DNA, the Bengals, have traditionally underperformed fans expectations on a relatively regular basis (I grew up rooting for Boomer and hating the 49ers, for what it's worth), so we'll start with Marvin Lewis.

A combined 79-80-1 at Cincinnati (.496), Lewis has gotten the orange and black to the postseason just four times in 10 seasons: four wildcard games, and four losses. In fact, Lewis' Bengals only managed records better than .500 in those same four seasons, though he managed to break even in three additional campaigns, meaning he's only notched losing seasons 30% of the time.

Despite losing to the Houston Texans in last season's playoff attempt, the Bengals' front office was so thrilled with a 9-win season that they gave Lewis a 2-year contract extension, meaning he'll be at the helm through 2014. So perhaps, for a team that endured 14 consecutive losing seasons, Lewis' relative success is perfectly wonderful, and all is well in the Queen City.

Thanks to a victory at home against the Browns in the final game of the season, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin managed to avoid recording his first losing season, going 8-8 in the team's 80th year, and Tomlin's 6th at the helm. While the presence of a SuperBowl ring on his finger certainly sets Tomlin apart from many other NFL coaches, his record more or less speaks for itself.

He's taken Pittsburgh to the playoffs in four of six years, winning the AFC North three times and making it to the SuperBowl twice. For Tomlin, the playoffs are either make it all the way or bust out in the wildcard affairs, as his team has lost in its wildcard matchup twice, while making it to the championship the other two tries. His overall record is much better than Lewis', going 63-33 (.656).

Tomlin, by the numbers, would be the class of the Division, then, were it not for John Harbaugh.

Harbaugh, during his five seasons steering the hated Baltimore Ravens, has failed to miss the playoffs once. The Ravens will face the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning this Saturday. The Ann Arbor native and Miami of Ohio alum has gone 54-26 thus far (.675), and failing to win at least 10 games only one year.

He's 6-4 (.600) in playoff history, and 2012 marked the first time in franchise history the Ravens have won consecutive division titles. God it hurts me to write that.

Despite having not made it to a SuperBowl yet, Harbaugh has been an unmitigated success for the Ravens, and his current contract runs through 2014; expect an extension at some point.

A perennial favorite among Browns fans speculating on future head coaching hires is former Steelers coach and former Browns player and assistant Bill Cowher. As one of only two men in NFL history to lead his team to the playoffs in each of his first six seasons as head coach, Cowher's credentials as an outstanding leader are well-known. (Bonus points: Know who was the first to hit the playoffs in each of his first six seasons? That's right, Paul Brown.)

In 15 seasons at Pittsburgh, Cowher went 149-90-1 (.623), winning the AFC Central six times and the AFC North twice. He went 12-9 (.571) in the playoffs, and won SuperBowl XL in his second-to-last season before heading to the bright lights of television analysis.

While he continues to tease fans with hints that he would be open to returning to the coaching ranks, I'm not sure anyone seriously thought he would come out of retirement to take the helm at the Browns, which remain something of a riddle as an organization at large.

So now that we've looked around the AFC North and at one fantasy coach, let's go back to the man who broke the mold, the team's namesake. In the team's first 13 seasons playing in the NFL, Paul Brown earned a record of 111-44-5 (.694), certainly qualifying him among the elite coaches in the annals of football history. Brown won four AAFC championships with the team before it joined the NFL in 1950, and then coached the Browns to three NFL championships – in 1950, 1954 and 1955.

His teams played in four additional NFL Championship matches, losing to the Detroit Lions thrice and the L.A. Rams once. His teams failed to make the postseason once in his first nine years, but failed to do so in each of his final four seasons at the helm; despite winning records, he was dismissed following a contentious power struggle with the team owner whose name shall not be spoken.

Brown didn't do quite as well in six seasons with the Bengals, going 48-36 (.571) and winning the AFC Central twice. He was 0-3 in the playoffs during his tenure as the head coach in Cincinnati.

Since 1990 the Cleveland Browns have only made the playoffs twice, in 1994 and 2002. During that period, they have only notched winning records three seasons out of 20. It has not been a good run.

While the lowpoint of the modern era is almost certainly the three seasons Cleveland was without an NFL franchise in the late '90s, five straight seasons of winning only four or five games comes in as a pretty close second.

In one of the high points, 2007, the Browns finished 10-6, good enough for 2nd place in the AFC North. That year the Browns were the season's only 9+ win team to not make the playoffs. Braylon Edwards ended the season as the Browns' all-time single-season leader in receiving yards with 1,289 yards, breaking Webster Slaughter's 1989 record of 1,236 yards. It was the first time in more than a decade the team had won 10 games.

The offensive coordinator of that team? Rod Chudzinski.

Hired to lead a team that has such a storied history, the more recent benchmark for Rob Chudzinski's success now as a head coach shouldn't be too high at all.

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bigbadbuck's picture

I don't think you can actually say right at this point. I like the idea of a vertical passing game at this point which would then open up running room for T Rich. Defensively is where the questions come into play in my mind..........Will Juaron stay on as D Co? if he does I believe we should look at 8-8 or so, if a new defensive system is employed by a new D Co I believe our ceiling is right about where it is now.............6 wins max

Gentlemen, you can't fight in here, its a war room

rgarrett22's picture

Rob Chudzinksi. You have got to be kidding me.
Even with sources saying that Norv Turner may be brought in as the OC, this is a major letdown.
Haslam and Banner should have never come out after the season and made their statements about the coaching search that raised the bar so high for the Browns coaching search if they weren't going to land us Kelly, O'Brien, Gruden, Cowher, Dungy, or someone of that caliber.  IMO, that's where they set the bar with their comments about the type of leader they were going to bring in as head coach.
Furthermore, the location of Cleveland and specifically the stadium is not a place where a high powered offense is always possible, nor is it always a good idea (i.e. the Saints and the Packers of the league that can score 40 points in a game by throwing the ball 50 times). Cleveland is a place where the ability to stretch the field with play action passes is as important as the ability to rush the ball 30 times a game for 150+ yards. It's a place where a 27-17 victory is more than acceptable, it's exciting!  Bringing in this average OC with no head coaching experience to be a head coach and possibly Norv Turner along with him is IMO to make the Browns "more exciting" to watch. Wins are exciting. Grinding out 150 yards and playing shutdown defense is exciting.  Watching the Browns dominate a game in all facets and doing so with discipline is exciting. Any Browns fan will love those things. It's called AFC North football.
I don't see this offense oriented approach working. The Browns lost more close games in the 4th quarter than any other team. They had the lead in the 4th quarter of many of those contests. The Ravens or the Steelers (most years) win those games because they have great defense, they control the clock, and can finish drives.

Overall, I'm not pleased. We needed a hard-nosed guy, a strong leader with head coaching experience that is strong on both sides of the ball. That's the guy that Haslam and Banner promised to deliver. Simply put, they did not deliver.

rgarrett22's picture

"We don't believe there is any job in the league that's going to be available that can tell a better story about why you want to come to this particular team [and] this particular city and take a job," Banner said. "We go into this extremely confident that we can go after the top people available, at least the top people in our opinion and that we have a very good chance of being successful in convincing them that this is the right situation. Most of these top coaches are focused on finding a place where they think they can win. We think we can make a very good case of why this is the best opportunity in the league right now."
"We feel very good about this opportunity here," said Haslam, who bought the Browns in August. "We think we have a good young team in place. As you have all taught me, this is a great football town. We think the person that can come in here and make the Cleveland Browns a winner will be recognized as one of the great coaches of all time and will be beloved in this area. So, I think we're confident that this is a good situation. We're not going to worry about who else is out there looking for a coach. We have our people in mind and we're going to work hard to bring the right person to Cleveland."
I'm not saying Chudzinksi will fail in Cleveland, but you can't convince me for one minute that these men delivered on their lofty words. We didn't land a top coach, and we certainly didn't land someone recognized as one of the great coaches of all time (according to any measure).  Who knows, maybe Chudzinski may one day be remembered as such, but you would have to say that is a very unlikely outcome, right?
We didn't land our guy despite the build up and I am not convinced we got a guy that is the right fit in Cleveland (see my first post above). How can any die hard Cleveland fan not be disappointed?

CptBuckeye24's picture

It is not a convincing hire to the fanbase.  It is not going to be nor was it what we expected.  However, Chud is a well respected coach in league circles and has interviewed for head coaching gigs in the past. 
The Browns really need direction and guidance on offense.  They have a lot of questions and the whole west coast thing was not working.  The offense, not the defense was unarguably the reason why the Browns lost to Philly, Baltimore in at least the second matchup, maybe the first too, and Indy. You can point to both offense and defense in other losses.  But its not like the Browns got into a shootout with anyone either.  As for the last 3 games of the year, well the wheels just completely fell off and total collapse all around. 
Chud has a reputation for working well with QBs, which is also instrumental for this team going forward.  It does not matter any way you put it, QB play has been the major reason why the browns have struggled since 1999, yes there are other reasons.  But the last time they had a winning season, 2007, (same year Chud was the OC here) they had a potent offense.  When was the last time just an "average" QB won the super bowl?  Brad Johnson in 2003, Dilfer in 2001??
We can argue and debate the style football that is required to win here and all that but its clear the offense needs improvement. I don't care how they win or score more points, it is not about being flashy or exciting.  They need to score more points than their opponent.  Chip Kelly once said that the only stat that matters is my offensive points per game is higher than my defensive points per game allowed.  That is the direction they went with the hire.  If that means they run the wishbone offense or the 5 WR air raid/spread offense, then so be it.  It is not about style, it is about figuring it out with what you have and going with it.   
We all heard Chip Kelly and Bill O'Brien but they decided to stay.  Other names included Gruden and Cowher but these guys are unlikely to coach this year.  So we lost out on Doug Marrone?!?!?!  Andy Reid?!?!?!?!?  By the looks of it, it does not look like the Browns were beat/outbid by their competition, meaning that the Browns just could not attract someone here because another team is so much better or enticing. 

lamplighter's picture

I've seen numerous stories where people refer to the 2007 season, but completely ignore the next , which led to ownership cleaning house.  I recall thinking that the play calling was so bad that the OC was trying to sabotage Romeo.
NTL, I contnue to hope that this was not the best possible business choice, but that this guy can bring something to the table that my hoped-for choice of the truly viable candidates, Wisenhut, did not

LouieG's picture

I agree that Halsam/Banner did themselves no favors with all of their big talk when they took over and now they have to kind of eat those words.  Because Chud is not the high profile guy with a championship resume that they all but promised.  That being said I am still pretty optimistic about this hire. 
The thing that stands out to me is that while Chuds offenses are not the machine that Chip Kelly has at Oregon, he has adapted to the talent he has in place.  The Browns had a successful offense in 2007 with Derek Anderson as their QB, fast forward to the past 2011/2012 in Carolina - Chud has made Cam Newton into a solid NFL starting QB.  He shows that he can adjust his schemes and play calling to fit the strengths of the players he has.  Shurmur was never able to adjust.  He just kept running the same West Coast Offense over and over again.  No imagination, no adjustments and he would completely ignore the running game.  So while this hire is not the splashy one the Haslam promised it is a lot better then 2 years ago when Holgrem hired his old buddies nephew. 

rgarrett22's picture

Another thing that really bothers (I am bothered in case you couldn't tell) about the Chudzinski hire is this...

I actually supported the firing of Shurmur at the time.  He is one of the worst game managers in the NFL, his own players (namely Weeden and Richardson) were calling him out in regards to his playcalling toward the end of the year, his West Coast offense does not fit the skill set of our supposed franchise QB, and his two year career record is rather underwhelming. Foolishly, I believed Haslam and Banner when they proclaimed that the next coach of the Browns would be a great, recognizable leader and possibly an all-time great (a big factor in me supporting the firing of Shurmur).

However, why in the world would you fire Shurmur after just 2 years, if we were just going to hire another guy with no previous head coaching experience? It doesn't make any sense. The team showed definite improvement in Shurmur's 2nd year at the helm. We hired him when he was a "rising star" in the ranks of the offensive coordinators. Sound familiar? Now he has two years of head coaching experience under his belt, but the brain trust decides to hit the reboot and go back to a hire that had the same level of "prestige" that Shurmur had when he was hired by the Browns.  It's just a total head scratcher.

Compounding the problem is what in my opinion has prevented the Browns from having any measure of success since their return to the NFL. They have been churning through head coaches faster than any other NFL franchise. What do the most successful NFL franchises have that the Browns do not?  Continuity.  It takes a major toll on a team and an organization when there is a constant coaching turnstile. New systems, new terminology, new philosophies, etc.  The Browns need continuity in the front office and with the head coach more than anything else. Now we are back to another regime that wants to bring in "their players" which fit "their system. Ugh. It just gets so old.

buckeyestu's picture

i am pleased the browns have a new owner. i think chud will do just fine, he cant do any worse than the last few coaches before him. and if he does, then fire him to.

tennbuckeye19's picture

I've got 2 words for ya:

BME_Buckeye's picture

Three words for you: Maybe next year. Yes I'm a browns fan.

Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see.


Maestro's picture

Progress please.

vacuuming sucks

Bolt's picture

This goose-egg is representative of all expectations I have of the Cleveland Browns now and going forward. I didn't care who they chased during the hiring process and don't care that it was Chudzinski. I'm not saying I'm giving up on the Browns, I'll still never root for another NFL team and I still tune in every sunday...but my motto has become "Hope for the best; expect the worst."
I'm already resigned to the concept that every decision they make is the wrong one and every coin flip situation that comes down to destiny will burn us. I can only sit here and expect that Chud's going to be another disappointment and hope that he'll surprise me. I'd say the same thing if they hired Bill Belichick again at this point as well.

buckeye_baker's picture

My feelings on the Browns will continue to be best summed up by:

"I can accept failure, but I can't accept not trying." -Woody Hayes

BoFuquel's picture

Same ol' same ol'. Hire a coach fore you hire his boss,ain't never gonna work.Never heared of setch stoopidness.That's why I love my Browms.

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

Crimson's picture

not a comment on the coach necessarily, just the Browns :)

lamplighter's picture

Kellen Winslow?  I thought it was on a motorcycle?

buckeyechad's picture

As a big Steelers fan, I can honestly say I wouldn't be surprised if in the next 4-7 years the Browns and Bengals finished 1&2 in the division. Ravens and Steelers are getting pretty old, and while some teams are run much better than others, at a certain point the NFL is designed to promote parity. Having draft picks in the top half for years (Cle & Cin) at a time while your rivals are usually in the bottom half will eventually make a difference.

AndyVance's picture

That's a really good point, especially about the Steelers. I said to my wife this week, in fact, "Isn't it time they started looking for a viable replacement for Big Ben?" And of course, he's not the only one close to "aging out."

Bolt's picture

The Browns have had top draft picks for over a decade now and have done dick with them. The difference between the Browns and the Steelers is that Steelers fans should have all the confidence in the world that they will be rebuilt and retooled. Browns fans just have confidence that we're going to blow a draft pick, our best players will get injured in some kind of freak incident kind of way and 2/3 of the team will acquire staph infections.
Sad to say but the only real consistency that the Browns have had since returning to the NFL are losses and staph infections. Yet I can never just walk away.

tennbuckeye19's picture

I totally agree with you Bolt. As far as the draft goes, the one crowning achievement of Cleveland's drafts since returning in 1999, is Joe Thomas. Joe Haden might be another, but we'll see. I would say of all the "new" Browns, Thomas and Phil Dawson have been the most consistent. 
*sidenote: Phil Dawson is the answer to a trivia question. He is the only Brown left on the team from the original 1999 roster when the Browns returned to the league.

SEC BUCKEYE's picture

The Browns will win the superbowl next year!!!

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Crimson's picture

Ahh, I see the sarcasm font is alive and well!

bgohio22's picture

The first two things to consider are the criteria JH3 and Banner set at the Pat Shurmur firing presser along with the issue of fan apathy. 
They set the job description that set out for someone who was organized, had massive attention to detail, and was an aggressive, credible leader, basically Chip Kelly.  I've probably attended 2-3 games per year since 1986.  I'm a young professional.  Fans my age are NOT buying tickets and the stadium is frequently half full.
The Browns attempted to sell people like me by romancing Chip Kelly.  It didn't work.  Without any data to prove otherwise I look at Chud and see Pat Shurmur in different clothes.  Now, the future may prove that not to be fact.  The positive aspect of this is JH3 and Banner have been flexible.  They couldn't get the alpha male--so they've responded by hiring the guy who can put together the best staff.  Looks bad and not my #1 option--but it may work out for the best (unless they actually hire Lombardi).

ODEEZ330's picture

I'm turning in my browns gear if they aren't better than they were this yr.

stark county football

Citrus's picture

I like Chud and am hopeful. I am disappointed that heckert was fired and I hope Jauron stays on. I heard grumbling that the d was going to switch to 3-4. That would be a major disappointment as I think the D-line is the strength of the team. I think the defense as currently constructed is decent and a CB and LB alway from being one the better NFL defendes. There is talent on the roster. I hope it is not all scrapped. Could we please give a head coach a chance? And while we are at it, can we give a QB a chance? 

William's picture

While I'm not optimistic about Chudzinski succeeding, I would love for nothing more than him to come in and reestablish the Browns as a power in the NFL. I agree about the D-line, and how close that defense is to being elite. I feel the same about Weeden, he was 2nd amongst rookie QBs in passing yards, he was only behind Luck in fact, and with the proposed addition of Norv Turner as OC, I like Weeden's chances at becoming a good QB. 

Citrus's picture

Weeden seemed to regress a bit late but he has a lot of upside. He maybe 29 but he hasn't had years of football pounding on his body like guys his age that played fb the whole time. The offense has some nice pieces. Outside of fb the offense doesn't have personal needs, it is more a matter of weeden playing a bit more consistently. The wr corp improved tremendously. Gordon played very well and little stopped dropping passes at mid season. With a complete offseason I expect that unit to be much better, coupled with a defense that is healthy and a couple of acquisitions and this team could go 9-7. However, coaching change could set everything back and we maybe back to square one. 


I grew up a Bengals fan (and watching Boomer and Icky and James Brooks and Eddie Brown and Anthony Munoz and Collinsworth and so forth) but would root for the Brownies when they played everyone else. I guess the question and concern I have right now isnt the head coach but if the new owner and GM indeed know what the hell they're doing or if they're just going to repeat the mistakes Lerner did. I know Chud is somewhat popular and was the OC of the 2007 team that should have played in the postseason, but is he HC material or another Shurmur/Mangini clone? You can always tell a great coach by how they look on the podium. Chud looks a bit green up there to me.
Just judging by how solid the last 2-3 drafts have been for the Browns I'm one of those who think Mike Holmgren was indeed building something good (at least better than what they saw before he arrived) and I am seeming to think they mightve made a mistake letting him go. His track record spoke for itself. I think Holmgren's hiring of Shurmur (and keeping Eric Mangini one season too long) were what ended his run in Cleveland much more than his drafting ability and ability to build from within.
2013 I think will be huge for the Browns. The talent is there to at least push for .500. I think .500 is a good gauge for any first-year coach. Not too big but not too small of a goal in Year 1, then they can take off in Year 2. Chud pulls another 5-11 season next year we'll have our answer. Then what will Haslem do? Go and hire another UTR coach and the vicious cycle continues? Or does he and the new GM actually do their homework and go after the next star coach? When does it end? Hell, if the Bengals can rebound from the total crapness of the post Sam Wyche years the Browns surely can get their act together, right?

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

GlueFingers Lavelli's picture

I expect the Browns to win 4-5 games, just enough to not get the draft pick they want. I'd expect them to pass on Adrian Peterson type talent and stick with William Green type talent.  I would expect our 18th QB since 99'.  I would expect a complete rebuild job that gets rid of the few good pieces we have due to the coaching/managment bigger dick theory. - Browns fan.

Dustin Fox was our leading tackler as a corner.... because his guy always caught the ball.

jestertcf's picture

For the record in 2007 the Browns took Joe Thomas at 3 and Adrian Peterson fell to the Vikings at 7.  Here are the teams that passed on him, because of course he was "injury prone."

4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Gaines Adams DE Clemson
5 Arizona Cardinals Levi Brown OT Penn State
6 Washington Redskins LaRon Landry SS Louisiana Stat


~Because we couldn't go for three~

Rapping Bum's picture

Joe Thomas, the guy the Browns picked over AD, is arguably the best LT in football.  AD is arguably the best running back, but The Rapping Bum cringes at thinking how bad the Browns OL would've been without JT.

Help is on the way.

Rapping Bum's picture

The Rapping Bum doesn't have very high expectations for the Browns next season, six wins at the most.  Depends what the schedule looks like.  In regards to the hiring of the new head coach, TRB has talked himself into it.  The Browns offense has been putrid since '99 and the only year it was better than 23rd (TRB thinks that is what it was, offhand of course) was when Chud was the OC.  His offense is much better suited for BW3's skill set than the west coast offense.  Really like the Norv hiring, Trent Richardson is going to get the ball A LOT.  Will be interesting to see if they flip to the 3-4.  Very important draft for the team as well.  Lastly, I hope they do not hire Lombardi.
If TRB had to predict right now, 6-10. 

Help is on the way.

RBuck's picture

Once again, good work Andy. But, as a lifetime, long-suffering Browns fan, I have no expectations for them.

Long live the southend.

AndyVance's picture

Seems to be the consensus :)
(I'm smiling because I live with a Steelers fan, and life is easier when the Browns and Bengals aren't good...)

harleymanjax's picture

As a Bengals fan I hope for 4-12, beating the Steelers and Ravens twice for their only wins would help the Bengals alot!

"Because I couldn't go for 3"

luckynutz's picture

Thee part that really kills me is that this is a guy that this guy has been fired by cleveland. Twice. So you're telling me this guy wasn't competent enough to run the offense for this franchise twice. But he's now competent enough to run the whole damn team? Come on haslam and banner. You can shine a turd all you want guys...fact of the matter is its still a damn turd. And if he brings in a 3-4 guy as a DC and goes to the 3-4....there goes all the work they did rebuilding the defense. Its just a slap in the face to all cleveland fans that this is the best you can do for us. We've suffered through years of ineptitude and incompetence from the top down. New regime. Same brand of stupid.

The fact he's from the region doesn't mean shit to me. The fact he was fired by the franchise twice does.