Cleveland: Black Monday’s Annual Punchline

Life is full of challenges. People will always try to tell you what you can and can’t do. “Justin, you can’t have any more whiskey.” Challenge accepted… and overcome. Every day, in every walk of life, people overcome challenges laid before them. But nowhere in the sports stratosphere are these challenges ballooned to such a seemingly insurmountable level than in Cleveland, Ohio, where they’re certain to supply your brand of comedic inefficiency on time, every time.

It’s been a rough couple decades days for Cleveland fans. On Saturday, the Cavaliers announced the indefinite suspension of disgruntled center Andrew Bynum. The news didn’t come with much immediate explanation other than he generally never really liked it in Cleveland, which is among the most typical phrases that anyone can utter about anything.

It was the latest in a series of unfortunate developments for a team with a roster that was billed as being built for a playoff run and a push to renew the services of the greatest player in the world. Now, they don’t have a serviceable number one pick or reborn big man to stand on as they struggle to stay afloat in an underwhelming Eastern Conference.

So it’s only natural to compound that with an early start to the NFL’s annual ritual of “Black Monday.” After seeing list after list of who’s on the hot seat plastered over TV screens and internet inches for weeks, the Browns proved to be the first team to pull the trigger, firing Rob Chudzinski after one season.

Chud’s name didn’t appear in the coaching rumor mill until the day of his announced hiring, so it stands to reason that management thought he had something unforeseen to offer. What he did have is a history in Cleveland over two previous stints as a tight ends and quarterbacks coach. His quarterbacks during that time, which you should visualize as Star Wars opening credits, are as followed:

Jeff Garcia

Luke McCown

Kelly Holcomb

Charlie Frye

Derek Anderson

Brady Quinn

Ken Dorsey

Brandon Weeden

Brian Hoyer

Jason Campbell

A proverbial Who’s Who, no? Yet, with another signal caller carousel running amok in the midst of a season-ending seven game losing streak, that glaring occupational hazard of quarterback inconsistency undid Chud in one season.

One season. One. ONE. 352 days.

You know what plenty of people don’t do in 352 days? Go to the dentist. Take stuff to the dry cleaners. Eat a salad. Have sex.

But what do any of us know about running a professional organization?

This isn’t an endorsement of Chud’s coaching abilities. It’s a matter of why he would be hired if he wasn’t “your guy” in the first place. Why would Joe Banner waste another year by bringing in another character you could pin unforeseen hardships on after singing his praises in November. Will general manager Mike Lombardi, who called the NFL’s leading receiver a wasted pick, actually have an explanation the next time he faces the media, if ever, as to why the Browns are again starting over?

Remember the ooo’s and ahh’s after Jimmy Haslam’s press conference? Man, now THIS guy can own. THIS time will be different.

Consider the Browns’ immediate surroundings: Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Cincinnati. All are staples of coaching consistency. Mike Tomlin and Bill Cowher have combined to lead the last 22 of Steelers football, both with Lombardi Trophies to their name. Brian Billick and John Harbaugh have coached the last 15 years in Baltimore. Both don Super Bowl rings. Marvin Lewis is the second-longest tenure coach in the NFL and has the Bengals as the top seeded wild-card in the AFC Playoffs.

Since the Browns returned in 1999, they’ve had six head coaches, 20 starting quarterbacks, and one playoff appearance that is already over a decade old. Recent history has provided a handful of teams who can pull a one-year turnaround in the NFL. The 2008 Dolphins. The 2011 Colts. The 2013 Chiefs.

What do the latter two have in common? A head coach, GM, and quarterback with a chemistry and common philosophy. The system and the plan work for them. If those three things come together in one location, a team can change their fortune in one offseason, unless they try to do so in Cleveland. Organizational inconsistency is the antidote to January football, and no franchise is more apt in the process.

Never forget, the Browns are an expansion franchise that inherited the name, colors, and records of their predecessors that moved to Baltimore. In most cities, a streak of ineptitude like this would be met with murmurs of relocation, but fans have already showed they’ll fight to the death for even the most pathetic of products.

Chudzinski called the Browns head coaching position his dream job. I’m sad to say for anyone, even lifelong fans, to call that your dream job is an indication to set your bar higher. Chances are the next Berea-based press conference won’t include any talks of fulfilled dreams, but Chud’s successor would do well to buckle up. There’s no telling what brand of Cleveland’s latest bullshit he’ll be tasked with overcoming.

Browns fans, meanwhile, will just chalk it up to experience.

Author’s Note: Story was written before 12/30/2013 press conference.

Justin Sampson

Justin Sampson

Sports anchor/reporter currently working in Missouri. Ohio University Class of 2011. Overly analytical on most things about myself. Fortunate to love my occupation. I'll rarely turn down a drink with you.
Justin Sampson

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