Titles written as authoritative superlatives.
Absent some untold story behind the scenes that evidences Rob Chudzinski’s ineptitude, the decision to fire the first-year head coach makes no sense. I cannot even wrap my head around the idiocy of it all.
Here’s four reasons why:
1. The New Browns Regime Looks Hypocritical After Preaching Patience and Continuity
“We’re well aware that this has been a carousel and as I’ve said before, it’s Joe and I’s job to find the right coach and the right GM and bring stability long term for the organization. That’s our role and we take it very responsibly, very seriously.” – Jimmy Haslam, 12/31/12.
In that introductory press conference preceding last year’s coaching search, one reporter asked how important it is to have a winning team next year. Haslam stayed true to form by deflecting the question and emphasized the importance of consistency: “Our goal is to be good for a long period of time, not to knee jerk.”
Consistency, patience, sustained success, looking at the bigger picture, refusing to overreact. These are the themes that the new Browns regime have preached all year from their (soon-to-be-renovated!) pulpits.
It all looks very hypocritical now in light of their knee-jerk scapegoating of first-year head coach Rob Chudzinski.
Does that mean that the front office could never pink slip a first-year head coach? Of course not. But circumstances should exist that warrant the decision. Such instances might include failure to take advantage of the tools available, inexplicably laughable coaching decisions a la Pat Shurmur, or losing the locker room. None of these things happened. In fact, it appears the opposite.
2. The Browns Were Clearly Punting to 2014
Every move pointed to the fact that the Browns were evaluating in 2013, playing in 2014.
- They sat on a ton of cap space.
- They traded 2013 draft picks for 2014 draft picks.
- They traded their starting running back for a 2014 draft pick.
Now, I loved all of these moves from the moment they made them—and I still do. But if we look at this year in a vacuum, these decisions did nothing to help to help Rob Chudzinski win with the 2013 Cleveland Browns. Yet the front office still held Chud responsible.
I’d say this tweet just about sums it up:
3. Chud’s Team Wasn’t Actually That Bad
Despite these front office decisions and lacking a quarterback, Chud really didn’t do that bad of a job.
In recent years under Shurmur or Crennel, we’ve seen some laughable coaching gaffes (i.e., calling a time out before challenging—then losing the challenge, thereby killing two timeouts with one stone) and embarrassingly pathetic displays of football.
But I didn’t really see that in Chud’s team. Yes, they were 4-12. That’s bad. But they were in every game outside of four (the two Pittsburgh games, Green Bay, and the second Bengals game). I’d argue that the Browns were “consistently competitive” the other 12 weeks.
You’d be hard pressed to convince me that the on-field disappointment alone warranted the firing of a first-year coach who was the product of a “very responsibly, very seriously” conducted search meant to stop the “carousel” and “bring stability long term for the organization.”
4. The Players Are Pissed
The firing would have been warranted if it was evident that Chudzinski had lost the locker room. An “NFL Draft Scout” from Bleacher Report tweeted: “‘He’s a douche. No one on offense trusts him.’ Text from a player regarding Rob Chudzinski.”
Beyond my skepticism of anything on Bleacher Report, I’m reluctant to add much weight to this because (1) the tweet says nothing as to whether that text came from a Browns player—it could be Steve Smith for all we know, and (2) Browns players seemed to go out of their way to defend their coach in post-game comments on Sunday.
Other players reached out to the media to vent their frustration. Mike Silver’s column on NFL.com really says it all. He documents a number of current Browns veterans voicing their displeasure with the decision. Here are some of my (least) favorite quotes from the article:
- “This organization is a joke. I’m completely in the dark about this. Please (rip them). I feel for Chud. He was good to us.”
- “We are so dysfunctional. These billionaires need to pick somebody and stay with them. These aren’t girlfriends. You can’t dump them if they (fail to please you) one time. Too many dominoes fall and (screw stuff) up when that happens. This is highly upsetting.”
- “Tremendous mistake, just epic. It makes no sense. Everything we did this year was setting up the future — trading draft picks, trading players for next year’s picks, playing young guys toward the end of the year to see what they look like, sitting older guys at the end to get them healthy when they could have played.”
- “This is such a rash decision. They just (expletive) hired him last year! The whole year we were making all decisions for the future and now you’re pissed the coach didn’t win this year? What the (heck)? It was like a big experiment with players and scheme. I think it came from upstairs, and then they are surprised we didn’t win more games? Yes, it’s all about patience and then fire your coach Year 1. This blows.”
- “We had a disappointing season, but it wasn’t like we invested heavy into this year anyways. Trading away our starting running back was not the way to win games today.”
- “Yeah, it’s hard to say (Chudzinski) got a fair shake when usually it takes a few years to get things established and see dividends, especially with all the quarterback changes we had. There’s a reason coaches typically get a few years before changes are made, right? The whole thing just seems odd.”
- “It’s a crazy league, man. I didn’t see it coming. There’s just too much turnover in this organization … always looking over your shoulder.”
D’Qwell Jackson had this to say to Peter King regarding the ordeal: “We fired Chud? You’re kidding, right? Are you kidding me?”
Sadly D’Qwell, while this decision is a joke, no one is kidding.
No, the Constitution does not protect you from an employer reacting to your opinions on homosexuality
“Phil Robertson has been suspended from Duck Dynasty for speaking his mind. America was once the land of the free and the home of the brave. This land included free speech. You were protected by the United State Constitution. You were guaranteed free speech.
These days your speech isn’t free anymore, just ask Phil Robertson.”
If you’ve engaged in a Duck Dynasty debate and expressed thoughts similar to Sarah Palin’s or the quoted blog post, I have just one question for you: “You just don’t get it, do you?” That’s a rhetorical question, of course, because you clearly don’t understand what the constitutional right to free speech does or does not protect. So here is a quick primer:
Yes, the First Amendment of the Constitution establishes your right to free speech.
No, that right does not entitle you to speak freely without any consequences. It only protects against government deprivation of liberty or property interests. In other words, you cannot get arrested or fired from government employment for what you say.
“Free speech” does nothing to protect you from private employers or public scrutiny. You are entitled to your opinions. But others are equally entitled to their opinions of your opinions.
So, to recap: Phil Robertson had every right to publicly state his thoughts regarding homosexuality in the sense that he could not get arrested for it. But his employer, A&E, had every right to read those statements and (absent any contractual language to the contrary) suspend him for it. And the public—twitter, blogs, your facebook newsfeed, etc.—has every right to skewer (or defend) him for it.
[Note: This was for a short article for my school newspaper. So if it doesn't seem in-depth, it's because it's absolutely not. But I still stand by the points.]
Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” At least that’s what the Internet tells me.
By that definition, Browns fans are cuckoo for coco puffs. Each year we get excited about the draft, only to be disappointed, only to look forward to the next draft. Rinse, and repeat—with orange soda.
But, like always, I’ll pass on the meds. Because after all, Nurse Ratched, err Pat Shurmur, is now gone, so things will be… different. I swear.
Here’s a look at the possible routes the Browns will go with the sixth overall pick, in order of likelihood:
1) Draft a Defensive End/Outside Linebacker. This is the overwhelming favorite. A pass rusher is (arguably, I guess) the Browns biggest need and there just happens to be a bounty of them available this year. Get used to these three names: Dion Jordan (athletic anomaly), Barkevious Mingo (another gifted athlete with a name for the ages), and Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah (has only played football for three years; glass half-empty—inexperienced; half-full—untapped potential). All three would be huge additions to Ray Horton’s 3-4 defense.
Three well-known players not mentioned: Jarvis Jones (has spinal stenosis, which is the narrowing of the spinal canal, which is terrifying); Bjoern Werner (don’t think he fits in the 3-4); Damontre Moore (seems good at everything, but elite at nothing).
2) Trade Down. The Browns currently don’t have a second round pick after drafting Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft last season. While Gordon certainly proved to be worth the pick, look for the Browns to jump at the opportunity to gain a second rounder back. My guess is that this would actually be their ideal scenario, but it is easier said than done.
3) Draft Dee Milliner. If the Browns don’t sign a cornerback in free agency, the chances of this happening increase significantly. The Browns desperately need a quality second cornerback, and Milliner is the only one with a top-15 billing.
4) Draft Geno Smith. This is the wildcard. If he falls to the sixth pick (doubtful, but it could happen), then he could very well be the pick. I’d personally roll the dice with Brandon Weeden again next year (we have so many other holes, and at lease he showed some potential as a first year player), but I could not argue with the Browns management if they decide they cannot pass (pun not intended) on the top signal caller of the draft.
5) Draft Cordarrelle Patterson. Wide receiver is not a pressing need, and if it were, it would probably be for a veteran presence at the position. But just YouTube Cordarrelle Patterson and you’ll see why I have to at least mention him.
Don’t get me wrong: Lance Armstrong is also an asshole. Anyone who can look someone in the eyes and coolly declare a no-half-truth-about-it lie warrants such a description. And Armstrong didn’t just deny cheating; he sued those who correctly claimed he did. So yeah, he’s a first-class asshole.
But let’s not forget that, in the end, Armstrong lied about cheating in a sport that is apparently filled with cheaters.* Now compare that with Ray Lewis, who lied about a double murder investigation. Yet when it comes to media portrayal, Armstrong gets vilified while Lewis gets deified.
National media pundits had no trouble skewering Armstrong’s legacy with an unfettered resolve as reports of his performance enhancers came to light. But those same voices scoff at reader suggestions to probe into Lewis’s involvement in the murders of the two Akron boys in Atlanta. I guess it’s taboo to note that lingering, inconvenient cloud; one that became easy to ignore as it gradually faded over the past thirteen years. Much easier to sweep it under the rug than risk it uncomfortably destroying an otherwise inspiring tale.
But now that it is Lewis’s well-documented “final ride” into the playoffs, questions of what legacy he will leave behind have come back to the forefront. And for the media, which has the biggest stage, to ignore such a vital component to understanding his legacy is cowardice.
Now I’m not channeling King Joffrey and calling for Lewis’s head on a stake. I don’t know what happened that night in Atlanta in 2000. I’m just asking for it to be a part of the discussion. I’m also not questioning his football resume, which is stellar, nor his ability to inspire teammates. After listening to one of his interviews on NFL Films, his passion ignited my adrenaline; I felt like I could run through a brick wall.
My point is that when discussing Ray Lewis’ character, the murder trial deserves more than a blind eye.
If you want to argue that off-field issues shouldn’t affect his on-field legacy, that would be a fair point. I understand that steroid or gambling allegations can directly affect a player’s performance, so it’s an obvious topic of conversation when discussing someone’s Hall-of-Fame credentials. But to ignore the persona Ray Lewis has built would be to ignore reality. As great as he has been on the field, his stats compare rather similarly to London Fletcher. But Fletcher doesn’t appear on Madden covers, doesn’t star in commercials with Paul Rudd, and doesn’t enjoy effusive praise from ESPN in part because he is not a celebrity like Lewis. So it is fair discussion to have.
Lewis also makes it a fair discussion through the role he’s built for himself. With every biblical verse and motivational speech, he parades himself as the champion of changed men. And if you watched the AFC Championship game, you probably saw him crying during the National Anthem; at least he did his best to make certain you did.
If all of his changes are legitimate, then that is undoubtedly a good thing. The world is clearly a better place when men change for the better. But—and this is admittedly judgmental—the tears appear too calculated, too staged. And, more importantly, how can one truly be the poster-boy of atonement when he remains silent about a thing like murders and to this day fails to bring closure to two grieving families?
Now, please don’t bring up the “whatever happened to being innocent until proven guilty” shtick. For starters, Ray Lewis pled guilty to obstruction of justice for originally lying to police during the investigation. So bringing the murder investigation up in discussing his legacy is not some ignorant attempt to troll Ravens fans; he actually was guilty of an offense related to the murders.
Furthermore, his acquittal of other charges doesn’t fully remove the stench of the trial. Lewis and his friends got in an altercation with the two Akron men and they turned up dead. Lewis’ cream-colored suit he wore that night was never located. Witness statements to investigators did not align with their testimonies in court. Something seems afoul.
Sure, Lewis may have well acted courageously that night as a peacemaker and tried to stop the fight. I don’t know, but that’s not really the point. The fact remains that no one has been charged for the murders of those two young men, and that is in part due to Lewis’ inability to fully cooperate with the investigation.
All while two grieving families in Akron are subjected to coverage by national pundits lauding the linebacker for both his skill and virtue, afraid to broach that pesky, inconvenient cloud.
* - Also, let’s remember that Lance actually did have cancer and still won seven Tour de Frances against a bunch of other dopers. Considering how I refuse to ride a bike to school because that means I have to ride it up the hill by Little Italy on the way back home, I’m allowed to remain impressed.
And whatever else about his character flaws, he still parlayed that ill-gotten fame into one of the most successful philanthropic movements in memory.
UPDATE (1/29/13): Reports now coming out that Ray Lewis used Deer Antler spray (a banned substance) to speed up his recovery from his tricep injury. Deer Antler spray. Excuse me while I dust my shoulder off as my Lance Armstrong dichotomy became all the more salient.
Because those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.