A Guide to the Cleveland Browns’ Never-Ending Coaching Search

You may have heard the Browns needed a new head coach. They fired Rob Chudzinski on December 30, and we’re now approaching February. They’ve finally settled on Mike Pettine, the defensive coordinator for the Bills, and now that the search is over, we’ve gotta remember the journey in all its glory. Take last night.

In the span of about two hours, we found out the Browns were interviewing a mystery candidate in Florida, everyone made jokes, we found out that candidate was GREG SCHIANO, and the news breaker had to clarify that he wasn’t joking. Then we heard that the Browns were talking to Josh McDaniels again, a few weeks after McDaniels told them he wasn’t interested.

Finally, the night ended with another tweet saying McDaniels wasn’t back in the mix, and they’d probably hire Pettine. Today that became official.

If all that is hard to follow, don’t worry, it was even weirder in real time — checking Twitter during the Thunder game, finding some new Browns rumor every 15 minutes that was somehow even more depressing than the last. From start to finish, it’s been quite a ride.

Big picture now. Let’s answer some questions.

Should the Browns have fired Rob Chudzinski?

Probably not. This is a great example of a situation where firing a coach seems like an easy way to fix things, but then you start looking around for replacements and realize the market isn’t exactly full of guys who inspire confidence. Plus, the Browns weren’t really that awful this year. They’re headed in the right direction, especially considering they were playing with Brandon Weeden as their quarterback for half their games, and seemed to concede the season when they traded Trent Richardson. Finding a new quarterback might have been a better move than finding a new coach.

As former Browns player Scott Fujita said, “I talked to some of the players right after they fired Chud and they sounded deflated, confused and frankly embarrassed by what happened. It’s hard to watch what is going on there. I really feel bad for the fans and players like D’Qwell (Jackson) and Joe Thomas who have been there for so long.”

D’Qwell Jackson sorta spoke for everyone here.

On the other hand, when you hire the offensive coordinator from a 6-10 Panthers team and he’s named “Rob Chudzinski,” you’re basically counting the days until he’s fired as soon as you hire him. I want the Browns to do well (because Cleveland is the best), so I’m pretty much onboard with getting rid of a coach who was always going to be seen as a weak link. Maybe the Browns just ripped off the Band-Aid instead of slowly peeling it for the next two seasons.

But it’s everything that’s happened since Chud was fired that’s been a disaster.

When was it clear that the process was doomed?

Probably when we found out the Browns’ first choice to replace Chud was boy tyrant Josh McDaniels. For a good window into how things went with his first head coaching job, www.joshmcdanielssucks.com is a good start. Aside from alienating most of the Broncos players who were actually good along with the entire Denver media, the most memorable moment of his tenure was probably the pre-draft interview with Tim Tebow.

As Tebow describes it: “I was jacked leaving that room. I didn’t even want to visit another room. We were excited, we were enthusiastic. There was passion. It was just intense, and it was ball, and it was juice. The juice level in that room was high, and it was awesome.”

It was ball and it was juice and it’s still kinda horrifying to think about.

But back to the Browns. Don’t fire the coach unless you have some idea of who you want, and who you want should never be Josh McDaniels. Cleveland broke one or both of those rules this year.

Who did they want after that?

Adam Gase, the Broncos’ offensive coordinator. He turned them down. Todd Bowles, the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator. He took himself out of the running. Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. He was busy coaching the Seahawks. Packers QB coach Ben McAdoo was in the mix for a minute, but he took a job with the Giants instead. The Cowboys’ special teams coach, Rich Bisaccia, got an interview. He’s pictured here destroying a blood vessel in his neck. Ex-Jaguars and current Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was the name floated earlier this week.

Those names are depressing.

Yeah, this got DARK.

Who is running things in Cleveland?

Some combination of team president Joe Banner and GM Mike Lombardi, and it’s unclear who exactly makes all these decisions. There’s also the owner, Jimmy Haslam, who’s under investigation by the IRS and FBI for possibly breaking all kinds of rich people laws.

God only knows what went down in the front office during the past month, but it definitely would’ve been more entertaining than whatever this movie is.

Could this have been avoided?

Man. If only they’d hired Chip Kelly. But Cleveland.

Instead, the last three Browns coaches were CHUD, Pat Shurmur (still not sure this was a real person), and Eric Mangini (a full-on nightmare of a human being). This is all so unfair.

OK, so Mike Pettine is the choice. He was the Bills defensive coordinator?

Yep, and he’s gone from being a high school coach 12 years ago to being an NFL head coach now. Either he’s very smart, or the Browns are very stupid. Maybe both.

Does he look like a football coach?

God yes. This is a man who will stand on the tackling sled all day long. Until the team GETS IT RIGHT.


Wait, was the Bills defense even that good?

Not really. Kinda? They were the Bills. (UPDATE: OK so they were 4th in defensive DVOA this year. Not bad!)

So how should Cleveland feel?

OK, aside from all the obvious jokes, think about the broader process here. The Browns spent this week interviewing Greg Schiano, for God’s sake. Greg Schiano and Dirk Koetter and Josh McDaniels. In the grand scheme of things, Browns fans probably dodged a bullet with Pettine.

More importantly: None of this actually matters. All the Browns have shown us is that (a) hiring a coach gets complicated once you miss on your top choice, and (b) the power structure in Cleveland is probably pretty screwed up (hence all the contradictory rumors). That second part probably contributed to the first problem, since nobody wants to work for Joe Banner. But mostly, none of this matters.

Remember that anytime there’s a coaching search. Once you get beyond the big names and start picking through retreads and obscure coordinators, it’s all a complete crapshoot, and having a good quarterback is probably just as important as having any real skill. Ask Chud or just look at all the coaches who got fired this year. Aside from maybe Jim Schwartz, they all had terrible quarterbacks. What I’m saying is, forget the coach and just LET JOHNNY SAVE CLEVELAND.


Filed Under: NFL, Cleveland Browns, Mike Pettine, Josh McDaniels

Andrew Sharp is a staff editor at Grantland.

Archive @ andrewsharp