To paraphrase one of the most intelligent men that ever lived, Albert Einstein, to do the same thing repeatedly, and expect different results, is insane.
Yet, with the firing of Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski, who went 4-12 this season, this new Browns regime is following the same old pattern of previous leadership groups: fire the head coach quickly when there are not immediate, winning results.
Yet the prevailing wisdom when it comes to winning organizations is stability: stability in the front office, at coach, and at key player positions, such as quarterback. There is a great example of how this works in our own division, just 133 miles away in Pittsburgh.
The Rooney family there has been a constant throughout the history of that franchise. In the modern era (with the initiation of the Super Bowl in 1967), the Steelers have had only four head coaches. Imagine that, in the last 46 years Pittsburgh has had just four head coaches!
In the modern era, the Browns have had 16! Since the team returned in 1999 we’ve had seven head coaches. In the same period, the Steelers have had only two!
Winning teams such as the Steelers allow a coach to develop his system, develop his talent, bring in complementary talent, and coach them to a championship level. History has shown that this process does not happen in a single season and in fact often takes years to achieve.
Let’s look at the franchises that won three or more Super Bowls in the decades of the ‘70s, 80’s, ‘90s and ‘00s to see if this holds true.
Consider the Steelers in the 1970s. They won four championships in that era with head coach Chuck Noll. Yet it took Noll six seasons to build that team. In his first season in 1969, the Steelers were 1-13!
In the 1980s, the San Francisco 49ers achieved three Super Bowl Championships. But in 1979, Bill Walsh’s first year with the team, they went 2-14. It took Walsh three years to build that franchise into champions.
Jimmy Johnson took over the Dallas Cowboys from legendary coach Tom Landry in 1989. In his first year with the team, they won just one game! But owner Jerry Jones gave him time and in just four years Johnson ‘s Cowboys won their first of three Super Bowls.
Bill Belichick took over an 8-8 New England Patriots team from Pete Caroll. The Patriots were 5-11 in his first season, a very similar record to Chud’s 4-12. But Belichick was given the chance to turn the team around and won a Championship the next year.
Winning a Super Bowl in just two years makes Belichick the anomaly in the group of head coaches that won three or more rings. But he also took over a team that had a .500 win record, and perhaps needed less fixes. That was not the case for Noll, Walsh and Johnson. The records of those teams in the season prior to them getting the head coach job were 2-11, 2-14 and 3-13 respectively.
Just to put things in perspective, the 2012 Browns under Pat Shurmur were 5-11.
So it is clear that it takes time to build a championship franchise. That’s something that past Cleveland leadership groups, and the present one, have not allowed to happen.
Since the Browns returned, only one coach was had four complete seasons. That was Romeo Crennel. Butch Davis was given 3.5 years, but was relieved during the 2004 season. The average stay of each coach has been 2.14 seasons. That is not enough time to achieve the stability needed to get the Browns going in the right direction.
This front office stated that the 2013 season was about evaluating talent and seeing what they had for the future. The Browns were not expected to be a playoff team, and it was a long-shot hope that they might reach 8-8.
This Browns’ team has been beset with injuries at key positions and has experienced turmoil throughout the season. That they were competitive in most of the games they played, with little or no depth at key positions, is a tribute to the coaching staff.
With all of that said, Chud is being held accountable for a 4-12 season, a season that had the stated expectation of only evaluating talent.
I fear that this front office is doing what others have done in the past, firing a head coach for a losing season because it appears to be the popular thing to do. They are hitting the reset button—again—and asking the fans to trust them.
We’ll never know if Chud had the long-term answer that the Browns needed, because he was never given the chance to develop it.