Football coaches exist at many, many levels of the sport. Kids start playing at a very young age, and there is nearly always someone standing on the sideline, working to make those kids better. At the top of the profession is the NFL. Just as being a player in the NFL is the ultimate goal of most guys who play football, coaching in the league is the dearest dream of anyone who ever held a clipboard. The thing is that even once you get there, the experience can be fleeting. The regular season ended on Sunday, and between Sunday night and Monday, five men were fired from their jobs as NFL head coaches. One of these men, Rob Chudzinski, had been coach of his team for only one season.
I usually understand why coaches are fired, but the Cleveland Browns truly baffled me with this one. After the team let Pat Shurmur go at the end of the 2012 season, they pursued Oregon coach Chip Kelly, who ultimately became head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Cleveland then hired Rob Chudzinski, a long-time assistant coach who had several stints with the Browns after growing up in nearby Toledo as a fan of the team. I know that Cleveland lost ten of its last eleven games, but I find it astonishing that they would fire this guy after a single season. After all, team president Joe Banner and general manager Mike Lombardi traded starting running back Trent Richardson, the team’s first round draft pick in 2012, a few weeks into this season for draft picks. That would indicate to me that they were building for the future and did not have any real expectations for this season. The quarterback who started the season, Brandon Weeden, proved to be so ineffective that he was benched in favor of Brian Hoyer (a guy that no one would mistake for Peyton Manning), and then, when he got hurt, they went to Jason Campbell, an NFL retread who wasn’t even good enough to start when Weeden was benched, despite the fact that he was listed as the backup quarterback. Chudzinski was not responsible for the signing of any of these crappy players, and yet, when they proved their crappiness, he was held accountable for it. A head coach needs some time to install a new system, time to acquire players to run that system, and time to change the culture of a losing organization. One season does not qualify as enough time.
If you look at the list of fired coaches, you see a variety of different stories and different types of failure. Mike Shanahan failed in Washington due to arrogance, egotism, and a meddling owner. Jim Schwartz failed in Detroit due to general incompetence. Greg Schiano only got two seasons in Tampa Bay, but his abrasive personality appears to have bought him very little goodwill among players and team administration. The Vikings fired Leslie Frazier after three seasons (and part of a fourth) for finishing in last place in his division in two of those three seasons. I can’t really argue with any of these firings, although Schiano likely deserved a little bit more time. Chudzinski, though, was treated really unfairly. That organization is a total disaster, and they are clearly not moving in the right direction.
When you compare the jobs of college football head coaches to the top guys in the NFL, you would think that the big-time college jobs would actually be more desirable. Sure, there is turnover in college too, but at the right school, a guy can stay forever, win consistently, be revered by the students and fans, and live a charmed life. Some of these guys are content to do just that, but many of them continue to aspire to those NFL jobs, even though they have to know that the experience, once it comes, will likely end badly and fairly quickly. Bill O’Brien, the head coach of my Penn State Nittany Lions, is in the midst of another major flirtation with the NFL, his second in only two seasons at PSU. He has openly stated since the beginning that he has NFL head coaching aspirations, but I really just don’t get it. The job he has at Penn State looks like the greatest job any coach could have, and it will be even better once the NCAA’s ridiculous sanctions have completely ended. Yet, by the time you read this, he could be the new head coach of the Houston Texans, a team that didn’t even wait until the end of the season to fire its coach, Gary Kubiak. I guess O’Brien would rather get that shot at the highest of the highs rather than be content being loved by the legions of Nittany Lions fans. The NFL jobs seem like the Holy Grail to him now, but maybe he should ask Rob Chudzinski how that worked out for him.
Bad sports, continued:
2) Bad calls happen all the time, but it is newsworthy when a bad call (or no-call) not only changes the outcome of a game, but actually changes which teams make the playoffs and which do not. This happened on Sunday at the end of the San Diego Chargers game against the Kansas City Chiefs. With four seconds left in regulation, Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop attempted a 41-yard field goal which would have won the game for his team. San Diego lined up in an illegal formation that was not called by the officials. Succop missed the kick, and the game went to overtime, where the Chargers ultimately won. Had the penalty been called, the kicker would have had another shot, this time from 36 yards away. It seems unlikely that he would have missed again. A Chiefs win would have sent the Pittsburgh Steelers to the playoffs rather than San Diego.
3) This was a weird one. The agent for Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor reacted to the announcement that his client would start the final game of the season by claiming that head coach Dennis Allen was doing it so that Pryor could fail and he could get rid of him. Pryor had been benched in favor of undrafted rookie Matt McGloin seven games ago and he had not started since. The whole thing is just so bizarre. If Allen wanted to get rid of Pryor, he could do so without needing to send him out to start the final game. After all, Pryor had been pretty bad the first time around, which is why he lost his starting job.
4) South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney got his second speeding ticket in recent days on Thursday. He then tweeted out a picture of himself posing with the policemen who gave him the ticket.
5) Not to be outdone by Clowney, Los Angeles Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig received his second reckless driving charge this year after being stopped for going 110 miles per hour near Naples, Florida.
6) Andrew Bynum’s return to the NBA looks like it will endure yet another lengthy detour. After sitting out all of last season with a supposed knee injury while with Philadelphia, he has now been suspended by the Cleveland Cavaliers for “conduct detrimental to the team.” This is not a good guy.
7) One of the greatest race car drivers of all time, Michael Schumacher, is in critical condition in France after a skiing accident left him needing brain surgery. His prognosis is not yet known.
1) Chandler Parsons, a forward for the Houston Rockets, shaved his head this week to show support for a 10-year-old friend of his who is battling cancer.
Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday
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