New Coach Rob Chudzinski Needn’t Worry About High Expectations of Browns Fans
By Chris Malumphy
New Browns coach Rob Chudzinski has his work cut out for him.
Since head coach Marty Schottenheimer left the Cleveland Browns after the 1988 season, no Cleveland coach has had a .500 or better record more than once. Schottenheimer did it each of his 5 years in Cleveland, including 1984 when he took over the team when it was 1-7 in midseason, and guided it to a 4-4 record the rest of the way. In the next four years he took it to the AFC championship game twice. As head coach of the Browns, Schottenheimer's record was 44-27-0, .620. Since his departure, the team has been a disaster no matter who was the coach. Although Schotteheimer has been criticized for his lack of playoff wins, he did take the Browns to two AFC championship games. Since he left, the Browns have won only one playoff game in 21 seasons, way back in 1994 under Bill Belichick.
Bud Carson replaced Schottenheimer and finished above .500 his first season, but was fired before the second season was over, with a losing record overall. The great Bill Belichick could only manage one winning season in the five years he spent in Cleveland. When the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, coach Chris Palmer was gone after two seasons, never exceeding three victories. Butch Davis was .500 or better only once in four years, as was Romeo Crennel. Neither Eric Mangini nor Pat Shurmur could reach .500 in their two-year stints as head coach.
That is a pretty pathetic record for a once storied franchise. The great Paul Brown coached in Cleveland for 17 seasons, exceeding .500 ball 16 times. The only season Brown failed to meet the .500 mark was the year Otto Graham retired when the team finished 5-7, just one victory shy of a .500 season. Blanton Collier, an extremely under-rated and nearly forgotten coach outside of Cleveland, never had a losing season in his eight years as head coach. Nick Skorich was above .500 the first three of his four seasons as coach.
The first three coaches in the Browns' history had winning records while coaching the team: Paul Brown 158-48-8, .767; Blanton Collier 76-34-2, .691; Nick Skorich 30-24-2, .556. The only other winning coach in the Browns' history is Schottenheimer, 44-27-0, .620. The cumulative record of those coaches with the Browns is 308-133-12, .693. All other Browns' coaches have totaled 186-288-1, .393.
In the Browns' first 28 years (1946-1973) they finished .500 or better 27 times, 96%. In the 39 seasons since, they have reached .500 or better 13 times, 33%. During those 39 seasons, they finished below .417 (Paul Brown's worst season with the Browns) 19 times.
The Browns haven't come close to sniffing a .500 season since Romeo Crennel went 10-4 in 2007. The Browns have only been to the playoffs once since their return in 1999 when under Butch Davis in 2002, the Browns' announcer, Jim Mueller, nearly pleaded with Atlanta and Michael Vick in the regular-season finale to take pity on the Browns after the Falcons had marched downfield to a first and goal inside the 3-yardline with a chance for a go-ahead score to win a game that would knock the Browns out of the playoffs by repeatedly stating over the public address system in a plaintiff voice that the Falcons had clinched a playoff spot moments earlier when another team lost in a manner that let every one in the stadium know that the Birds had nothing more to play for that day. Any unbiased casual observer that witnessed the game may have readily concluded that the Falcons' inexplicable play calling that followed was in response to those pleadings.
The good thing for Chudzinski is that the current fan base can't possibly have high expectations.