Trent Richardson Trade, Redux (a/k/a ‘Who fires their hand-picked coach one season into the rebuilding process?’)

No Black Monday victim has drawn more sympathy than Rod Chudzinski. The gripe over Chud’s dismissal, as I hear it, goes something like this: the proverbial cupboard was bare, and management sold off the last crumb (Trent Richardson) during the season; the coaching staff, like management, came on board knowing that overhauling the entire organization might not immediately translate into wins; the coaches, like management, should hardly be judged on the success or failure of the team the first season. There’s something to all that.

Even so, I think the move signals good things.

There are two necessary conditions to success as an NFL general manager: a good quarterback and a good head coach. Without one or the other, a GM won’t last long.

Mark Dominik made more crafty moves than any executive in the League during his tenure in Tampa Bay. His early round picks included Mark Barron and Doug Martin; he traded for Darrelle Revis and somehow inked him without committing any guaranteed money. But Dominik picked the wrong head coach (Greg Schiano) and lashed his wagon to a flawed quarterback (Josh Freeman), and stuck with both even as the ship was sinking. Dominik is unemployed.

Browns management has to succeed where other GMs have failed, and they don’t have forever. Take this latest move as a signal that, at the least, Browns management understands that a good head coach is critical – so important that, if Chud’s performance in year one failed to impress the front office, they shouldn’t hesitate to cut him loose.

By no means is this post a referendum on Chudzinski’s performance. The Browns were not making a Super Bowl run on the strength of Jason Campbell’s arm, regardless of coaching.

By the same token, it bears questioning whether there was any rationale for firing Chudzinski; after all, if the Browns just canned the next Bill Belichick, this conversation is a bit moot. This much we know: the new coaching staff inherits the most gifted wide receiver-tight end tandem in the League; a stalwart at left tackle; and talent at all three levels of the defense. If a 4-12 record disappointed someone upstairs in Paul Brown Stadium, there’s evidence that person’s assessment wasn’t completely wide of the mark.

Browns fans are justified in questioning the coaching upheaval just one season after the new regime cleaned house. In hindsight, however, I think most Cleveland fans will decide that Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi are simply making bold, but calculated moves. And that will pay off in the end.

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