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Browns owner Jimmy Haslam on coaching search: 'We have to prove to you all we’ll get the right guy'

By Nate Ulrich Published: December 30, 2013

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner said they made the wrong decision by hiring Rob Chudzinski as their head coach less than a year ago, but they’re convinced they’ll find the right guy this time.

“We deserve the skepticism,” Haslam said. “We accept it. We have to prove to you all we’ll get the right guy. We’re confident we can do that. But until that individual comes in and wins football game, talk is cheap, so actions speak loud. We’re confident we can do that.”

Haslam and Banner fired Chudzinski after just one season on the job Sunday night and held a news conference this afternoon to explain their choice. Banner said the decision was made Saturday. The Browns went 4-12 and suffered defeats in their final seven games and 10 of the last 11.

“As a team, we were not getting better,” Haslam said. “Yes, we had a young team, but I think if we reflect on it, we would all say a young team should get better, and we simply didn’t feel like that was happening.

“We understand the importance of continuity. But we also know the importance of getting right. There will be a lot of people who said we should’ve given this staff a second year, a second chance, and that’s a very fair and valid comment. In our estimation, we were best to go ahead and make a change, try to get it right, so that we could move forward, and candidly, most importantly, give the fans here the kind of winner they deserve.”

When Banner helped run the Philadelphia Eagles as their president, he learned the importance of patience by spending 14 years with coach Andy Reid. However, he said he believes it wasn’t the right answer to give Chudzinski more time because the trajectory was going down.

Haslam and Banner did not put a time limit on their search for a new coach.

Banner said he doesn’t believe anyone who interviewed with the Browns last season will be a candidate again. If that holds true, Penn State coach Bill O’Brien would be crossed off the list of potential candidates. Banner also said the brass is deciding if any of the Chudzinski’s assistants – such as defensive coordinator Ray Horton – would be considered for the head-coaching vacancy.

Banner said all of the assistant coaches are still under contract, but the team will be liberal in granting them permission to interview with other teams. He added that it’ll be entirely up to the new head coach to decide which of them, if any, he retains.

Haslam was adamant about his confidence to attract the right head-coaching candidates despite trust issues that could arise as a result of the quick firing of Chudzinski and the federal investigation into a fraud scheme run by Pilot Flying J, Haslam’s family business.

The Browns have inquired about interviewing Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase for their head-coaching vacancy, a league source confirmed today. Jim Schwartz, whom the Detroit Lions fired as their head coach today, is also expected to receive interest from the Browns partly because of his long-standing relationship with General Manager Mike Lombardi. And New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, a Canton McKinley High School graduate, is expected to be at the top of the Browns’ list of candidates to replace Chudzinski, according to several reports.

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