It took 15 games, six consecutive losses and one real bad performance in a 24-13 loss to the Jets, but Cleveland Browns coach Rob Chudzinski broke his flatline postgame approach.
For the first time all season, Chudzinski showed some emotion -- and anger. It was nothing over the top, but it was there.
He called the effort unacceptable, said it was tough to swallow.
Of losing six in a row, nine of 10 and playing so poorly at this point of the season, he said: “You can’t imagine how I feel about that.”
During the week leading up to the game, the coach had talked about seeing things that made him believe in the long-term plan. After the game he admitted there weren’t a lot of good things to see against the Jets.
Then he said the team’s results and play falls on him.
“I bear all the responsibility,” Chudzinski said. “I’m the head coach of this team. So ultimately this is on me, and I’m committed to get it right.”
With all due respect to his professional approach, it’s on a lot more than the coach. While the present regime can blame the previous one because it doesn’t like the players it inherited, this team has regressed as the season has gone on. The team has left salary-cap space unspent even though several positions could be upgraded while at the same time making a great effort to build for 2014 and beyond.
The constant tension between a front office building for the future and a coaching staff wanting to win now was never more apparent than during the past few days, as the coach and offensive coordinator Norv Turner tried to explain where the team is headed and why decisions are made.
Nelson spent much of preseason with the Browns while recovering from knee surgery. He played fairly well in the preseason finale, then was cut.
Sunday he caught two touchdowns against the Browns -- the first two of his season and the first two-touchdown game of his career. In the same game, Greg Little and Josh Gordon dropped two touchdown catches, and Jason Campbell was throwing passes to Brian Tyms, Josh Cooper and MarQueis Gray -- a college quarterback playing tight end.
There are a lot of reasons to explain the Browns' 4-11 record, beginning with team starting three different quarterbacks and having no real running game.
The defensive meltdowns -- they had no hits or sacks of Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith -- are harder to explain, other than the defense is simply not what it was touted to be.
But NFL players have 16 opportunities to play hard and play well. On this particular Sunday the Browns did neither.
What was left was for Chudzinski to respond this way when asked what he’d say to the fans: “Hang in there. We’ll get it right.”
Which is tough for fans to hear when the team has won 27 games over the past six seasons (with one left).
Chudzinski just happens to be the guy who speaks after games. But the team’s owner, CEO and GM have not had a lot to say.
Losing to the Patriots and Bears, two teams competing for the playoffs, is one thing.
Losing with a half-hearted, sloppy and uninspired effort against a team that’s playing for nothing but pride is quite another.
If Jacksonville was rock bottom for the Browns, this effort had them looking for rocks to hide under.