Bud Carson was fired as Cleveland head coach because Browns owner Art Modell wanted "to stop the hemorrhaging."
"I was hoping and praying that Bud would turn it around," Modell said Monday. "I made this move in the hope that a turnaround can still happen."Carson contemplated quitting after the Browns lost to the Buffalo Bills 42-0 Sunday, but he had changed his mind by the time he went to work Monday morning. Modell, however, had decided by then that offensive coordinator Jim Shofner would coach the Browns for the final seven games.
"There's no way I could look myself in the mirror if I had quit," Carson said. "I feel a little sick to my stomach that we fell apart like we did, because I know this team will come back.
"You have to win. That's the bottom line in this business. I wish Shof well. I wish the whole ballclub well."
The Browns (2-7) are off to their worst start since 1984, when their 1-7 record cost Sam Rutigliano his job.
Carson was in the middle of a three-year contract that runs through 1991, and he will be paid in full, Modell said. Shofner's status will be reviewed after the season.
Modell wouldn't accept that 1990 was a rebuilding year for the Browns, who have been to the playoffs five straight seasons. Cleveland's offensive line was overhauled, putting the immobile Bernie Kosar under heavy defensive pressure early in the year.
"Transition is for Atlanta, Tampa Bay and a few others that I could mention," Modell said. "We're not in a transition. We have the hard nucleus of a fine football team."
Including playoff games, Carson was 12-14-1 with the Browns.
Carson gambled by starting Mike Pagel at quarterback ahead of Kosar against the Bills. Kosar will return as starter for Cleveland's next game Nov. 18 against Houston, Shofner said. The Browns have a bye this week.
"I think Bernie is the guts of our football team," Shofner said. "I think Bernie is playing very well."
Carson, 59, replaced Marty Schottenheimer as the Browns' coach on Jan. 27, 1989, after Schottenheimer left in a dispute with Modell over coaching styles. Schottenheimer, now at Kansas City, was 46-31 in four-plus seasons at Cleveland.
Carson had an excellent rookie season in 1989, taking the Browns one step shy of the Super Bowl. They lost to Denver in the AFC Championship Game for the third time in four years.
But 1990 became a nightmare of injuries, retirements and holdouts. Five defensive starters were contract holdouts during the preseason. Two starting offensive linemen retired and two others went out with knee injuries.
"I don't feel Bud was given a fair shake," said safety Felix Wright, who staged a bitter preseason holdout. "I'm disappointed. Who knows what would have happened if we were all together during training camp, and happy?"
"We've got a ton of new people, and we have some people who aren't happy with their situations on the team," center Mike Baab said. "When you add all that up, you have half a team who either don't know each other or don't particularly care for each other."
Before coming to Cleveland, Carson was a defensive coordinator for five NFL teams, most recently the New York Jets.
He built Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain" defense while serving as defensive coordinator of the Steelers from 1972-1977, when Pittsburgh went to the playoffs six straight seasons and won Super Bowls in 1974 and 1975.