The Cleveland Browns will release their assistant coaches at the end of the season, allowing them to search for new jobs before the team hires a new coach.
While it is not surprising that the Browns, who fired Bud Carson Nov. 5, would release his assistants, it is unusual that the news has come out before the end of the year. The assistants were first made aware of the situation when a cable television station reported the news Saturday.Browns' spokesman Kevin Byrne said Monday the club had planned to tell the coaches at the end of the year that they were free to seek other jobs. It also is possible one or two of the 11 assistants currently with the team will be retained by the new coach.
The assistants will be allowed to use their offices at the team's training headquarters until they either find a job or a new coach is hired by the Browns.
The names of the assistants will be put on an inter-office computer message system that goes to all the teams in the league on Dec. 31, the day after the 3-12 Browns end their season. If one of the assistants is hired by another team and is paid less than what the Browns are scheduled to pay him, Cleveland would have to make up the difference in salary.
"I think the greatest fear an assistant coach has, even if he's being paid, is to sit out a year," Byrne said. "It's tough to get back into the loop."
Shofner, who had been an NFL assistant for 20 years before taking over for Carson, said it was not surprising that the team would allow the coaches to become free agents.
"When Bud got fired, we all knew we'd be looking for a job at the end of the year," Shofner said.
Shofner will be retained by the Browns, taking an as-yet unspecified job in the front office. Joe Popp, special assistant to the head coach, was released along with Carson.
"I've been in these situations and the new head coach probably won't keep more than one or two (of the current staff)," Shofner said. "That's just the way it works."
All the assistants were given two-year contracts after last season, which means the Browns not only have to pay Carson his $400,000 salary next year but must also fork out the money for his 12-man assistant coaching staff for another season.
Even though the assistants are guaranteed a salary next year, knowing they possibly will be out of coaching next season is difficult, Shofner said.
"It's not a good deal," he said. "No question, it's not a good situation."
It's not a good situation in Cleveland for anyone these days, with the Browns coming off a 35-0 loss at Pittsburgh in which they lost eight of nine fumbles, including losing fumbles on their first three plays from scrimmage.
"Obviously, the fumbles just took the game out of hand," Shofner said. "I really don't know how to evaluate it after that. Obviously, we're so fragile that when we spotted them seven or 14 points it was difficult for us to come back. We were never in the ball game."
Shofner said quarterback Bernie Kosar, who suffered a hairline fracture in his right thumb, would not play Sunday in Cincinnati.
"I think it would be very foolish," Shofner said of Kosar playing and risking further injury.
The only injury suffered in the Pittsburgh game were the sore ribs experienced by receiver Reggie Langhorne, although he said he was feeling better Monday and would be re-examined Wednesday.