After a week of searching, failed attempts with Chip Kelly and Nick Saban and several rumors, Rob Chudzinski will become the 6th coach of the Cleveland Browns since returning in 1999. A press conference will be held late Friday morning to announce the hiring.
In typical Cleveland fashion, word leaked out late Thursday evening just before the late night news. This after new owner Jimmy Haslam and President Joe Banner interviewed former Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt for a second time Thursday, the only candidate given that honor.
One would think Haslam would have exhausted every possibility to bring in a coach that would excite the fans. Instead he acted like the pressure of the city was on his shoulders to hire a new coach as quickly as possible and the first person who got his ear would get the job.
When Kelly decided to go back to Oregon, Haslam was upset; feeling as though he had been left holding a bunch of money with nowhere to spend it. Bruce Arians wanted the job, yet he was in the hospital. Haslam couldn’t wait. Instead of turning their attention to a new GM and let that person lead the parade to a new coach, Haslam and Banner pushed forward, damning all the consequences.
Joe Banner is SO intent on being the man for the Browns after his fallout with Jeff Lurie in Philadelphia the GM is an afterthought. In this front office blueprint, the coach will have more power than any GM and will only answer to Banner, while the new GM will only be a figurehead. Someone to negotiate contracts and take the blame for Banner’s inadequacy at putting together a roster and handling a draft.
Chudzinski comes back to Cleveland after barely hanging onto his job as offensive coordinator in Carolina when owner Jerry Richardson decided to keep Ron Rivera as coach. Chudzinski, or “Chud” as he is known around the league, is coming off a mediocre 2012 where Carolina’s offense struggled for the first half of the season. Overall they were 19th in scoring with 22 points per game, compared to the Browns at 19 ppg.
Chudzinski was with the Browns in 2007 and 2008 as offensive coordinator. He signed a four year extension after the 2007 season, yet was fired when Romeo Crennel was let go in 2008. Cleveland just finished paying off that extension in 2011. Now they can pay Chud for another 5 years as head coach.
Chudzinski was a hot commodity after the 2011 season and was interviewed by three teams. This off season he spent at home and had not interviewed with any other NFL team until meeting with Cleveland on Wednesday. That should have told Haslam something.
Chicago fired a defensive coach in Lovie Smith and wants an offensive guru to take his place. San Diego and Philly are also looking for offense. Yet Chud wasn’t even thought of by those clubs, only speaking with the Browns.
With the Panthers, Chud had Cam Newton to work with at quarterback. In Cleveland he has Brandon Weeden. Try and find comparisons that match those two. Yet it appears he will turn that job over to his new OC, Norv Turner. Turner is rumored to be coming to town after being fired by the Chargers. That might have been the best news of the night. Turner is a good hire as OC, yet the head coaching decision is questionable at best.
If the Browns wanted to make a splash, Mike Zimmer would have been the best choice, then bring in Turner. Zimmer was interviewed Wednesday and is known as a tough, but fair coach. His players respect and love playing for him. No players as of yet have made those comments about Chud. Zimmer’s hiring also would have weakened a divisional foe in the Bengals, who could be the best team in the North for years to come.
More news from the night was current defensive coordinator Dick Jauron is out of a job. It’s believed Chudzinksi will switch from the 4-3 to a 3-4 front. The current makeup of the Browns has several serviceable defensive lineman and only 2 or 3 linebackers. D’Quell Jackson is the team’s leading tackler with 118 at the middle linebacker spot. Now he will team with someone in the center of the field. This defense has nobody that can play the outside. The 3-4 defense was played by approximately 12 teams this past season, and only two playoff teams, Washington and San Francisco. Even Carolina played a 4-3.
Yet, according to reports, the Browns will disdain their talent and force this club into a 3-4. That is the sign of poor coaching. A good coach will work with the talent he has, not force his system onto a player it doesn’t fit. Or this could be a sign of an overzealous and controlling front office. Perhaps Haslam, still a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, sees the success of the 3-4 defense since Mike Tomlin took over. But the Browns are not the Steelers.
This smacks not of a hire for the future, but of convenience. Chud is from Toledo, he grew up as Browns fan. He is a former coach and is returning home. This makes a great story. Yet a great story is not a great hire. One can name several coaches who grew up as a fan of the Browns in the area, yet they aren’t qualified to be the coach. This is not a great choice.
It appears Haslam wanted to bring in someone with roots in the area. If that is the case, hire Jim Tressell. The former Ohio State coach is from Cleveland, his father coached there and Tressell grew up next door to Lou Groza. Tressell would put fannies in the seats. Chudzinski will bring his family and a few friends to Cleveland from Toledo every Sunday, and they will receive comp tickets.
This decision is one that could have separated Haslam and Banner from the Lerner family. Yet it only shows there may be no difference.
Say what you want about Art Modell, but he knew how to pick coaches. After he fired Paul Brown, in came Blanton Collier and the last World title a Cleveland team has won in 1964. He also brought in Forrest Gregg, who was mediocre for the Browns yet led the Bengals to a Super Bowl. Sam Rutigliano was successful with the “Kardiac Kids” and was followed by Marty Schottenheimer. All he did was take the Browns within a heartbeat from the Super Bowl twice and the playoffs every year he was head coach. Then the last before the move was a guy named Bill Belichick.
Jimmy Haslam has proven with the hiring of Rob Chudzinski he is no Art Modell.
Dave Mitchell co-hosts with Mark Donahue the UST talk show “Ohio Baseball Weekly,” highlighting the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds. The Show return in March, 2013.