For the sixth time since returning to the NFL in 1999, the Cleveland Browns officially hired a new head coach Friday morning. If their intent was “winning the press conference” in announcing Rob Chudzinski, they seem to have accomplished that goal.
The 44 year old inherits a young roster to develop. Certainly the team’s track record doesn’t bode well for anyone coming into the job. Cleveland has lost at least 11 games in each of the past five seasons. Yet there does seem to be promise on this roster and it’s yet to be determined if Chudzinski is the coach that can pull it out.
He was with the Carolina Panthers the past two seasons as offensive coordinator and is given credit for developing Cam Newton. Newton had one of the best rookie seasons ever for an incoming quarterback in the NFL, yet had a “sophomore slump in 2012. Chud seemed to right the ship late and the Panthers won 4 strait as Newton’s play improved.
The new head coach is a lifelong fan of the Browns, growing up in Toledo, Ohio and showed obvious excitement at realizing what he termed a “dream” in being given this opportunity. All feelings of shock and awe for the fans in realizing “Chud” is the man now go away as the job is his and the talk moves into what he will do with the position.
New team owner Jimmy Haslam and President Joe Banner said the process went along just as they anticipated. This is the first time as an owner Haslam has been through the turmoil and rumors that go with hiring a new coach. Even with the ups and downs this situation has caused over the past ten days, all three seemed pleased to be in Berea announcing this hire.
Chudzinski comes with an outstanding pedigree in the number of “name” coaches he has worked with. He has played under Jimmy Johnson and Butch Davis at Miami. He coached under Davis and also others like Norv Turner, Marty Schottenheimer, Romeo Crennel, Larry Coker and Ron Rivera. As he termed it being in Carolina for the past two years watching Rivera tackle his first head coaching job will be a great help. It allowed Chud to witness first hand and understand the pressures the job brings with it.
Haslam said Chudzinski was first interviewed Tuesday in Cleveland and they were initially impressed. The owner added Chud didn’t talk in generalities about the head coaching position, but in specifics and that was new to them. In every situation Haslam said Chudzinski had details in how he would handle it as the coach of the Browns.
After the meeting, the Browns called Chud on Thursday afternoon to fly down to Charlotte and have dinner. It was at dinner that Haslam and Banner knew they had their man.
Now comes the debate on his philosophy. At the press conference Chudzinski talked about his offense being a “balanced” attack. Yet he defined what he meant by balanced.
“What I mean by balanced is we can run the ball when we have to, and throw the ball when we have too. We will do what it takes to win games.”
So you can throw out the west coast offense and call it “Chud-Ball” if you want. He also added who is on his coaching staff will determine if he or the new offensive coordinator calls the plays. Chris Mortenson of ESPN said he has been told Chudzinski is one of the bright minds in the NFL at “in-game” play calling. The previous head coach was too stubborn to relinquish those duties, which led to much criticism by fans and media alike.
Who will be the new OC is still a question. Chud has ties to Norv Turner, recently fired Chargers head coach, yet he refused to talk about coaches and players in specific at this press gathering.
When asked about the defense Chud said the Browns will play an attacking style. “We could be in a 4-3, or a 3-4. It will depend on the defensive coordinator we hire.” Reports say current DC Dick Jauron will not be retained, even if the club decides to stay with the current 4-3 alignment.
This hire came out of the blue on most. Some are happy, some upset. Some will sit back and wait and see. As Tommy Lasorda, former Dodgers manager always loved to say, “I bleed Dodger blue.” After this press gathering the same could be said, Chudzinski bleeds brown and orange.
”I would not miss this chance for the world.” Chudzinski said. ”We’re going to win here.”
Chudzinski certainly talks a good game. Now we find out of he can coach one.
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.