If you’re familiar with this name, it’s because he’s been here before; twice.
Late Thursday night, the Browns hired former Panthers Offensive Coordinator, Rob Chudzinski, as their Head Coach. Amongst large amounts of speculation as to who the head coach would be, the Browns snagged the Toledo, Ohio native in a rather unexpected move.
Rob Chudzinski started in the NFL as the Cleveland Browns Tight Ends coach in 2004. He was then fired by the Browns, for the first time, and went to San Diego to become the Chargers to assume the same role. Cleveland brought back Chud for the 2007-2008 seasons as the Offensive Coordinator. Under Chudzinski, the Browns went on to a 10-6 record, had 4 Pro Bowlers (Derek Anderson, Braylon Edwards, Joe Thomas, and Kellen Winslow), and finished 8th in the NFL in total offense. Chudzinski was then fired after Eric Mangini was hired by the Browns and brought in his own staff.
San Diego, much like Cleveland, brought back Chud to coach the tight ends, as well as becoming the assistant head coach. Chudzinski then went to Carolina where he was named the Offensive Coordinator of the Panthers. Chudzinski developed rookie quarterback Cam Newton into one of the premier young QBs in the NFL, helping Newton to break all kinds of rookie passing records. While Newton struggled in year two of his career, Chudzinski was still a legitimate offensive coordinator who turned the season around for the struggling Panthers.
There is no doubt Browns fans were expecting a bigger name to be the Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns. With a new owner, a new CEO, a new president, and a new attitude, Browns fans were throwing names like Chip, Gruden, Cowher, and Lovie around. When many of the Browns original plans were out of the question, Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner regrouped and brought in around 5 candidates to Cleveland, including Chudzinski.
Chudzinski was a surprising interview in the first place. It’s rare to find a candidate that has been fired twice by the same organization as a possible candidate for the head coaching position. It was the old Browns that hired Chudzinski the first two times, these new Browns are going to make the third time the charm.
Chudzinski is truly an intriguing hire, if nothing else. A native of Toledo, Ohio and a lifelong Browns fan, Chudzinski will surely have the passion and desire to turn this ship around. He was part of the best season for the Browns since the return to Lake Erie in 1999. He is one of the most respected offensive minds in the game of football, something the Browns are certainly in need of.
It has been said that Jimmy Haslam was looking for a young, up and coming, and offensive-minded head coach. Chudzinski falls perfectly into all of those categories and fits the bill perfectly as he will undoubtedly be very passionate about the Browns and this job.
Well, folks, I guess it’s time for me to give you my opinion of the Chudzinski hiring.
When the Browns interviewed Chudzinski, I really had no idea what to think. I remembered him as a good OC here in Cleveland, but I thought the Browns were up to bigger and better things. It was obvious, even though it wasn’t obvious at all, that the Browns weren’t going to get a big name. I guess that’s the ridiculously hopeful Browns fan in all of us. We were hoping for Gruden, Zimmer, or even Cowher, along with Chip Kelly or Bill O’Brien. We thought that with new ownership would come a big splash. That wasn’t going to be the case, even though, for whatever reason, we held onto that belief.
I actually love the Chudzinski hire, especially coupled with Norv Turner as the offensive coordinator.
First of all, Chudzinski has been a good at grooming young QBs. Remember, Derek Anderson and Cam Newton were both, essentially, first year starters when they put up their massive numbers. I have a feeling that Chud will groom Weeden very well. The fit just seems ideal. Chudzinski, much the opposite of Pat Shurmur, is known as a coach who is willing to fit the strengths of his players and is willing to adjust gameplans and play-calling, even in the middle of the game. In addition to his differences with Shurmur, Chudzinski knows how to run the football, finishing in the top 10 in rushing 3 of his 5 years as an offensive coordinator. I believe that Trent and Weeden will progress very nicely with both Chudzinski and Norv Turner at the helm. Norv Turner will surely be a great help to Chudzinski as both a former Head Coach and a great offensive mind in his own right. He will take some of the pressure off of Chudzinski and make it easier for the Browns offensive system and players.
While the DC position will be up for grabs, after Jauron is let go at the start of the Chudzinski era, it remains to be seen just what the Browns will do on the defensive side of the football. It’s assumed that they will move back to the 3-4 system once Jauron departs, but we won’t know until the defensive coordinator position is filled.
Overall, I am a sucker for the “hometown” story, and Chud has all of the looks of a great “hometown hero”. The Browns are in need of a coach with the passion necessary to bring a title back to Cleveland, and what a better person to do so than the Browns-loving Chudzinski? His offensive prowess, great running game, and ability to groom young QBs seems to fit the Browns plan almost flawlessly. Along with OC Norv Turner, the Browns could have hit the very unexpected jackpot on the offensive side of the football. If for some reason, Lovie Smith decided to be the DC of these Browns, I don’t know if Haslam could’ve hired a better staff.
Haslam didn’t make the big splash all were expecting, but he quietly made a great hire for the Browns. Chudzinski utilizes the vertical passing game along with the power running game, both a of which the Browns have the talent to excel at. He is also a hardworking and passionate coach that understands the Browns and their fanbase very well. His relationship with Norv Turner will only help this team and will help to alleviate some of the pressures that come with being a head coach in the NFL.
I know you wanted Gruden. I know you wanted Cowher. I know you wanted Lovie. But you’re not Jimmy Haslam and clearly those weren’t viable options. The Browns conducted an extensive and THOROUGH head coaching search that resulted in them making a risky, yet sensical, hire in Rob Chudzinski. Chudzinski is a guy that the city can rally around, regardless if they agree with Haslam and Banner or not. At the end of the day, you can be dissapointed in the Browns coaching search or you can be excited at the prospect of a passionate Browns head coach who fits the teams strengths very well. I would personally choose the latter.
Follow Hayden on Twitter @H_Grove