The Browns are interviewing Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski for their head-coaching vacancy today at their headquarters in Berea, a league source confirmed for the Beacon Journal. They will also interview Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer today, Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reported this morning.
Chudzinski, a Toledo native, entered the NFL as a tight ends coach for the Browns in 2004 and was promoted to offensive coordinator for the final five games that season after coach Butch Davis resigned. He left the team following the 2004 season and returned to Cleveland in 2007 as a full-time offensive coordinator, a job he held for two seasons.
In 2007, the Browns went 10-6, ranked eighth in offense (351.3 yards per game) and had six players, including left tackle Joe Thomas, quarterback Derek Anderson, wide receiver Braylon Edwards and tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., make the Pro Bowl. In 2008, the Browns went 4-12, ranked 31st on offense (249.1 yards per game) and coach Romeo Crennel was fired at the end of the season.
Chudzinski, 44, then returned to the Chargers and served as their assistant head coach/tight ends coach for two seasons. In 2011, he became the Panthers’ offensive coordinator, and the team ranked seventh in offense (389.8 yards per game) and tied for fifth in scoring (25.4 points per game). In 2012, the Panthers ranked 12th in offense (360.7 yards per game) and tied for 18th in scoring (22.3 points per game).
Last year, Chudzinski interviewed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to the Charlotte Observer. Still, he has yet to become a head coach.
Zimmer took control of the Bengals’ defense in 2008 and has helped it rank in the top 10 in yards allowed and points allowed in three of the five seasons during his tenure in Cincinnati. In 2012, the Bengals finished the regular season ranked sixth with 319.7 yards allowed per game and eighth with 20 points allowed per game.
Zimmer has been a defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys (2000-06), Atlanta Falcons (2007) and Bengals (2008-present). Zimmer got his first NFL job with the Cowboys in 1994, serving as a secondary coach for his first six seasons. The Cowboys won the Super Bowl during the 1995 season.
Zimmer, though, has never been a head coach. He’s also receiving interest from the San Diego Chargers, U-T San Diego reported.
Last year, Zimmer, 56, interviewed for head-coaching jobs with the Miami Dolphins and Buccaneers, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. He wasn’t chosen by either team and signed a contract extension with the Bengals before the 2012 season.
Bengals cornerback Terence Newman told the Enquirer he believes Zimmer is worthy of a head-coaching job.
“It’s kind of an enigma how he’s not a head coach already,” Newman said. “His track record speaks volumes. If there’s any coach right now that’s deserving, I think it would be him. He’s won Super Bowls. He’s led great defenses. He’s led great teams. So with that being said, he’s well-deserving.”
After Glazer's report broke, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita endorsed Zimmer.
"Mike Zimmer is a damn good football coach," Fujita, who played for Zimmer in Dallas, wrote on Twitter.
The Browns won’t comment on candidates or interviews until the search for their 14th full-time head coach and sixth since 1999 is complete. Owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner fired coach Pat Shurmur and General Manager Tom Heckert on Dec. 31 following the organization’s 12th losing season of the expansion era. Haslam and Banner said they would hire a head coach first and then find a personnel chief who complements him.
The Browns interviewed Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman on Tuesday and are expected to meet with Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who was released from an Indianapolis hospital Wednesday with what is believed to be an inner-ear infection, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported. Like Chudzinski, Trestman (1989) and Arians (2001-03) are also former Browns offensive coordinators.
Last week, the Browns reportedly interviewed University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly, Penn State University coach Bill O’Brien, former Syracuse University coach Doug Marrone, former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton. The Browns reportedly came close to reaching a deal with Kelly, but he decided not to leave Oregon. O’Brien also chose to remain in the college ranks, and the Buffalo Bills hired Marrone.
Not rushing to return
On Tuesday, former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher told Newsday said he would return to the sidelines at some point.
But Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported today that Cowher, 55, won’t return to coaching this year and might not for another four or five years.
Several NFL teams who are seeking a head coach recently contact Cowher, and one of them was likely the Browns because Haslam bought a minority stake in the Steelers in 2008 and knows Cowher, Dulac wrote.
But Cowher has told teams he’s not interested in coaching right now because he’s comfortable with his personal life and his job as a studio analyst for CBS Sports.
Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress was in Kansas City today, where new Chiefs coach Andy Reid could hire him as an assistant but not offensive coordinator, the Kansas City Star reported. Shurmur is not expected to become the Chiefs' offensive coordinator, either, according to the Kansas City Star.
When he worked for the Philadelphia Eagles, Childress was Reid's quarterbacks coach from 1999-2001 and his offensive coordinator from 2002-05. Childress spent the 2012 season with the Browns but is not expected to return with Shurmur gone. Shurmur coached the Eagles' tight ends/offensive line (1999-2001) and their quarterbacks (2002-08) during Reid's reign.