Owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner introduced Rob Chudzinski as this morning as the Browns’ new head coach during a news conference at the team’s headquarters in Berea. Here are some of the highlights:
Bleeding orange and brown
Chudzinski, a Toledo native who had two previous stints as an assistant coach with the Browns, said it’s a dream come true to lead the team he grew up rooting for. Chudzinski’s parents now live in Fremont, Ohio.
“I have to admit I’ve eaten a dog biscuit or two in my day,” Chudzinski said.
Chudzinski said he and his cousins used to sit outside in the snow while watching Browns games on TV because they wanted to feel like they were at the stadium in Cleveland.
Haslam said Chudzinski’s connection to Ohio is a plus, but he would have hired Chudzinski even if he were from Plano, Texas. Haslam said he’s convinced Chudzinski will provide the strong leadership he sought because he was decisive during the interview process. Haslam also said coaches throughout the league who have faced Chudzinski in the past said they hated facing him and his innovative offensive schemes.
Haslam said the Browns interviewed “nine or 10 of the best coaches in the country.” Banner said they interviewed four or five candidates twice.
They interviewed Chudzinski on Wednesday and hired him Thursday night during a dinner in Charlotte, N.C. Haslam said Chudzinski was on their radar all along.
Chudzinski, who served as the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers for the past two seasons, has never been a head coach before at any level.
“I feel very prepared,” he said. “I've been fortunate to be around some great coaches in my career.”
Chudzinski is the Browns' 14th full-time head coach and their sixth since 1999. Haslam and Banner fired coach Pat Shurmur and General Manager Tom Heckert on Dec. 31 after the Browns went 5-11 in 2012, their 12th losing season of the expansion era.
Chudzinski said the biggest beak of his career has a special meaning because it’s with the Browns.
“I am excited about this opportunity,” he said. “I’m excited about the chance to bring back what I grew up in and the feeling that this city, this region, this area have in the Cleveland Browns. I was the kid that was in the backyard playing, pretending I was Ozzie Newsome or Brian Sipe or the greats that played for Cleveland. The tradition of this franchise is such that the people here want a winner, and I’m here. I would not miss this for the world – the opportunity to come back and bring a winner back to Cleveland.”
Plans for defense
Chudzinski indicated he would like to use a hybrid defense instead of traditional 4-3 or 3-4 schemes, but it will depend on whom he hires as his defensive coordinator. He said assembling a staff is his first order of business.
Banner said a drastic overhaul of the roster wouldn't be needed either way.
"I think you should pay attention closely to Rob's [comments] that there are a lot of hybrid defenses out there right now that actually kind of go back and forth [between 4-3 and 3-4] depending upon the down and distance, circumstance and opponent," Banner said. "I think either system we play, there's additional needs of talent to add to the defense to get it the quality we want, but neither would require a massive revamping."
Plans for offense
Chudzinski said whether he calls the plays like he did the past two seasons for the Panthers will depend on whom he hires as an offensive coordinator. Chudzinski said his offense features a vertical, downfield passing game and focuses on maintaining a balance between throwing and running. He said he realizes he must put players in the best positions to succeed, cater to their strengths and be creative.
Former San Diego Chargers coach Norv Turner is expected to be Chudzinski’s top choice for offensive coordinator. Banner wouldn’t disclose whether Turner is coming to Cleveland, but he said Chudzinski’s ability to attract the assistant coaches he wants was an important factor in the Browns’ choice to hire him. Banner said Chudzinski will meet with assistants from Shurmur’s staff today and identify which ones he wants to interview.
Chudzinski said he will share the responsibility of final say on roster decisions. Banner said Chudzinski will dictate the types of players the Browns pursue, but a group of four or five people will collaborate to make decisions on the draft, free agency and trades.
Banner said he and Haslam have been meeting with candidates who could fill the Browns’ need for a personnel chief and will continue to do so.
Late Browns and Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell is among the 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s the second time Modell, who died Sept. 6, has reached the finals. A panel of 46 media members will vote Feb. 2 to determine the inductees. … Browns defensive assistant Chuck Bullough has accepted the defensive coordinator job at Syracuse University, Pete Roussel of CoachingSearch.com reported today.