Cleveland Browns Botch Head Coaching Search with Rob Chudzinski Hire
If you haven't yet heard the news, the Cleveland Browns have hired former offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski as their new head coach.
However, based on the current situation in Cleveland and the men targeted previously, this was the wrong way to go for a number of reasons.
For starters, Cleveland is admitting it made a mistake in 2008, when Chudzinski was fired following another rough campaign. He had a brilliant 2007—helping the team to 10 wins for the first time since 1994—but was axed with the Romeo Crennel staff the following season.
As Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland points out, Chudzinski was on the payroll in Cleveland until 2011 after his big season, when the team gave him a huge deal as the offensive coordinator after some quick success.
#Browns gave Chudzinski 4yr extension after big 2007 season. They were paying him through 2011. Now he's back.— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) January 11, 2013
The team has had a major facelift since 2008, and you can't hold the decisions of that era against Chud and the new ownership now, so we'll cut him and the franchise a little bit of a break on this opening front. The scarier news for Cleveland fans is that Chudzinski has struggled to sustain early success at both stops in his career.
In 2007, he did a marvelous job with Derek Anderson and Braylon Edwards, turning an offense that shouldn't have scored more than 10 points a game on paper into an AFC playoff contender. No one can take that away from his resume, but it's the second year that was troubling.
The offense came back down to earth in 2008, much like it did with the Carolina Panthers this season, where Chudzinski was again serving as offensive coordinator. After a brilliant 2011 that featured rookie Cam Newton having an All-Pro-type season and his offense finishing fifth, the Panthers slid back to 12th this season.
A major question mark coming into Cleveland: Can Chudzinski adjust after teams have already seen his strategies for one season?
Not only is that alarming for Cleveland fans, but the list of head coaches that turned down the job is a long one. Chip Kelly went back to Oregon. Bill O'Brien headed back to Penn State. Doug Marrone is the head coach of the Buffalo Bills now, and there were a slew of other candidates on the board with a bigger pedigree.
Mike Zimmer was an option, as his rough mentality and defensive mindset would have been a contrast to some of the other coaches to take the position. On the flip side, if they wanted to hire an ex-OC, why not look at Bruce Arians, the former Browns offensive coach that made Andrew Luck shine in his rookie season this year with the Indianapolis Colts?
When you add all the pieces up, this looks like a desperate move from a franchise trying to capitalize on an Ohio native returning home to finish the job from '07. If that's the case, it's the wrong move.
Granted, Chud has had some success everywhere he's been. He's well regarded in most NFL circles as an offensive genius, and if you look at this tweet from ESPN's Stats and Information, offense is the biggest concern for the Browns.
The Browns rank 31st or worse in PPG (15.9), Total Offense (280.4 YPG), TD pct (12.3), and Red Zone Efficiency (42.3) since 2008.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 11, 2013
Chudzinski is expected to change that, but he'll have his hands full with an offense that features a second-year pro at QB and receivers that are just under the cusp of being quality starters.
He did it once before, but this is a tough situation to inherit.
Was Chudzinski the right candidate?
Chip Kelly turned 'em down, and Chudzinski put on a show in his interview on Wednesday.
Let's hope things work out for the new hire and the Browns. The city will like having a local boy coaching the team to start out with. But when the curtain is pulled away, the Browns botched this hire.
We're getting used to hearing that phrase in Cleveland.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.
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