Rob Chudzinski Hired as Cleveland Browns' Next Coach and Joe Banner's Guy
Rob Chudzinski certainly isn't a splashy hire like Chip Kelly or Nick Saban would have been. But what he is is a very intriguing hire as the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
While to most of the nation the name Chudzinski means absolutely nothing, Browns fans will remember him from his two coaching stints in Cleveland, most notably that surprisingly explosive and exciting 10-6 team in 2007 with Derek Anderson, Jamal Lewis, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr.
Going into the coaching search, I was a big proponent of bringing in Chip Kelly. The Browns obviously invested a lot into Kelly, but he ultimately chose to stay at Oregon. After Kelly (and I never believed that Saban was even a remote possibility), I had come to grips with the fact that no one else would really get me excited.
But when I saw that Chudzinski was being brought in to interview, it really perked my interest. The Browns have been notoriously bad on offense for most of their time since returning to the NFL in 1999 and have been particularly inept over the past four years. The 2007 Browns team was the last time that the offense was actually exciting and something that opposing teams had to worry about.
While most fans remember 2007 for Anderson's shocking Pro Bowl season of 3,787 passing yards and 29 TDs along with Edwards' and Winslow's 1,000-yard receiving seasons, it can't be forgotten that Lewis rushed for 1,304 yards (4.4 average) and 9 TDs himself. The thought of having an offense like that again was certainly worth thinking and even getting a little excited about.
I understand that many Browns fans are skeptical of the hire and for good reason. We've gotten our hopes up time and time again only to be disappointed. I'm skeptical too, naturally. I'm a jilted lover, as we like to say. I've been hurt enough times that I'm going to be guarded from getting too excited only to be let down again.
Do you like the hire of Rob Chudzinski as head coach?
But I will say that I'd rather have a guy in Chudzinski who's young (44), has had measured success as a coordinator (Browns in 2007, Panthers in 2011) and also has experience as an assistant head coach (in San Diego) over a guy coming off getting fired after losing nine straight games culminating in a 58-0 loss and his team apparently quitting on him (Ken Whisenhunt), a college coach with a .500 record in the Big East (Doug Marrone) or a 56-year-old CFL coach who's somehow never gotten considered for an NFL head coaching position (Marc Trestman).
So while I'm not throwing a party like I did about a week ago when "reliable sources" had Kelly coming to Cleveland, I'm guardedly optimistic about Chudzinski as the next head coach.
There are still a lot of questions that should get answered later this morning at his introductory press conference. There are reports that Chudzinski will bring in Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator, which would be a great move. There have also been reports that the Browns will switch back to a 3-4 defense like they had under Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini, which is a little less exciting.
The Browns' defenses struggled mightily under the 3-4, never managing to find the right personnel to fit the scheme. On the other hand, the past two years with a 4-3 scheme under Dick Jauron, the defense has been serviceable to pretty good.
Many people believe, as I do, that the defensive line is one of the biggest areas of strength with this Browns team. The defensive linemen currently on the team don't necessarily fit a 3-4 defense. A switch to a 3-4 would mean a drastic change in personnel, especially at the linebacker spot where they are already a little thin.
There probably isn't a player on the roster who could play a 3-4 OLB with the possible exception of Jabaal Sheard, who's definitely more suited for a 4-3.
That change isn't set in stone yet, though. We'll find out more on that later.
The most troubling aspect of the Chudzinski hire is what the move potentially means about the level of power that Joe Banner will hold on the team. Chudzinski isn't a coach with great prestige like Kelly or Saban who could demand full roster control and final say on all personnel moves.
The team has yet to hire anyone who has a background in player personnel to replace Tom Heckert. This is quite troubling to me. If they bring in a guy just a player personnel director and not general manager then that could be an indicator that Banner will be the one in full control of the personnel decisions.
This should worry Browns fans greatly as it's a role that Banner has never done in his NFL career. In fact, he doesn't have any personnel background at all. He's nowhere near qualified to fill that position. And we've seen what happens when people are given responsibilities that they aren't suited for: Butch Davis picking his own players, Mangini picking his own players, Mike Holmgren as team president.
If Banner is in charge of the roster, then it may not matter who the coach is. I hope I'm wrong and either they bring in a GM to run the team or Banner proves to be a competent personnel guy. But the way that this offseason has progressed to this point, it sure looks like Banner is running the whole show, which is worrisome.
Again, I hope I'm wrong. All I want is for the Browns to be a good football team and for my son to grow up with a good team to watch.
And I want my city's longstanding hope to finally be realized.
Because dang it, we deserve it already!
You can follow Benjamin Flack on Twitter @ClevelandFlack.
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