Rob Chudzinski was the the verge of interviewing for Baltimore’s head coach job in January of 2What do Pat Shurmur and Rob Chudzinski have in common? More than you might think. Jimmy Haslam hired Chudzinski as the Browns’ next head coach, though, hoping for a world of difference in their production.
A quick Browns head-coaching candidate quiz.
Who was hired while fitting each of the following circumstances?
• Is in his mid-40s.
• Grew up less than an hour from Detroit.
• Began his coaching career where he played and stayed for years.
• Entered the NFL as a tight ends coach and worked his way up to offensive coordinator.
• Upon interviewing with the Browns, was coming off a 7-9 year with a quarterback in his second year after being a No. 1 overall pick.
If you named fired coach Pat Shurmur, you would be correct. If you named Shurmur’s replacement, Rob Chudzinski, you would be just as right.
Obviously, the owner who fired Shurmur on New Year’s Eve didn’t mean to hire his clone 11 days later.
So, what does Jimmy Haslam see in Chudzinski after sharing dinner with him twice this week?
“When you meet Rob,” Haslam said, “it comes across that he is a very decisive person.
“He has a very clear offensive philosophy. He has a very clear philosophy about what his role would be in defense and special teams.
“There was no, ‘Well, I’m not sure.’ ”
The Browns weren’t sure where they were going when the week began. They interviewed Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer once and had him scheduled for a second session Friday.
The interview was canceled, basically, the moment Haslam nodded to CEO Joe Banner while meeting with Chudzinski in Charlotte on Thursday night.
Haslam said he almost completely was sold on Chudzinski after a marathon interview at Haslam’s house Wednesday.
“But we wanted to be sure,” he said.
At about 9 p.m. Thursday, the second interview was going well. Haslam nodded to Banner with Chudzinski looking on. Banner nodded back. Not until then was Chudzinski offered the job. They had him at hello.
Chudzinski grew up in a family of staunch Browns fans in Toledo. Some snowy winter days, “Chud” and some cousins dragged a TV to a window, went outside, and pretended they were sitting in the Dawg Pound watching the Browns game.
Ironically, Chudzinski never made it to the actual Dawg Pound before old Municipal Stadium was torn down. He got there in 2004 when Butch Davis brought him in from Miami to be the Browns’ tight ends coach.
Chudzinski had to leave after the Davis regime washed out, but he was back in 2007 as offensive coordinator. That “dream job” lasted two years. Chudzinski recalls the last home game of 2008, a 14-0 loss to the Bengals. It was clear by then that head coach Romeo Crennel wouldn’t make it. Chudzinski looked out over the field. He fixed his final gaze on the new Dawg Pound, of course.
Page 2 of 2 - “Somehow,” he says now, “I knew I’d be back.”
Shurmur’s 9-23 record was his ticket back.
Browns fans are trying to get a better grip on who Chudzinski is.
Which well-known head coach is he like?
“That was one of my questions to him in our interviews,” Banner said.
It was the only time Chudzinski was indecisive. He drew a blank. So did Banner, who has been in the NFL since the mid-1990s.
Chudzinski is outwardly friendly. He comes off as organized and confident. He is no great orator.
Someone asked Banner how Chudzinski will command a room without the fire-breathing passion of, say, a Jon Gruden, or the seething intensity of, say, a Bill Cowher.
“His style is different than both of those people you mentioned,” Banner said, “but he is going to be firm in his approach. He will be as clear and unambiguous in relating his message as those men were.”
Banner and Haslam are sold on Chudzinski as an organizer and innovator. Haslam said Chudzinski’s passion for the Browns specifically, while a plus, was secondary.
“Frankly,” Haslam said, “we’d have hired him if he’d been from Plano, Texas.”
Chudzinski, 44, turned up at the team complex Friday working on an hour of sleep. He sounded fresh, but his eyes were bloodshot.
It was a work day. He spent part of it talking to Shurmur’s 2012 assistant coaches.
Offensive coordinator Brad Childress won’t be invited back. Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron probably won’t be.
Chudzinski wants an “attacking offense” and “attacking defense.” Norv Turner is the top candidate to lead the offense. Ray Horton, who worked on defense when Turner was head coach of the Redskins, is a candidate to watch on defense.
Zimmer never got that second interview after Haslam and Banner became sure about Chudzinski.
“I wasn’t expecting to be getting on a plane after dinner last night,” Chudzinski said.
The race was on for the first-time head coach.