The Cleveland Browns didn’t get a flashy name when the franchise hired Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinki as its new head coach.
Browns fans have seen Cleveland reach the playoffs only once in the last 17 years, and the fan base was hoping the franchise would make a splash by hiring one of the off-season’s hot coaching candidates, which included University of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly or former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith.
While Chudzinski, 44, wasn’t seen as a flashy name, sportswriters are not discounting the former Panthers offensive coordinator’s chances of changing the losing culture in Cleveland.
Mary Kay Cabot, Browns beat reported for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, said fans should be excited about the hire.
She tweeted Chudzinski was a “great coordinator, head coach material and bleeds orange and brown.”
Chudzinski grew up in nearby Toledo, Ohio, and was offensive coordinator for Cleveland in 2008 and 2007, when the Browns went 10-6 but still missed the playoffs. He was also the team’s tight ends coach in 2004.
In 2004, his first stint with the Browns, Chudzinski told the Plain Dealer that he idolized the team as a kid, committing the names of the Browns’ 1980 squad to memory.
“I remember back when we'd flip the TV around in the window and go outside in the middle of winter and watch the game out there because we wanted to be there," Chudzinski said at the time. "We wanted to be part of it."
"The fans here are special people,” he added. "I know because I was one of them and still am.''
The Browns head coaching job is the first for Chudzinski, but rumors are circulating that the first-time coach will be joined by veteran coach Norv Turner, who was fired by the San Diego Chargers. Turner is expected to be Chudzinski’s offensive coordinator in Cleveland.
Chudzinski replaces ex-Browns head coach Pat Schurmur, who was fired on New Year’s Eve after leading the Browns to a 5-11 season.