April 18, 2014

WFNY Roundtable: The Rob Chudzinski era begins

WFNY_roundtable

It’s going to be one of those moments you’ll remember for a while and we certainly hope it’s thought of with joy in the end: Where were you when you heard the Browns hired Rob Chudzinski to be their new head coach? For me, I was on Skype with my girlfriend, slyly checking my email and Twitter when the news rolled in. Not the most momentous of occasions, I suppose, but she got to hear me hoot, holler and scream about a guy with a fun last name. So I certainly hope that was at least moderately enjoyable for her. Now on to our staff’s takes on a series of questions I came up with for the big news.

1) What were your initial reactions when you heard the official news last night?

Scott: The initial reaction was a mesh between shock (I was not expecting it, especially given Whisenhunt’s second interview) and anxiety as I knew that there would only be a small sliver of fans and media alike who supported the move. Had Chud left after 2007, I think fans would have been a lot more receptive — unfortunately, we have the 2008 collapse that’s a little more recent.

Rick: I was stunned when I heard. Like many others, I never thought the Browns would go this route.

Jacob: Puzzled. I certainly had seen the Twitter speculation after his second interview on Wednesday this week. But did I ever really believe that Chudzinski was a viable candidate? Not exactly. The Browns were the only team really expressing much public interest in Chudzinski, so it seemed like a cruel Cleveland joke yet again. This guy? A non-descript assistant at least on the national level who most recently was on a mediocre Panthers team (although I did enjoy having Cam Newton on my fantasy team late this season)? Yuck. I fired off a number of tweets that said “ew” and other similar phrases. It just seemed like the fan backlash was about to erupt.

TD: I can’t say I was thrilled at the Chudzinski hire. Resigned to the fact that it happened was probably the better way of putting it.  I mean all of this hemming and hawing and Rob Chudzinski is their big hire?

Kirk: I had actually fallen asleep on the couch watching television, so when I picked up my phone and checked my text messages/e-mails, I did a double take, stunned. Tonight? Chud? After interviewing Whisenhunt for a second time today and reportedly wanting a second look at Zimmer, they select Chudzinski tonight? The timing just seemes odd more than anything. I guess my final choice was that I wanted Zimmer over Arians in a close race.

Andrew: My initial reactions were feelings of doubt, trepidation, and a general sense of feeling underwhelmed by this hire. I think you always want to be excited about a coaching hire, but Rob Chudzinski just isn’t a guy that’s going to excite a lot of people. The good news is, initial reactions are meaningless. If Coach Chud can start winning some games, people will get excited about this hire real quick.

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2) Sleeping on it now, what are your overall thoughts on the coaching search and landing at this point? Has it hurt your trust in Haslam/Banner at all?

Kirk: Let me start with the fact that it hasn’t hurt my trust in Haslam and Banner AT ALL. These guys need a chance to land their head coach (check), hire their personnel director/GM, run a draft, and chart a plan in free agency. Until then, debate and discussion about them is fine, but significant judgment of them is premature at best and irresponsible at worst. This coaching search left a way better taste in my mouth than the last two. Apparently, after the three college coaches took their name out of the running, Chudzinski did the best job of that. Take a look at what Chudzinksi helped accomplish in that 10-6 2007 season. He took Derek Anderson, Jamal Lewis in his second-to-last effective season, Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow, and Joe Jurevicius and made them the 8th highest-scoring offense in the league that year. In Cleveland in ’07 and Carolina last season, Chud’s teams averaged nearly a touchdown per game more than last year’s Browns. How many close games did the Browns lose where one TD made the difference? Five by my count. Sure, he had Cam Newton in Carolina, but he also helped Greg Olsen have a breakout year (843 receiving yards after no more than 612 in any other season). I think Trent is an upgrade over the Williams/Stewart backfield that Rob had in Carolina, and our receiving corps may be deeper than Carolina’s (granted without a stud like Smith). My point overall is that Chud’s been tied to some good offensive success. This is a unproven commodity and a risk, but so was hiring Reid, McCarthy, and Tomlin.

Andrew: I don’t think the hire can reflect on Haslam and Banner because we just don’t have enough information on what happened with Chip Kelly and what is said inside these interviews. But having slept on it, I do feel better about the hire today. I like that Chud is young and energetic, I like that he’s not tied to a system but instead has proven he can adapt to the talent of the players he has, and I like that he’s trying to bring in Norv Turner as OC.

Scott: The search was a mess — you should not have to “reboot” something halfway through. That said, echoing Craig, we were not in the interviews. Kudos for such an expansive search, interviewing roughly four-times more individuals than Mike Holmgren did two years ago. My trust isn’t ruined, per se, but the facade of the big buisness man who gets whatever he wants — for the sake of winning — has long crumbled.

Jacob: The pieces seem to be starting to come together, it appears, or at least somewhat. After actually getting myself to research him a bit more, I was surprised to see that Chudzinski is only 44 years old. Compared to many of the other candidates out there (the 56-year-old Zimmer certainly comes to mind), it seems quite young. For better or for worse. I also didn’t know previously that Chud was the OC for the U when they lost to the Buckeyes in the 2002 title game. That was a tremendous team. And certainly the positive memories returned to my head over night about the fun Browns offense back in ’07. Then, he really did seem to have those head coaching interviews after the very, very impressive 2011 offensive campaign for the Panthers. Supposedly, this guy actually was a legit candidate elsewhere. So I don’t hate it, and a really good cast of coordinators could certainly continue to sway me, so I’m trying hard to be open-minded.

Rick: I had expected that Haslam/Banner knew exactly who they wanted when the took over. And possibly had pseudo agreements in place. This search tells me I was wrong. And that disappoints me a little.

TD: Truthfully, I was completely underwhelmed by this second group of candidates. But the reality is that the Browns may have a new owner, but they are still the Browns. I think we look at our team here as of it is still one of the top franchises in the league. Outside of Cleveland, we are a laughingstock since the return in 1999. Great fan base means nothing when you have gone through 8,000 regime changes in 13 years and none of them has had any kind of real success. So expecting the likes of Bill Cowher, Nick Saban, Jon Gruden, etc to take this job is pipe dream thinking.

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3) What are your thoughts on the early rumors of Norv Turner being Chudzinski’s OC? Does that substantially change your impression of this move?

Rick: What’s funny is that I used Norv Turner as my example of the kind of retread coach I didn’t want. Now that was as a head coach of course.

Jacob: Twitter seemed very optimistic very quickly about the idea of Turner returning to his former gig as an offensive coordinator under his old buddy Chudzinski. Norv has been an OC for 7 years under 4 different teams in the NFL: 3 for Dallas, 1 for San Diego, 2 for Miami and 1 more for San Francisco. Those 7 years have been interrupted by 15 years as a head coach for Washington, Oakland and San Diego. So in terms of an experienced coordinator to surround a young first-time head coach, he certainly seems ideal. Personally, does this make me excited and want to buy tickets and jump up and down about the wonders they’ll do for Weeden, Richardson and Co.? Not exactly. It’s not a home run. But for now, it appears to be a hard-hit stand-up double.

Kirk: I think it’s a must to bring in an experienced guy (having significant head coaching experience helps too) to be the offensive coordinator. We saw how disastrous Shurmur’s first season was without an offensive coordinator. I hope Chud lets Turner call the plays too, because we’ve already been on the bad side of your head coach still calling plays with an offensive coordinator too. It certainly helps me swallow this surprising move.

Scott: The offense will undoubtedly be more innovative and vertical, that’s for sure. And if I’m Jordan Cameron, I’m elated. The rub, naturally, will be how many wins it all translates into. For all of the numbers the Browns put up in 2007, they still missed the playoffs.

Andrew: Speaking of Turner….if Chud really brings in Turner, it’s a great move. First of all, while Turner is a miserable head coach, he is a proven commodity as an OC. Secondly, even though he wasn’t a good coach, at least he has some head coaching experience that could help if/when Chud gets a little over his head with something. Having that veteran experience is nothing but a plus for a young 44 year old head coach.

TD: If Norv Turner does come over as the OC, it definitely makes me feel better about the hire. Say what you want about Norv the head coach, but he has always been one of the top offensive minds in the game for 20 years. Being a first time head coach, having a guy like Norv as the OC, a guy he has worked with in the past and trusts, is a smart move.

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4) Moving forward, what is the best move for the Browns in terms of a defensive scheme and possible coordinator choice? What would you suggest to Chudzinski and Co.?

TD: The rumors of the switch to a 3-4 and moving away from Dick Jauron worries me. The Browns have spent the last three years drafting for 4-3 and the change in scheme is going to cause yet another defensive roster overhaul and a need to draft in spots they may not have needed to had Jauron been kept on. As for who I want to bring in? I want them to keep Jauron. How’s that?

Kirk: I’m not sure about the specific coordinator, but I would strongly prefer that the Browns stay in a 4-3. They have depth and talent on the D-line (Rubin, Taylor, Winn, Hughes, Sheard, Rucker, Kitchen, etc.) and little depth/talent at linebacker to fill out four spots (D’Qwell, JMJ, Gocong, Maiava, Robertson, Fort). I just don’t see the benefit of adding a massive defensive overhaul into the mix.

Andrew: Well, if I had it my way the Browns would stick to the 4-3 and I would keep Dick Jauron. Man, can you imagine having Turner and Jauron as coordinators for a rookie coach? How impressive would that be? But alas, it sounds like Jauron is out and it sounds (based on those pesky internet rumors) like Coach Chud wants a 3-4 defense. If I could suggest something to them, I would suggest they read Rick’s article about switching from 4-3 to 3-4.

Scott: I still feel a switch from 4-3 would prove to be a step back for what was undoubtedly the strength of this team. That said, the draft is coming, and there are plenty of linebackers who could easily improve this team. I fear the trading away, however, of guys like Athyba Rubin or Phil Taylor with the hopes of adding picks to get this done — similar to what Heckert did with Kamerion Wimbley — and that would really rub fans the wrong way.

Rick: I really hope the rumors are false and the Browns are not determined to swith up to a 3-4. And please don’t make your DC choice based just on who can implement that defense.

Jacob: I’m a strong proponent of doing the scheme that suits your personnel best. Obviously, that’s not a typical style in the NFL, where coordinators, coaches and executives love doing things their way and enforcing their favored scheme onto the players they have. So, in my mind, the Browns’ players are clearly best suited for a 4-3, as Rick wrote eloquently already on this site. The D-line with Taylor, Rubin, Hughes, Winn, Sheard, Parker and others is above average already and one of the strengths of this time. The linebackers, outside of Jackson, are not. That’s also the case for the secondary outside of Joe Haden. I would have loved to keep Dick Jauron, as I’m sure many others will echo. For now, without knowing who exactly the coordinator options might be, I just hope it’s someone with a very solid resume (not necessarily as extensive as Jauron/Turner, but hopefully more than Chudzinski at least). And then in the draft and free agency, no matter the scheme, a focus should immediately be placed on linebackers (especially on the outside) and improving the secondary depth. I’ve already written about that several times too.

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5) Are you overall more confident in the Browns future today than you were on Oct. 13, 2012, the day the Browns beat Cincinnati and two days before Haslam officially became the team owner?

Jacob: It’s an easy answer to say no. It’s also a safety valve to just blindly say — “Oh I trust Haslam and Banner and will support their choices no matter what.” So for now, I’ll give it an old-fashioned “slightly,” just based on the hope for personnel upgrades this offseason. Yes, I’ll keep going to games no matter how bad it is and I certainly do sincerely what Chudzinski to do well, and quickly. But I don’t think that’s necessarily going to be the case in 2013. It’s going to be a slow year, I’m guessing, and that will upset many fans after Haslam’s initial message of hopefully competing immediately next season. I just hope we can see improvements in the young players most importantly, a firm city-wide belief in the young coach and not as many struggles in Year 1 as we’ve already seen so many times for the new Browns. Here’s hoping.

Andrew: I actually am more confident now. While I wouldn’t have hired Chudzinski and I’m not thrilled right now with the hire, I still think he’s going to be a better coach than Pat Shurmur was (really going out on a limb on this one). So I wouldn’t say my confidence is high, but yes, it’s higher than it was when Haslam officially took over the team. I’m not confident in the future, but I’m at least hopeful.

Rick: I can’t say that I am more or less confident than before Haslam took over. I can say that I am less confident than I was a month ago in this group.

Scott: I don’t have reason to be. It’s another reset, one that took a “reboot” of its own. I’ll need to see proof. Tangible proof.

TD: I feel the same way about the Browns future today as I did in October. The Chudzinski hire is not awe inspiring but he should be a guy who can get the most of out Brandon Weeden (considering what he did for the original Weeden, Derek Anderson). I, like so many others, was jus hoping for a sexier hire.

Kirk: I’m as confident as the moment that I found out Haslam would be the owner of this team. We’re going to see a lot of changes this coming year, and that’s a good thing. Lerner had this franchise in a toxic waste dump state, and it’s going to take a lot of purging to remove all of that. Browns fans deserve a winner, but they must have some level of patience to allow someone to grow their roots, from owner on down to head coach. We can’t continue to charge the future with the crimes of the past, or we’ll continue to run in place as a franchise and a city.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Only in Cleveland! But hey maybe this time it’ll work. My best wishes.

  • mgbode

    and hey, Cleveland has had 2 winning seasons since 1999. Chud has been on staff for both.

  • mgbode

    Scott – you mention trading away Rubin and Taylor on the switch to the 3-4? those are 2 of the best suited players we have to make that transition. why would we trade them?

  • dwhit110

    Sheard’s the guy who they’ll trade to add picks, not Taylor or Rubin.

    I know there was a full article about this just a week ago, but would a move to the 3-4 really be that tragic? You’ve got size with the current DT rotation, who could effectively play NT and DE (Taylor, Rubin, Hughes) in addition to Rucker who can slot in at end in the 3-4 as well. Jaqua Parker is a free agent.

    DQ has already shown that he can effectively play middle in the 3-4. Draft Jarvis Jones or someone of that ilk who’s succeeded as a pass-rushing OLB in the 3-4 in college to do it here. You can probably find another MLB from the Maiava, Fort, Robertson group. So ok, you need to add an OLB. Why can’t that be done?

    I agree that it’s frustrating to keep switching schemes, and teaching players new things, but I don’t think this should be some ridiculous 2 year process like everyone has feared.

  • JK

    I don’t see how this could be anything less than a 2 year process, if you do please share.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I think we would need to add several OLBs. As it stands now, I think we have zero… so if we do draft a Jarvis Jones or Barkevious Mingo, if that guy gets injured we are sunk. Unlike in our current 4-3 scheme, I feel like we have some good depth in the front 7.

  • dwhit110

    Totally agree. I got into more detail about it in my post, but the solid DT rotation from this year is what I think could make the 3-4 feasible since those DTs would be filling DE too (Rucker I’d think would also be a fit). Sheard’s the guy who I have trouble envisioning in the 3-4. He’s the trade bait.

  • dwhit110

    What do we need that’s going to take us 2 years to accrue? Outside Linebackers, a 2nd corner, and a free safety?

    If we can sign free agents, I don’t see the problem. Craig Robertson, LJ Fort, and Billy Winn were completely unheralded pickups who were getting significant playing time this year as it was. Start by drafting someone in round 1 who fits your pass rush OLB need, trade Sheard hopefully for a 2nd rounder so you can get another OLB or someone for the secondary, and let’s sign some free agents. I don’t think you have to go crazy. Look at the Brandon Jackson, Usama Young, Frostee Rucker signings. Stop collecting LBs and Safetys who are good/great special teamers with no value on base defense. Why would this take multiple offseasons to do?

  • BenRM

    When discussing the “miss” on the Chip Kelly hire, I think a lot of people are forgetting to take into consideration what a giant, egomaniacal jerk Chip Kelly is.

    At best, he did to the Browns and Eagles exactly what he did to the Bucs last season. At worst, he never planned to go to the NFL and was simply holding Oregon hostage.

    I’m not over-the-moon about Chud, and I may be downright upset if we the Browns move to a 3-4. However, “Anyone But Kelly” was the motto to which I was sticking throughout this process. So…win?

  • ToxicToast

    Looking at my own response to the hire, I’ve realized my expectations have been affected by the hires of Urban Meyer and Terry Francona in the last year. We’ve been spoiled by two consecutive big-name coaches who look like messiah figures coming to our teams. Chudzinski could still be a great coach, he’s just a different kind of name.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Before the press conference and Chudzinski utters a word people have players traded, wow. I wish I could say I was surprised. I’m a 4-3 guy always have been and always will but I’d like to hear who the defensive coordinator is first or better yet what the new head coach thinks before trading players.

  • mgbode

    Chud calmed the nerves a bit in the press conference. Attacking style defense that gets after the QB. Doesn’t matter if you call it a 4-3 or 3-4 because we are likely to run alot of hybrid (and won’t comment yet on the co-ordinators).

  • http://twitter.com/GreatestHurley Jason Hurley

    I think a lot of the dread over a change to the 3-4 is that it’s creating larger personnel holes without plugging any others. Even if the line is complete, it takes the need to add maybe 1 starting LB to possibly needing to add 2-3, plus our remaining needs in the secondary (safety, CB2).
    Everything you’ve outlined is easy to do on paper (sign free agents, make trades, draft the right positions), but in reality are really big question marks (who will sign here, and who will be available by the time our draft picks roll around, and who will trade with us at an appropriate value).
    That, and it is in reality ANOTHER rebuild of something on this team…which people don’t really have an appetite for.

  • ToxicToast

    In Chudzkinski’s career as an OC he’s been able to adapt an offense to two really different players in Anderson and Newton without trying to force a “system” onto them. I know this still depends on who the D coordinator might be, but it gives me hope that he’s going to adapt to defensive personnel and is not going to say “we’ll run a 3-4 or die trying.”

  • mgbode

    don’t forget Dorsey at the-U.

    he’s had a noodle-arm QB, a gunner, and a new-breed mobile guy among others.

  • mgbode

    yes, I think that sums it up. the one hope would be that a couple of those needs happen to be FAs from SD where Norv is coming from (Philips and Jammer), so I’d think we have a leg up on signing them.

  • http://twitter.com/GreatestHurley Jason Hurley

    While I’m underwhelmed at the hire (I don’t hate it…I guess I didn’t expect it), one of the least compelling arguments I have seen against it is that no one else was interested in Chud, so we clearly failed in hiring him.
    Just because no one else interviewed him doesn’t mean he isn’t going to be an effective coach, or be able to have success. Since when do we need other teams to validate our coaching candidates?

  • JK

    You’re assuming on all points much too much.

    You assume we will draft 2 players who will not only fit our scheme but that are talented. Fine. But you’re also assuming our players now will transition into the 3-4 without any problem, which we’ve already seen is not always the case.

    The way I see it we need 2 LBs, CB2, FS, RT. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, it is. If we can eliminate half of those needs next year it would be a huge win for us. Only problem with that is that it’s not going to be easy. I don’t put a lot into Robertson, or Fort either and I’m not huge on trading Sheard although I understand that it would probably be best heading to 3-4.

    The way I see it it looks like this:
    Next year – Hopefully draft a stud LB and acquire another linemen to protect BW (if thats the direction we’re going) & to catapult TR. See who fits in your system, who doesn’t and make changes accordingly.
    Year 2 – Fill the holes left by players who can’t play in our new system, draft another defensive player whether it be CB2, another LB, S, whatever. Then I think you go into year 3 with maybe the chance to compete.

    Basically this year is another lost year. A year for our new staff to see what we have on the field. The year after will be filling the needs. The main “problem” I see with all of this is you have a group of young guys who for the most part progressed well this year. You take a first year head coach & put him in charge of a bunch of young guys.. do they continue to progress the same way? I hope so, but I don’t know.

  • mgbode

    we need a RT?

  • JK

    RG* or LG? Regardless..

  • http://twitter.com/GreatestHurley Jason Hurley

    And that may be so. It just seems like a wasted opportunity. If we stay with the 4-3, it seems we’re a couple of pieces away from an elite defense. Switching, now it seems like we’re several pieces from an adequate defense.

  • mgbode

    here’s just a spitball projection of how to plug the holes for this year (not the ideal one though):

    Sheard traded to KC for Hali (neither fit in the other scheme)

    Jammer/Philips to plug CB2 and OLB1

    draft Jarvis Jones and another speed-rushing DE to transition to OLB in the 4th.
    use the 3rd on a safety.

    Pinkston/Greco slated as starting OGs. Lauvao depth.

    We still need to find 2 OLB’s for depth and have other questions, but it’s a start.

  • mgbode

    ok, hopefully Pinkston comes back full-bore and Greco can slide over.

  • JK

    Looks easy on paper, you’re still talking about acquiring 4-5 players who will not only come in & play well but fit our scheme, not realistic. That’s not even taking into account players on the roster right now who we will need to replace once we figure out they aren’t suited for the 3-4.

  • dwhit110

    I see what you’re saying. Ultimately the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle… I’m over simplifying the move to the 3-4, but I’ve started doing that on this thread because I think you guys have been making it sound a touch more complicated than it is. We have some personel that should transfer well, you’re right that there are some spots where we’ll have holes and that switching schemes compounds that.

    We’re in agreement that it would be ideal to stay in the 4-3, I just think if the handcuffs come off on FA acquisition (which I’d guess will happen), we could still be ok.

  • mgbode

    i don’t think that looks easy on the screen or in practice (Jones might not be there, getting KC to trade Hali could be tough, etc). just showing how it is possible. i expect there to be bumps if we move to the 3-4.

  • Chucky Brown

    I am concerned that the Carolina OC job under Rivera, will be much more appealing to Turner due to warm weather, better qb etc.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    Yeah. Those were just the names that popped into my head — positions if strength being what they are. Sheard would make the most sense though I’m not sold that he couldn’t work out. I wish Marcus Benard was still around, however

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    were you here from 2005 to 2010? because for each those damn six years we transitioning and did not have ‘right personnel’ for the system.

    as an example, here’s the nose tackles in that timeframe: fisk, washington, ethan kelley, shaun smith, rogers, rubin.

    the recent history on 3-4 to 4-3 to 3-4 is why this is such a hot button. haslam and banner must be utterly tone-deaf to their fans not to recognize this.

  • Jaker

    Didn’t we sign Benard to a “futures” contract after the season?

  • dwhit110

    Yeah, I’m aware of the history, thanks.

    We didn’t have much talent on defense. It’s true if we were playing the 3-4 the 4-3 or the UFO. Outside of 2007 our offense was equally horrendous.

  • Jaker

    I think we might be mistaking “can fit” for a “good fit” because I’m not so sure our DLinemen would be good in a 34. Taylor should pencil in as a Nose pretty well, and maybe Rubin would do fine there as well, but if we want our D to be good, we can’t bank on any of these guys to make a smooth transition. We have no idea how Hughes and Winn will do, hopefully Winn will be ok, but remember, he was a late round pick. Hughes im worried about because he is your prototypical 3 technique, which you dont have in a 3-4. After we address the OLB spot( we all know that’s our biggest need now), we may need to draft the right DEs for this D in the next few years.

    I’m cautiously optimistic that our front will be ok, but I still think we need to beware of the possibility that they are no longer our point of strength. We may be focussing on defense in the draft for the next few years.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    I agree, but didn’t he interview for several HC jobs last off season?

  • http://twitter.com/adbrowning Aaron Browning

    How are people not more excited than before? At the very least Chud/Turner is a serious upgrade over Shurmur/Chilly.

    Now, I will be dissappointed if the Turner rumors don’t come to fruition, but that is disappointment for another day.