By Nate Ulrich
Akron Beacon Journal
Rob Chudzinski was raised as a Browns fan, and now he’ll get a chance to lead the franchise he idolized growing up.
The Browns hired Chudzinski as their 14th full-time head coach and sixth since 1999, a league source told the Akron Beacon Journal late Thursday night. A team spokesman later confirmed the hire and said Chudzinski’s introductory news conference is expected to be held on Friday at the team’s headquarters in Berea, Ohio.
Chudzinski spent the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers. He replaces Pat Shurmur, who went 9-23 in two seasons as the Browns’ coach before being fired Dec. 31 along with General Manager Tom Heckert.
Chudzinski, 44, has never been a head coach before at any level. But he convinced owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner that he’s ready for the next step in his career. Chudzinski, a former Browns assistant coach, interviewed with the team’s bigwigs on Wednesday.
Haslam, who struck a deal Aug. 2 to buy the Browns from Randy Lerner for about $1 billion, and Banner said they wanted a strong, dynamic leader to guide the team. Chudzinski must fit the profile in their eyes because he beat out a long list of candidates.
The Browns interviewed Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman on Tuesday, Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer on Wednesday and met with former Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt for a second time on Thursday. Last week, the Browns interviewed Oregon coach Chip Kelly, Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, former Syracuse coach Doug Marrone and Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
Chudzinski’s return will signal more changes, including a new approach on offense and possibly a switch from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 scheme.
Chudzinski entered the NFL as a tight ends coach for the Browns in 2004 and was promoted to offensive coordinator for the final five games that season after coach Butch Davis resigned. He then joined the San Diego Chargers in 2005 as a tight ends coach and is close with former Chargers coach Norv Turner, who was fired Dec. 31. Turner figures to be a candidate to join Chudzinski as the Browns’ offensive coordinator.
Chudzinski returned to the Browns in 2007 as offensive coordinator, a job he held for two season.
In 2007, the Browns compiled a record of 10-6 and ranked eighth in offense (351.3 yards per game). In 2008, the Browns stumbled to 4-12, ranked 31st on offense (249.1 yards per game) and coach Romeo Crennel was fired at the end of the season.