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Puskas: No middle ground on ‘Chud’



Published: Sun, January 13, 2013 @ 12:02 a.m.

The Browns didn’t make the big splash many fans wanted in hiring Rob Chudzinski, another coach — like Pat Shurmur, Romeo Crennel and Chris Palmer — who had been a coordinator, but never a head coach.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle ground on the Chudzinski hire. Either it’s another in a long line of busts or it’s a good move because his offensive schemes were successful with the Browns or with other teams, like the Carolina Panthers, and he’s a lifelong Cleveland fan who understands what this franchise means to its fan base.

Which will it be? There simply is no way to be sure until Chudzinski puts his schemes in place and his Browns play some games.

The other factor will be the quality of the players the yet-to-be-named general manager provides for Chudzinski and his staff. I’d feel better if the Browns had kept Tom Heckert in that role, but that was never going to happen once Joe Banner was named CEO.

No matter how good a coach Chudzinski turns out to be, his fate — and that of the Browns as a whole — will come down to the personnel on the field. There is a decent nucleus, thanks in large part to Heckert, but it’s up to the new GM and Chudzinski — if he has significant player personnel input — to build on it.

One thing Browns fans do seem to agree on is that the long-rumored arrival of Mike Lombardi as the new GM is not a good idea.

As for Chudzinski, he has never had to be the alpha male on a football team’s sideline, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be an effective leader. Browns fans, however, had better hope Chudzinski brings a more dynamic personality to the job than Shurmur did.

After watching almost every game the Browns have played since their 1999 return, I’ve come away with two prevailing thoughts:

  1. There have been far too many occasions when the Browns simply didn’t have enough talent to compete.

  2. When they did manage to narrow the talent deficit, the Browns too often played not too lose.

The Toledo native said some things Friday that appealed to me. Chudzinski promised a team that will attack in all three phases of the game, and there is reason to buy into that theory at least offensively, based on his track record as a coordinator.

Chudzinski made Derek Anderson look like a viable NFL quarterback for at least one season, when the Browns went 10-6 in 2007. The Browns’ offense hasn’t been that potent since.

No one disputes Norv Turner’s prowess as a coordinator, and it looks like the former San Diego Chargers head coach will serve in that role with the Browns.

One of the biggest complaints about the team in recent years — aside from not winning — is that the Browns not only lost more often than not, but were painfully boring to watch, especially on Shurmur’s watch and even in Eric Mangini’s two seasons.

Hiring Chudzinski didn’t create an audible buzz, but if he delivers on his promise of an attacking mentality on the field and winning comes with that, Browns fans will embrace “Chud” like no other coach since Marty Schottenheimer.

Ultimately, though, a lot depends on who becomes the Browns’ new GM.

Ed Puskas is sports editor for The Vindicator. Email him at epuskas@vindy.com, and follow him on Twitter, @edpuskas85.


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