As the NFL Draft has come and gone, and mini-camps are starting, we will be reviewing each individual decision made this off-season by the Cleveland Browns. Click here for full list and links.
What was the decision
The Browns hire Carolina Panthers Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski as their new Head Coach. Heading into the off-season the Browns stated that they were looking for a head coach first before a personnel person. Chudzinski was the Browns Offensive Coordinator during the most exciting offensive since their return, including the use of Jamal Lewis, Derek Anderson, Kellen Winslow, and Braylon Edwards. “Chud” led the Panther’s offense with Cam Newton over the past few years before being hired to his home state team, the Cleveland Browns.
How does this decision fit with the rest of the off-season
The decision to bring Chudzinski in does not fit in with front office’s original statement of a strong, powerful leader as a head coach. However the Browns did show great interest in bringing in a innovative offensive mind, especially someone with experience with the Spread Option Offense that the Front Office seems to think is the future of the NFL. While hiring a offensive coach seemed to be priority the player acquisition periods, both free agency and draft, provided limited improvement in the offensive side of the ball. Only 1 draft pick, in the 7th round, a backup QB, two backup tight ends, a backup offensive lineman and 2 slot receivers were brought aboard to improve the offense. This does not compare to the 6 draft picks and the top 3 free agents (top in talent and money spent) were spent to improve the defense. The signing of Jason Campbell, someone familiar with Norv Turner’s and the vertical offense, does fit with Chud’s hire. Hiring someone off the radar, who also didn’t interview with any other teams this off-season, fits with the secretive and seemingly “smarter than you” attitude taken this off-season as discussed here in our review of the Mike Lombardi hire. Also discussed there and fitting here is that Joe Banner shows a desire for autonomy of power falling with him. A first time head coach is not as likely to push back against him, this may be shown in this Grantland piece which reported Chudzinski was the quietest guy in the room.
What could the Browns have done
The Browns interviewed their new Defensive Coordinator Ray Horton for the Head Coaching position before hiring Chudzinski. With the way the Browns attacked personnel acquisitions this off-season this may have been a more appropriate hire. This could of also kept Horton from leaving after a year or two, this will be covered in our next piece reviewing the Browns OC and DC hires this off-season. The Browns also could of pushed harder for Chip Kelly, though his desire to come to Cleveland is not known, but their approach the first time was not enough to draw Kelly in. A Kelly hire would probably of led to the same defensive change in format, but probably would of caused more of a turn over on offense, though the Eagles drafting of Matt Barkley means Kelly might be open to a traditional QB. A number of other former coordinators or head coaches were available this off-season, and with the Browns desire for a strong leader and the head coach Bruce Arian, Marc Trestman, Lovie Smith or others might have been more fitting to this goal.
How did this decision limit the Browns
As a first time head coach Chudzinski would be more likely to not draw in veterans looking to make a post season push. Since the team spent most of their resources this off-season on the defensive side of the ball its possible that the hire of Chud put an emphasis on that side and allowing him to work with the players currently on the roster before making an adjustment. The hope is that Horton will make the defense the backbone of our team and if Chud can’t make his offense work, along with Norv Turner, then next season he can bring in players on that side similar to the way the defense was built this off-season.
Why this decision
Many of the reasons for this decision are listed above. The three biggest reason that Chudzinksi was hired are: 1) He is a offensive coach, 2) He has a history with a dual threat QB with Cam Newton and 3) He allows Banner to run the team. Chud also has a history of success with the team, with similar players to those currently on the team. Weeden can be compared to Derek Anderson, Josh Gordon with Braylon Edwards, Greg Little to Kellen Winslow and Trent Richardson to Jamal Lewis are appropriate comparisons. David Nelson hopefully provides a similar role to Joe Jurevicius.
How does this decision impact 2013 season
This decision will allow the Browns to analyze QB Weeden within the best system possible for his talents. If Weeden cannot make it this year in this system the Browns record should be poor enough to have a high draft pick with which to draft the QB of the future. With a young head coach he may have a short leash in the future, but his local ties as well as his offensive history with the team should give him some benefit of the doubt from the fans this season. The teams expectations would of been much higher with a higher profile hire. With expectations lowered the team can be built slowly.
How does this decision impact beyond 2013 season
The biggest impact is that Weeden’s future will be decided this year. Following years, specifically next year, will be focused on improving the offensive roster. By delaying expectations and continuing “building through the draft” the Browns now have to worry about wasting years on cornerstone players Joe Thomas, Joe Haden and D’Qwell Jackson. In future years a dual threat QB should be expected to be brought in by the team for Chud to work with.
Was this a good decision looking back
With the given options Chudzinski is a good hire for the Browns. With the current offensive roster Chud’s fit is one that will help evaluate the team moving forward. The hire of Norv Turner and Ray Horton also makes the hire a positive decision. Horton’s 34 defense experience and the assets spent on the defense should give the team an identity for the foreseeable future even if the offense fails in the first year. Having a GM who was out of the league for years and a first time head coach does lead to concerns of having no one to have a dissenting voice with Banner. With all things considered Browns fans should feel good about Chudzinski leading the team forward.