Jan 11, 2013; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski answers questions during his introductory press conference at the team
Chudzinski signed on to become the final coach of the Mike Lombardi era on January 11, 2013, surviving almost an entire year before his termination following an oh-too-familiar 4-12 season. Although Chud’s time as a head coach in Cleveland may have been short-lived, it was actually his third time wearing brown and orange since 2004 (first as a tight ends coach for Butch Davis, then in 2007 as Romeo Crennel’s offensive coordinator). However, after the abrupt and somewhat unjust end to Chudzinski’s self-proclaimed “dream job,” it’s doubtful the lifelong Browns fan would return to a Jimmy Haslam owned program.
Chud’s enthusiasm to coach the Browns was not a song and dance for the media to eat up, it came from a very real place that all of us miserable fans have secured in our exhausted hearts. The young coach grew up in Toledo where he was a standout football player for St. John’s Jesuit. In a press conference following his initial hiring for the head coaching position, Chudzinski reminisced childhood days in the back yard imitating Browns of his youth like Ozzie Newsome and Brian Sipe. Apparently Newsome won out, because Chudzinski would make his way to Miami (FL) to play tight end on two national championship Hurricane teams (1987 and ’89).
Miami would serve as the training wheels for Chudzinski’s coaching career as well. From 1994-2003, the former tight end would coach his position, graduating to offensive coordinator duties in 2001. Former Miami head coach Butch Davis would be Chud’s bridge to the NFL as tight end coach to a young Kellen Winslow in 2004. After successful stops in San Diego and Carolina, Chudzinski was home in Cleveland with his first head gig.
Many members of the national media, as well as some Browns players, felt that the punishment didn’t match the crime with the firing of Chudzinski following his first head coaching season. The Browns did show signs of improvement, both early and down the stretch. With an average scoring margin of -6.1 (thanks to sportingcharts.com), the Browns were in contention in the final moments of almost every game they played. Without a real running back (Richardson traded after week 2) and two mediocre quarterbacks, it seems fans and players alike were left wondering about what the local boy could do with some cleaner offensive personnel. And of all the crap coaches who were given second and sometimes third chances by Haslam, Chud was probably the most deserving to have another opportunity.