I’ll be honest with you. When the Browns whiffed on Chip Kelly, and made no clear effort to go after any other big name coaches on the market, I was pretty discouraged. Then, when they hired a non-headline coach in Rob Chudzinski, I was ready to slam the door on the new ownership “regime”. I mean, did these guys know the precarious situation they were walking in to? A rabid fans base, arguably one of the most involved, certainly one of the most loyal, in the entire NFL. A fan base who has experienced nothing but failure after failure, disappointment after disappointment, literally for longer than I have been alive (I’m racing up on 30). And to this fan base, who they needed to win over, they throw some no-name head coach to, and hire the much maligned Mike Lombardi to be the GM. How could this be the good start they desperately needed? Did they realize how bad this looked?
Then, I started to pay attention a bit more to Coach Chud. The things the man said, the things he does, and (probably most importantly to the oft nostalgic Browns fans) to the things he HAS done. I won’t lie, I started this from a fairly critical, openly sarcastic position. Coach Chud wasn’t getting a fair shake at this from me, but I’ll be honest in saying that he’s started to win me over. Why? Well, I took the name away. I made him simply “Coach X” in my head. Then I thought about what he brings to the table as the Browns Head Coach.
There is no question that Coach Chud is the single most passionate head coach the Browns have had in my lifetime. He WANTS to be here. Cleveland, unbelievably, was his dream job. You are probably not going to find another Head Coach option where this is the case. Most guys would use Cleveland to show that they can get the job done in a more glamorous market. The Cleveland Browns head coaching position is not one that most coaches look at as a final, permanent spot. The hard truth is that this has been a disaster of a football franchise for more than 40 years (one-to-two year stretches of non-mediocrity don’t count, those were flukes imo). Who wants to be responsible for an extension of that disaster? The answer is, simply, Chud. Chud wanted this job, badly. He grew up, like the rest of us, as a Browns fan who desperately wanted his favorite team to be better than the mess that they were/are. And now he’s in a position to do something about it. Now as we know, passion alone is not enough…
The guy has the brains to turn this thing around. He’s widely considered to be one of the most innovative, creative young minds in the NFL. Now, since Chud has never coached a national champion contender in college, or been a head coach in the NFL, he’s flown under most of the national medias radar. To get a real opinion of him, you need to ask the guys he’s coach under. The opinion you come up with is unanimous. Heaps of praise, tons of respect, and an almost glowing admiration from his former superiors. It’s not an accident that so many people share the same opinion of Coach Chud. He might be one of the best guys in the league at breaking down film (which he does borderline obsessively), which is big in my eyes. Coaches who obsess over film are the ones who get the real, objective story. Film doesn’t get emotional, it isn’t biased. Winning coaches are the ones who follow the film.
Outside of that, Chud did something that Chip Kelly has yet to do, which is successfully apply the spread offense to the NFL. Think about who the first QB to have great success running the spread. A hint, it was RGIII/Kaepernick/etc. It was Cam Newton, smashing rookie QB records in the system Chud built. That is no accident…
3. Past Success
Coach Chud has been successful at every level he’s coached thus far. Most notably as a TE coach/asst head coach in San Deigo, where he helped build Norv’s vaunted offense. In Cleveland in 2007, he took an objectively awful QB in Derek Anderson and built a system for him that made him a pro bowl QB. Additionally, its worth noting that it was statistically the Browns most successful offense in well over 30 years. Then, as I noted above, he was the one who brought the spread successfully to the NFL, building around Cam Newtons unique skill set. Now, its worth noting the immense versatility this shows. Cam Newton and Derek Anderson and Phillip Rivers are all about as different from one another as Quarterbacks can be. Yet, Chud was able to work out a system for each that played to their strengths, covered up their weaknesses, and allowed them to thrive.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are still question marks. Can Chud’s systems be sustained over the long haul? He only got a year with DA, and Cam certainly had a little drop off in his second season. Can Chud adapt when NFL defenses start to figure out his systems? This is certainly a matter for concern, but after a neutral examination of the facts, I’m willing to get behind the kid from Toledo and give him a shot. Besides, what’s the worst that can happen, we can have a few more losing seasons?