By Kevin York
Don’t laugh. I know. You read the title of this post and started laughing. Cleveland Browns and “all the right moves?” I admit, yes, that title seems like the ultimate contradiction, an oxymoron. Humor me for a minute though as I talk through this.
When the Cleveland Browns hired Rob Chudzinski I was a bit surprised. I thought they were going to go for a bigger, splashier name. They interviewed the ‘IT’ head coaching prospect Chip Kelly, after all. They also reportedly interviewed Penn State’s Bill O’Brien. After both men turned them down I thought they’d move on to someone with NFL head coaching experience, maybe trying to lure a Jon Gruden, Steve Mariucci, Brian Billick or Bill Cowher back to the sidelines. Or maybe they’d pursue a hot assistant like Bruce Arians or Greg Roman.
Nope. Instead they turned to the man that ran Carolina’s offense for the past two seasons. He had a solid 2011 campaign, but the offense seemed to regress this year. Now whether that can be pinned on Chudzinski or deserves to be blamed on quarterback Cam Newton and his sophomore slump is a valid question, but nonetheless, either way it left many wondering how good Chudzinski actually is as a coach. After being named head coach of the Browns, the question began arising, is this new Browns senior management regime any better than the old one. President Joe Banner possesses some positive experience from his time with Philadelphia. He plucked Andy Reid out of a virtual nowhere. Still, where’s the big name? Can this Chudzinski guy get them out of the cellar? Shouldn’t they have chosen someone with more experience?
Rob Chudzinski has started to answer these questions and has done so through the way he’s been filling out his coaching staff. Chudzinksi made the two most important hires on his staff in early January. He chose fired San Diego Chargers coach Norv Turner to lead the offense and former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton to fill the same role for the Browns.
Many have criticized Norv Turner for the job he did in San Diego and yes, I was one of those people. Turner wasn’t a great head coach. Of course, he also wasn’t a terrible one. Don’t look at him and judge the hire based on his head coaching success (or lack thereof) though. Look at his past performance as an offensive coordinator:
- Turner served as offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys from 1991-1993. You may remember that those Cowboys teams won back to back Super Bowls during that time period. Turner drove that high powered offense featuring Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, among others.
- In 2006, Turner served as offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers. He was the only offensive coordinator to get any sort of positive production out of Alex Smith until the current Jim Harbaugh-Greg Roman regime arrived in town.
Don’t forget, Turner also had some really good offenses in San Diego as head coach. What I’m getting at, is that the guy is no slouch when it comes to guiding an offense.
Ray Horton turned the Arizona Cardinals into one of the top defensive teams in the league. The few wins the Cardinals had this year, were largely due to excellent defensive play since its offense was anemic. Horton was interviewed for several head coaching jobs this offseason, including Arizona and Cleveland. I think this is a great hire. Horton is one of the top young defensive minds in the game.
Chudzinkski has also been smart about the assistants he retained from Pat Shurmur’s old Browns staff. He kept the special teams coach and offensive line coach. Cleveland was near the top of the league in both of those areas. It was very smart to keep continuity for those units that were already performing well.
The decisions he’s made in his short time on the job has me thinking Chudzinski could see success in Cleveland. Of course, there’s a lot more to the job than just choosing a staff, but Browns fans have reason to feel optimistic about their new head coach given what we’ve seen so far.