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Browns build culture, identity

Posted Nov 6, 2013

The Cleveland Browns are developing an identity by the way they play and go about their business.

When Rob Chudzinski was named the 14th full-time head coach of the Cleveland Browns on Jan. 10, 2013, he talked about building a culture of success with coaches and players who love football and embrace the opportunity to play in Cleveland.

After going through an offseason program, training camp, four weeks of preseason games and nine regular-season contests, the Browns are on the way to creating what Chudzinski set out to achieve back in January.

“I feel good about how we’re building a culture and an identity here,” Chudzinski said. “That doesn’t happen overnight. That takes time, and we have a group of guys that have really come together. They’re relentless. I think you see that on a day-to-day basis.

“They’re passionate about playing football and passionate about being Cleveland Browns. That’s something that’s important to us, and I feel like we’re making strides in that area, and also, an understanding of how we play.”

Although Chudzinski said he feels good about the direction of the team, his first season in the NFL has not come without its challenges.

In the waning moments of the Browns’ 14-6 loss at the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 15, starting quarterback Brandon Weeden suffered a sprained right thumb and was knocked out of the lineup. Three days after the loss of Weeden, and four days before the Browns played the Minnesota Vikings, the team traded starting running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Quarterback Brian Hoyer was inserted into the starting lineup and led the team to wins over the Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals before suffering a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, and Weeden was re-inserted back into the lineup early in the first half of a 37-24 win over the Buffalo Bills on Thursday Night Football.

Then, after a loss at the Green Bay Packers, Chudzinski elected to go with veteran quarterback Jason Campbell, who led the team to a 24-18 win over the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday.

“It really says a lot about the people that are here in this organization, in the locker room and in the coaching staff,” Chudzinski said. “There are a lot of different people that believe in what we’re doing and are committed to what we’re doing. I’m pleased with where I see the identity of this team going. I think that’s all part of it. They haven’t flinched. Whatever happens, the important thing is how you respond to the things that happen. It’s not what happens. It’s how you respond to it. That’s the approach we’ve taken, and these guys have bought into it. You see them bouncing back and continue to play hard. People appreciate that and, I think, are taking notice of that.

“There’s been a lot of things happening, a lot of things going on, different situations, some unique, some things that you expect and some things that don’t happen very often. I go back to the kind of people that we have here and the identity that we’re creating. It’s a resilient group, a group that loves playing football and has been able to handle really whatever’s come across in the course of the time that we’ve been here.”

And while Chudzinski credited the players for their focus to make it through early-season struggles, it was the men in the trenches who credited their leader for the successes they have had.

“He’s doing a great job,” six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas said. “He’s a great leader. I knew that coming in. That’s why I was really excited about him being selected to be the head coach. Another factor is, we’ve got a lot of talent on this team right now, more talent than we’ve had in a long time. When you have that type of talent, there’s a confidence from your coach, from the players in the locker room, and you can go out and win. There’s no NFL team that doesn’t have any distractions or anything of that sort. That’s just the nature of the business and having the players and the coach that can just overcome that.”

Campbell added, “I’ve been impressed for the simple fact that when we get in these critical situations, he’s not a guy that shies away from it. It was fourth-and-goal last week and we went for it. Maybe 70 percent of the league would kick a field goal. It was fourth-and-one in the middle of the field last week and we went for it. It just goes to show you, he’s going all-out to win. He’s not going to shy away from any circumstances or any situation. As a player, it shows how much he really believes in us to put us in those situations and feel that we’ll be successful and get the job done. I really think his attitude and mindset really fits well with our young football team because I see the growth.”