When Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner made a decision to initiate a search for a new head coach on Dec. 31, 2012, the first characteristic they listed was “strong leadership.”
In their search, Haslam and Banner researched and interviewed many candidates before flying down to Charlotte, N.C., and offering the position to former Browns assistant and Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator, Rob Chudzinski, whom they felt would be a strong leader for the team.
“When you meet Rob, it comes across that he is a very decisive person,” Haslam said. “We met for five or six hours at our home here in Cleveland the other day and he has a very clear offensive philosophy. He has a very clear philosophy on what his role will be on defense and special teams. It was very well-thought out, very well-defined.
“He understands very decisively about how important it is to have a strong support team around him, how important the coordinators and coaches are. He was just very decisive in how he laid things out for Joe and I, ‘Here is what I would do if I had the opportunity to be the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.’”
Chudzinski brings 19 years of coaching experience, including nine years in the NFL, to the Browns. After starting his career with his alma mater, the University of Miami (1994-2003), Chudzinski joined the NFL ranks as the Browns’ tight ends coach/interim offensive coordinator in 2004.
Chudzinski then moved on to coach perennial Pro Bowler, Antonio Gates, and the other San Diego Chargers tight ends (2005-06). After serving as the Browns’ offensive coordinator in 2007-08, Chudzinski went back to the Chargers as assistant head coach/tight ends coach (2009-10) before moving on to become the offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers (2011-12).
During those stops, Chudzinski was able to form his coaching philosophies, something that caught the attention of Haslam and Banner during the interview process.
“When Rob sat down, within the first 10 or 15 minutes, and we followed the same format with each interview, pretty quickly, it got into, ‘Tell us about what you would do as head coach of the Cleveland Browns, what your philosophies are, how you would run things, if you’re an offensive guy, what your role would be on defense, special teams,’” Haslam recalled. “Joe and I put tremendous emphasis on what your staff would look like. Rob was very decisive. ‘This is how I’m going to do things.’ It’s very definitive and hiring people is both an art and a science. Joe and I, early on, really from the art and the science standpoints, felt this was the right guy for us.”
Banner added, “It was his ability, through a variety of anecdotal stories and the specifics of his plan that convinced us he was the type of leader that could run the whole program, understood what he was looking for in a staff and could find those people. He’s very highly respected in the league. It’s going to make a big difference in the quality of staff he’s going to be able to attract. Those are the things that made us feel good.”