CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Rob Chudzinski was named the Cleveland Browns’ 14th full-time head coach on Jan. 10, 2013, and for the Toledo native, taking over the helm of the team he grew up cheering for was the realization of a dream.
“It was a dream come true,” Chudzinski recalled Thursday, during “The Voice of the Fan, A Cleveland Browns Town Hall.” “The emotions were going through me at that particular time. We spent a dinner for four or five hours together, and (Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner) went out of the room. While they were out of the room, I’m sitting there and had a steak in front of me that I hadn’t even touched. I was wondering if it was about to happen and it was.”
Chudzinski was given an opportunity to pursue his “dream” job from Haslam and Banner, who entered the coaching search “looking for a series of specific qualities.”
“We wanted a strong leader,” Banner said. “We wanted somebody who was very passionate. We wanted someone with very strong views and conviction for what they wanted to do. We really wanted somebody that brought an aggressive, risk-taking mindset to the team.”
By becoming the Browns’ head coach, Chudzinski is making his third tour of duty with the team. He started his NFL coaching career as the Browns’ tight ends coach/interim offensive coordinator (for five games) in 2004. Then, in 2007 and 2008, Chudzinski was back in Cleveland as the offensive coordinator.
During the 2007 season, Chudzinski’s offense scored 402 points and gained 5,621 yards, reaching the franchise’s third-best season total in each category. Four of his players went to the Pro Bowl, and wide receiver Braylon Edwards set team records with 1,268 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.
Chudzinski is looking to instill in the 2013 Browns the same thing he did en route to a 10-6 mark in 2007.
“It was a culmination of a lot of things, and you start with belief,” Chudzinski said. “That’s one of the things that we’re trying to instill in our players. It’s about belief. You have to believe to begin with, and then, put the work in on a daily basis and commit to it. When opportunities arise, you go out on the field and you make it happen.”
Shortly after becoming the Browns’ head coach, Chudzinski went to work building his staff of assistants, starting first with offensive coordinator Norv Turner on Jan. 17, and defensive coordinator Ray Horton Jan. 18.
“(Norv) was the guy I wanted to bring here as an offensive coordinator,” Chudzinski said. “Knowing him and he being a big part in shaping my own philosophies, there was no other guy. I put on my recruiting hat and told him that it’s not really as cold as he thinks or he’s heard in Cleveland.
“Ray’s an outstanding football coach, and knowing the Pittsburgh Steelers and the scheme that they run, and what Ray’s done in Arizona, I was real excited. Going into this thing, you heard the talk about the attacking type of philosophy and affecting the quarterback. Those were important things to me and important facets of who we would bring in for the defensive coordinator. Ray fits that perfectly. He’s extremely impressive with the players.”
Through the offseason program and first week of training camp, Chudzinski, Turner and Horton have coached an up-tempo, balanced style of play in preparation for the regular season, which begins Sept. 8 against the Miami Dolphins.
“We want to have an attacking, aggressive team, a team’s offense that is looking to keep the defense on its heels,” Chudzinski said. “That’s the important part of that. The whole playbook is going to be open in every situation, and I think the guys really feed off of that and that mentality.
“It’s important to be balanced, particularly here in Cleveland. You have to be able to win games in different ways in this league, being able to run the ball when we need to, being able to throw the ball when we need to and do whatever it takes to win.”