Familiarity breeds friendships. Lucrative ones too, but often not everlasting ones.
That’s partly what landed Rob Chudzinski in Cleveland last night as he became the Browns’ new head coach, a move first reported by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen around 10 p.m. ET, and later confirmed by the Browns. There’s a lot more Chud in the Browns’ diet now, and we can reasonably assume that he edged out Ken Whisenhunt due to his prior time with the team as an offensive coordinator for two seasons starting in 2007, when he somehow turned the toxic crap that was Derek Anderson into a Pro Bowler. If so, it’s a somewhat surprising surge after Whiz was seen to be the leader as of late afternoon yesterday when he was reportedly called in for a second interview.
Chudzinski has ridden the coaching carousel several times over the past few hiring seasons, never falling off and bruising his knees. Beyond his familiarity with the franchise, his appeal for the Browns and new owner Jimmy Haslam also lies in his work as an offensive coordinator while grooming another first-round pick in Carolina. His name is Cam Newton, and he was the offensive rookie of the year a season ago. You may know him.
The Browns’ future is tied to the development of Brandon Weeden, who certainly didn’t have the rookie season that Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, or Russell Wilson had, but expecting that from him was foolish. He’s simply a tier lower than Griffin and Luck, and while Wilson may have come off the board several rounds later last spring, whatever he lacked in his arm could be compensated for with the creativity of his legs. And often early in the season when he was building confidence, that’s exactly what happened.
Newton averaged eight yards per attempt this year, and his completion percentage fell only slightly from last year (60.0 to 57.7). Chudzinski put him in an offense that was catered to his skills, as he’s rushed for 1,447 yards over his two seasons with 22 touchdowns on the ground. So Chud has shown his creative side by installing the read-option plays that greatly contributed to Newton’s success. He was also able to work through a quarterback’s struggles after Newton experienced a brief sophomore slump early this year, and then rebounded during the second half, throwing only two of his 12 interceptions over the last seven games.
In Cleveland, the schematic focus will shift, and it’ll continue to be tailored around Weeden’s deep-ball arm, and Josh Gordon, who catches said deep balls. And of course Trent Richardson, the franchise running back who slammed into the rookie wall late this season, largely due to his building injuries. For fantasy purposes then, this is the ideal hire, especially if another rumored move comes to fruition, and Norv Turner joins Chud as his offensive coordinator. Together they’ll bring a vertical attack to a set of offensive tools who will thrive in that system.
And now the links part of the links post…
- Elsewhere on the spinning coaching carousel, Lovie smith will interview for the Chargers’ opening. [Ian Rapoport on Twitter]
- Wills McGahee is still on track for a return next week, though it’s likely that he won’t receive a full workload until/if the Broncos reach the Super Bowl. [Denver Post]
- Tony Gonzalez is 95 percent certain that he’s retiring this offseason. Yes, he’s saying there’s a chance. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
- Chris Rainey was promptly cut by the Steelers yesterday after his most recent legal run-in. But it was indeed only his most recent run-in. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
- Warren Sapp, Michael Strahan, and Jonathan Ogden highlight a least of 15 finalists who will be considered for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. [NFL.com]
- For fantasy purposes, is Aaron Rodgers Mr. Inconsistency? [Pro Football Focus Fantasy]