Of course, for fans of a football team with just two playoff appearances in the last 18 years, the hiring of Rob Chudzinski by the Cleveland Browns was met with a great deal of negativity.
However, if the whole fiasco surrounding Oregon coach Chip Kelly hadn’t taken place, would these people feel any differently?
Even though Kelly hasn’t spent one day in the NFL as an assistant coach or head man, he was a big name and would have created a big splash and a buzz with the Browns’ fan base.
The reality is no one really knows what kind of head coach Rob Chudzinski will be until he coaches a few games in the regular season.
As Plain Dealer columnist Terry Pluto wrote, Steelers fans probably weren’t thrilled about the hire of Mike Tomlin, nor were Raven fans ecstatic when they found out John Harbaugh was their new head coach. Neither was a “hot” candidate when they got the job.
On the converse side, look at the cases of Norv Turner, who is a favorite to be Chudzinski’s new offensive coordinator, and Wade Phillips, currently the defensive coordinator for Houston.
Turner was the OC with the Dallas Cowboys for many years when that team was winning Super Bowls. He directed an offense led by QB Troy Aikman, RB Emmitt Smith, and WR Michael Irvin. He is a great coordinator.
However, his record as a head coach is disappointing to say the least. In 16 years with the Redskins, Raiders, and Chargers, Turner’s record is just 114-122-1, a .483 winning percentage. His teams made the playoffs just four times.
Phillips has a great reputation as a defensive coach, and he has made the Texans a contender by making them stronger on the defensive side of the football. However, although his regular season record as a head coach is better than Turner’s (82-61 in stints with Denver, Buffalo, and Dallas, plus interim stints with the Saints and Falcons), he has won just one playoff game in five appearances.
The point is just because you are a great coordinator, it doesn’t translate into success as a head coach.
And as Tomlin and Harbaugh show us, sometimes a candidate who seemingly comes out of nowhere can be a big winner as a head coach. That’s why any judgment on Chudzinski should be reserved until he coaches a game.
He has had success as a coordinator, most notably with the Browns in 2007 and with the Panthers in 2011. The Browns ranked 8th in the league in points scored in ’07, while the Panthers ranked 5th in ’11.
His offenses have ranked in the top 12 three times in his five years as a coordinator, and his rushing attacks have been in the top ten three times, showing not only that he will make good use of Trent Richardson, but also he’s not a guy who falls in love with the passing game.
You can still hear fans disappointed that Jimmy Haslam III and Joe Banner didn’t hire Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy, or Jon Gruden, the holy trinity of former NFL coaches. Those fans are delusional. Those guys don’t want to coach anymore. They make a lot of money talking about the game and don’t have to suffer through the possibility of losing games each week.
Who knows if Rob Chudzinski will be successful in his new gig? No one. Going into the process, many people said if Haslam and Banner were wowed by a candidate, they should hire him.
They shouldn’t be criticized because that guy was Rob Chudzinski and not Chip Kelly.