Browns hire Rob Chudzinski as new coach
CLEVELAND (AP) - Rob Chudzinski’s first head coaching job will be with the team he loved as a kid.
Chudzinski, who spent the past two seasons as Carolina’s offensive coordinator, has been hired by the Browns as their sixth full-time coach since 1999. It’s the third stint in Cleveland for Chudzinski, who worked with the Browns previously as an assistant.
The Browns hope the first-time head coach can end years of despair and constant losing, and maybe resurrect a franchise that has made just one trip to the playoffs in the past 14 years.
The team confirmed Chudzinski’s hiring with a release Thursday night and said he will be introduced at an 11 a.m. news conference at the team’s facility in Berea on Friday.
Chudzinski will be the Browns' 14th coach in team history. He replaces Pat Shurmur, another first-time coach when he was hired, who was fired on Dec. 31 after a 5-11 season. For the past two years, the 44-year-old Chudzinski has worked with talented Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
When owner Jimmy Haslam embarked on his coaching search last week, he pledged to bring back the “best person for Cleveland.”
Chudzinski, who was never embarrassed to acknowledge he rooted for the Browns while growing up in Toledo, Ohio, interviewed with the team on Wednesday. He was viewed by many as a longshot for the job, not because he wasn’t qualified, but Haslam figured to make a big splash with his first coaching hire.
In his first season in Carolina, Chudzinski turned Newton, the No. 1 overall draft pick, loose and the Panthers set club records for total yards (6,237) and first downs (345). Carolina also scored 48 touchdowns after getting just 17 in the season before Chudzinski arrived. The Panthers jumped from last in the league in total yardage to seventh, the biggest improvement since 1999.
Following the season, Chudzinski interviewed for head coaching jobs with St. Louis, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay before returning to Carolina.
After his first stint on Cleveland’s staff, Chudzinski spent two seasons as San Diego’s tight ends coach, working with perennial Pro Bowl standout Antonio Gates.