Browns hire Chudzinski as new coach

BEREA – The Browns got their man, even though it took almost a week longer than expected.

The team confirmed to the Tribune Chronicle late Thursday night that former Carolina Panthers assistant coach Rob Chudzinski has been named the 14th coach in team history and the sixth since the expansion season of 1999. He spent the last two seasons coordinating the Panthers’ offense.

A formal press conference introducing Chudzinski to the media is expected today.

It wasn’t a shocking announcement. Chudzinski interviewed with owner James Haslam and CEO Joe Banner earlier this week after Oregon coach Chip Kelly was removed from consideration because of a perceived lack of interest in the opening. He had a second interview Thursday to seal the deal.

The Browns also conducted a second interview earlier on Thursday with former Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, who was fired after last season. The Browns also had an interview recently with Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

This isn’t Chudzinski’s first coaching stop with the Browns. He coached tight ends in 2004 and was the offensive coordinator in the 2007 and ’08 seasons. The ’07 team posted the best offensive numbers since the team’s return to the NFL in 1999, scoring 402 points on the way to a 10-6 record.

The Browns interviewed Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman earlier this week. They had shown interest in Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, who signed with the Buffalo Bills last week. There were reports of a planned interview with Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

Chudzinski, 44, played tight end at the University of Miami (Fla.) from 1986-90 and was a three-year starter. He played on national championship teams in 1987 and 1989. He played high school football at Toledo St. John’s High School.

Chudzinski began his coaching career at Miami as a graduate assistant in 1994. He served as tight ends coach from 1996-2000 and was offensive coordinator from 2001-03.

In addition to coaching tight ends with the Browns in ’04, Chudzinski was interim offensive coordinator for interim coach Terry Robiskie for the final five games of the season.

Chudzinski’s next move was to San Diego, where he coached Chargers tight ends from 2005-06. Following his two-year stint as the Browns offensive coordinator, Chudzinski served as assistant head coach and tight ends coach for the Chargers from 2009-10.

The Browns needed to act quickly after the Kelly search proved fruitless. Haslam and Banner met with Whisenhunt while in the Phoenix area last week to interview Kelly.

Chudzinski should be well-schooled in dealing with option quarterbacks, if the Browns decide to go that direction in coming seasons. He worked with Cam Newton in Carolina the last two seasons. In 2011 Newton became the first rookie in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards, while setting an NFL record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 14 on his way to being named the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Chudzinski had success working with quarterback Derek Anderson in the 2007 season. The offense generated 5,621 total yards, including 3,726 through the air.