Chudzinski’s demeanor helping Browns stick together
It’s a good thing that Browns coach Rob Chudzinski is an easy-going type of guy.
Imagine if he was prone to worry. What he’s had to deal with in nearly 10 months on the job might have sent him to the medicine cabinet for stomach relief by now.
It wasn’t quite four months after Chudzinski was named coach in January when he learned news that the FBI had raided the offices of Browns owner James Haslam in Knoxville. That alone should have added a few gray hairs to Chudzinski’s head.
Early in training camp it was revealed that star receiver Josh Gordon would miss the first two games of the regular season for a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Add another few gray hairs.
Early in the season it had to be painfully obvious to Chudzinski that quarterback Brandon Weeden wasn’t going to supply much help. That was a time to take a deep breath and tell yourself that everything will work out, which couldn’t have been much comfort knowing the quick hook most owners have for coaches these days.
When things settled down with the emergence of Brian Hoyer at quarterback, it appeared there would be some calm waters ahead. A couple of weeks passed before those waters were hit by a wave that was the season-ending knee injury suffered by Hoyer.
It was back to Weeden and further confirmation that he was hurting matters more than helping.
Now Chudzinski is riding the fortunes of quarterback Jason Campbell, who will remain the starter until something unforeseen undoubtedly arises.
Through it all, Chudzinski has remained the picture of calm and strength. Maybe his office is littered from lamps being tossed off the walls, but in front of the media Chudzinski appears as relaxed and in control as Walter Cronkite delivering the evening news.
Those traits couldn’t be more important at this time for an organization that’s teetering on the edge of trouble because of Haslam’s potential legal issues at Pilot Flying J. While that is completely out of Chudzinski’s daily world, it has to be an elephant strolling among the offices at team headquarters.
Beyond that is the product on the field, which has been wildly inconsistent. There was a three-game winning streak that gave the Browns a 3-2 record and a piece of first place in the AFC North Division, but three straight defeats have put the record at 3-5 at the midpoint of the season.
It’s always a good thing to evaluate seasons when they reach the halfway point. An accurate grade on Chudzinski won’t be known until the end of the season because of his rookie status, but there are a few things than can be taken from the first eight games.
Chudzinski won’t be given a high grade because of the record, but he has to be credited for not allowing the quarterback controversy to tear apart the locker room. That hasn’t happened because Weeden seems to be generally well-liked and Chudzinski has commanded respect of the players.
You hate to think what it might look like today if Pat Shurmur was still the coach. Shurmur always seemed to be sitting on a short fuse. He misguided his concerns into areas away from the field, often getting bogged down in his obvious dislike for the media.
There’s no way a coach can succeed acting that way in situations that normally exist in Cleveland – quarterback controversies, suspensions, major injuries, etc.
It’s almost reassuring when Chudzinski enters the media room for press conferences. There are no rants or evil stares. Just mild-mannered professionalism.
Maybe Chudzinski should end his pressers in a Cronkite-like way by saying, “And that’s the way it is.”