Rob Chudzinski's rise in Cleveland during the 2007 season was as rapid as his fall the year after. Said rise and fall were intimately tied to the on-the-field performance of quarterback Derek Anderson.
As the 2007 campaign began, the Browns quarterbacks included returning starter Charlie Frye, Anderson and rookie Brady Quinn. Anderson had been borderline effective during a brief stint in 2006 but was slotted behind Frye as the season began. Quinn took himself out of the running due to a protracted contract holdout.
Behind the scenes, Chudzinski was a strong advocate for Anderson, a big and strong-armed QB that could stretch the field. After Frye was an embarrassment against the Steelers in Game 1 of the season, Anderson replaced him in the second half and Frye was stunningly dealt away to the Seahawks only a few days later.
The 2007 Browns were very well prepared to take advantage of Anderson's strengths and minimize his weaknesses. The acquisition of LT Joe Thomas and a final terrific year by stalwart RT/RG Ryan Tucker solidified the line and gave Anderson plenty of time to throw. Jamal Lewis had one last spectacular season that made defenses take the run game seriously, allowing Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow to receive less attention. Anderson has no qualms throwing into double or triple coverage, and the Edwards-Winslow combination represented the type of big, strong pass catchers that could pull the ball away from defenders.
Everything came together for Anderson, and his flaws remained hidden until late in the season. The Browns rode their offense nearly to the playoffs in 2007, and Chudzinski started receiving serious consideration as a potential head coach, leading the Browns to expand his role in Cleveland.
In 2008, things fell apart as quickly as they had come together the year before.
Neither Edwards or Winslow returned to their form from year before, and Edwards began to show a tendency of dropping key passes. Tucker was lost to the team for several reasons, a huge loss that revealed deficiencies on the right side of the line, and Lewis took a step back from his performance the year before. The team's fragile offense imploded, helped along by numerous injuries at the QB position that ultimately had the team starting Ken Dorsey for several weeks and pulling Bruce Gradkowski off the waiver wire and inserting him right in as the starter. The components which made Chud look so brilliant in 2007 fell apart, leaving him in charge of an offense that failed to score a touchdown in the final six games.
Under Chudzinski, the Browns offense was the toast of the NFL in 2007 – and the joke of the NFL in 2008.
So, which Chud is the real Chud? It is hard to tell from his experience in Cleveland. He was an effective TE coach before taking over the offense and got a lot of of Winslow and Steve Heiden in that capacity. Still, he failed to compensate for problems that appeared in 2008, although roster weakness is a large part of that. Chud failed to get Jerome Harrison or Josh Cribbs involved in the offense, leaving both to contribute under much-criticized OC Brian Daboll the year after.
While he's well regarded by many in coaching circles, one would have to hope he learned a great deal from his experience in 2008 before heralding him as a top-flight offensive coordinator.
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So Which Chud is the Real Chud?
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