Passan: Chudzinski Brings Fresh Approach

Since 1999, Browns fans haven't had much to cheer about when the Browhs offense was on the field. That may change, and soon, if offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski can make the most out of the the weapons the team has assembled. Here's Rich's latest Rant...

Maurice Carthon's failure as the Browns' offensive coordinator for a season and a half was fueled by his refusal to adapt to his personnel.

He tried to put the round peg in the square hole. He attempted to stuff 10 pounds of offense into a five-pound bag. He relentlessly banged his head against a stone wall despite repeated failures. He refused to change.

That stubbornness ultimately led to his dismissal or, as the club preferred to call it, his resignation.

Now, it's Rob Chudzinski's turn and from early indications, it appears as though the new Cleveland offensive coordinator will be flexible, creative and open to suggestions.

This is his first shot as a coordinator (if you don't count his interim stint under Terry Robiskie following the resignation of Butch Davis in 2004) and he appears to be open-minded as to how to improve one of the National Football League's worst offenses.

There is no denying Chudzinski will get a chance to work with arguably the Browns' best offense – at least on paper – since the club reentered the NFL in 1999.

Is there any doubt the offensive line is infinitely better than anytime since Bill Belichick was the head coach? And the receiving corps, while somewhat mercurial, has a chance to make some noise this season?

With the drafting of Brady Quinn, excitement in the quarterback competition has the fans as jacked as they've been since Bernie Kosar set up under center.

It all adds up to quite a challenge for the young man from Toledo. But at least he's got some bullets in his gun. The big question is whether he's going to keep the gun holstered or use it.

In his recent far-ranging interview with Tony Grossi of The Plain Dealer, Chudzinski revealed a fresh approach on how he'll handle the club's offense.

Basically, he said he's going into minicamp next month and training camp later this summer with no preconceived ideas on who will play and who won't. He'll let the players make that decision for him.

"Ultimately, the big thing is we have to see what we have from a personnel standpoint," he told Grossi. "I feel strongly that if you have a hard system that's inflexible and unable to accommodate the players you have and their strengths, you're trying to fit a square peg into a round hole."

How refreshing.

Hopefully, we won't see Lawrence Vickers throwing the option pass on third-and-1. Or Braylon Edwards running incorrect routes. Or whoever is at quarterback throwing the ball on just about every third-and-short. Or the running back du jour arriving at the hole long after it closes.

Asked about his quarterback situation, Chudzinski correctly declared Charlie Frye the starter. And well he should be. After all, he is the incumbent, albeit shaky.

Then he followed up diplomatically. "I think certainly with Derek (Anderson) having gotten some experience and showing he has things he does well and with Brady (Quinn) . . . where he was drafted and how you'll like to project him, there'll be competition," he told Grossi.

". . . I believe guys need to earn whatever they get . . . I want to have an open mind and start from scratch."

What he didn't say: We expect Quinn to come in and offer a strong challenge to Anderson and Frye and are keeping our fingers crossed he'll be our opening-day starter against Pittsburgh.

Chudzinski doesn't seem to be as rigid as Carthon regarding his quarterbacks changing the play at the line of scrimmage. Carthon absolutely demanded the play called from the sidelines to be the play that was run regardless of what defense the opposition showed.

"Whether they do it and how much will be dependent to what they can handle," the new coordinator told Grossi.

What he didn't say: We hope Quinn's ability to read defenses in college will carry over to the NFL. We already know Frye can't read defenses and Anderson hasn't had enough experience to make that assessment.

Chudzinski also likes what he's seen and heard from Edwards. The enigmatic wide receiver, who thus far has talked a much better game than he has played, has not been bashful when assessing the upcoming season.

"I think he's a guy who wants to be great," Chudzinski told Grossi. "I'm expecting him to have a heck of a year and keep working toward becoming the receiver he wants to be."

What he didn't say: He better catch everything that comes your way and keep his mouth shut.

Chudzinski said his offense will stress the running game, but how effective that will be depends in large part on the proficiency of Jamal Lewis. The Browns expect the veteran running back to play with a chip on his shoulder following his release by Baltimore.

The question is: How much gas is left in Lewis' tank?

"I don't wonder because we're counting on that gas being in the tank," Chudzinski told Grossi. "I can't worry about wondering. I'm counting on it. . . . I think he's hungry to get back to that (high) level (of play) and show people he's still one of the elite backs in this league."

What he didn't say: Hopefully, he'll stay healthy all season because we've got no one behind him worth getting excited about if he goes down.

With a much stronger offensive line, one that run blocks better than it pass blocks and has far more quality depth than before, Lewis figures to have a productive season.

So now it's up to Chudzinski to be the anti-Carthon; to be the creative, imaginative offensive coordinator this team needs so badly.

Wouldn't it be nice to see the Browns run counter plays, occasionally snap the ball on the first count, unleash a no-huddle offense without warning, run Kellen Winslow Jr on seam routes all afternoon, run zigs when the opposing defense expects zags and make playing offense fun again?

It's been far too long since Browns fans have felt good about the club's offense. This just might the year they start feeling that way.

Chudzinski holds the key to their hearts.

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