Taylor: Circling the Browns

EXCLUSIVE: John Taylor reports that at least one NFL franchise has already begun eyeing Browns' offensive coordinator after the season. What's the early buzz on whether the Browns can keep the red-hot, fast-rising Chud?

In working up a premium piece for The OBR that was going to run last night—yes McBride, it was.  You just didn't know it—the following was to be the lead item in a notes-style column:

Remember all of the talk last year and into this past offseason regarding the head-coaching future of Todd Grantham?

Well, change the name to Rob Chudzinski, amp up the talk about twenty notches, and you have the buzz currently going around NFL front offices regarding the Browns' offensive coordinator.

Several league front office sources have told The OBR over the last month that Chudzinski will be one of the annual "hot coordinators" this offseason, with many of them stating that they would be "shocked" or "surprised" if the OC doesn't get at least one interview for a head coaching gig.

One of the members of an AFC West front office went so far as to say that Chudzinski could be "the Mike Tomlin of the 2007 coordinator class".

Given the sudden and unconscionable resignation of Bobby Petrino in Atlanta, those four paragraphs resonate even louder.  Especially when the following unsolicited e-mail—received a couple of hours after the news regarding Petrino broke—is taken into consideration:

"FYI: Chud will get a good look from the Falcons. Keep an eye on that. He'll get some interviews, I think. Probably has no chance IMO, but you can bet they'll grill him on Anderson."  

The above comes from a member of a NFC West front office and, after numerous phone calls and e-mails over the last 24 hours, one thing is certain: the NFC West source is not alone in his thinking.

Based on conversations with sources around the league, The OBR has learned that Chudzinski was one of the names discussed Wednesday evening as the Falcons began the process of finding their second head coach in less than a year.  While the Falcons are still, obviously, very early in the hiring process, there is little doubt—at least to those around the league privy to such information—that Chudzinski will at least receive a modicum of interest for the Falcons' position.

And others that open up around the league for that matter.

Now, does this mean that Chud is/will be a candidate for the opening in Atlanta?  No, not necessarily.

What it means is Chudzinski's name will be discussed as the Falcons formulate, and whittle down, their list of candidates.  Whether or not those discussions lead to an interview—much less the actual job—remains very much up in the air this early in the process.


DISCLAIMER: As it's been explained to us, no one from within the Falcons organization or close to the organization has even put out unofficial feelers to anyone officially or unofficially associated with Chudzinski or the Cleveland Browns.

We shouldn't have to include the above paragraph but, much like iron-on transfer makers that feel the need to place "Do not iron while wearing shirt" warning labels on their products, we feel it prudent litigationally.


For the sake of argument, what would happen if—and right now it's still somewhat of a big "if"—Chudzinski were to make the final cut and get an interview with the Falcons?

According to one league type, such an occurrence could push Chudzinski to the head of the line.

"People can talk all they want about ‘early favorites', but if Chud gets an interview somewhere, he will interview well," the source explained.  "The Browns were blown away by (Chudzinski's) interviews.  Add that to the way he's produced (on the field this season), and you have a very strong candidate for any (head-coaching) position.  If he can get a foot in the door, watch out."


Of course, some people would/will discount Chudzinski as a legitimate candidate based on two factors.

One, his age.  Chudzinski will not turn 40 until May of next year.  Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, is the coordinator's somewhat limited NFL experience.

To that, one league source calls "BS" on anyone who would make that argument.

Call it "The Tomlin Factor".

"Don't forget, (Tomlin's age and relative lack of experience) didn't stop the Steelers from hiring the man they thought was best for the job," the source said, referring to Pittsburgh's hiring of Mike Tomlin this past off-season.  Tomlin spent only one season as an NFL defensive coordinator—with the Vikings last year—before being hired as Bill Cowher's replacement.  Additionally, Tomlin was a defensive assistant for the five years prior to being named Minnesota's DC.

Chudzinski will be in virtually the same position as Tomlin was last offseason.  Like Tomlin, Chudzinski will be coming off an outstanding campaign in his initial season as an NFL coordinator, although he only has three other years of NFL coaching experience on his resume'.

"If (Tomlin) can parlay one (solid) year as a DC into that gig, there's no reason to think Chudzinski can't at least get an interview or two (this year)," the source said.


From the Browns point of view, they obviously want nothing more than to hang on to Chudzinski as long as possible.  As one Browns source told The OBR, "we'll do everything in our power to retain him" if such a situation should arise.

However, the source added that, much like with Grantham when he was a candidate for the opening at Michigan State, "nobody here will stand in any of our coach's way of becoming a head coach at any level." 

"We want our (coaches) to grow and succeed and reach any of the coaching goals they have set for themselves.  Not only would that be good for the coach personally, it would be good, from a somewhat selfish standpoint, good for the image of the organization."

One way the Browns could keep Chudzinski for a little while longer would be to rip up his three-year contract and give him a new deal.  Heavy on extra cash, of course.

"Obviously," the source said, "(a revamped contract) would be one way to do it."


Naturally, and seeing as how the Browns are in the midst of an unexpected playoff push, no one close to Chudzinski contacted by The OBR would talk either on or off the record regarding Chudzinski and the Atlanta opening.

At this point, it's uncertain whether or not Chudzinski feels he's ready to be an NFL head coach, although it's a virtual certainty that the coordinator would interview for a head-coaching position if asked.

For all of the uncertainty, though, there is "one thing you can take to the bank" according to many people around the league: Chudzinski's star is rising, and, whether it's this or next year or the next, the Browns will be faced with yet another offensive coordinator search at some point in the not-so-distant future.



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