BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Thursday night, Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner boarded a plane for Charlotte.
What was originally an impromptu second interview quickly turned into the end of an 11-day long search.
Rob Chudzinski would be the next coach of the Cleveland Browns.
Banner, who still takes pride in finding and hiring Andy Reid in Philadelphia some 14-years ago, is well aware that Thursday night’s decision will shape the regime going forward.
Friday morning Banner took the dais along with Haslam to introduce Chudzinski.
After the press conference Banner went into greater detail as to why “Chud” was their man.
What Sold you on Chudzinski? “How he kind of always overcome and succeeded, just even the fact that based on his background he ended up at the university of Miami on a national championship team. That was not predictable really. All the way through anecdotes. We talked about stories, for example, he had players that were difficult to manage and how did you approach that? What did you do? How did you succeed? You learn a lot in just asking somebody those kind of questions and hearing how he handled things. The different people he worked for, what he learned from each one. What meant the most? Which elements from all these different people he thought he’d incorporate into himself, his personality, how he’s run a team.”
Did anything surprise you from your conversations? “I just think the clarity of the plan. It’s not something he was figuring out for the interview. It’s something he’s clearly been thinking about a long time, if I was a head coach how would I do it? What would I do? What would my system be? All the way to what my interaction with the trainer would be and would we operate that to be as successful as possible. He had a very thoughtful not done in the last 24 hours attitude about being a head coach.”
Did you know much about him going into the interview? “I’ve had a philosophy for years to kind of keep a track of who I thought were the best young people in the league. Whether it was a marketing position or general manager position or head coach position. I’ve been following him for a long time.”
Does Chudzinski remind you of Andy Reid? “He’s different from Andy other than the strengths he has in the areas of leadership and attracting staff and managing staff, which I think are these most important. I thought they were both excellent, but they’re different people.”
What has been Mike Lombardi’s influence on the coaching search been? “Mike hasn’t been involved. I pick brains of a lot of people and call lots of people ‘do you know so and so.’ I’m not going to get into who exactly I did that with. I did it with a lot of people.”
You said the coach would determine characteristics for next GM. Has the hiring of Rob defined a direction? “It’s clearer now than it was. It was our expectation that the primary skills we’re going to be looking for is putting together and managing a department and just being as good a grader of talent as there is in the NFL.”
Have the last 11 days been like a roller coaster looking for a coach? “There’s not really a roller coaster of emotion. It’s very intense, and anyone that’s a football fan it’s incredibly fascinating. I felt lucky to be able to get to do this and sit with some of the people we did and how they think and who they work for and how they’ve evolved. Then to get to the point where you’re starting to zero in on the guy and then going through the questions where you get to the point that okay this is the guy. It’s hard to sleep at night because you have so many thoughts going through your head about the people you’ve met and are about to meet. It’s stressful because you know how important it is and you want to get it right. I’m glad we’ve finished it and feel good about the outcome.”
How many candidates interviewed a second time? “I believe that would be 4. either 4 or 5.”
Was there anybody else still in line for a second interview when you decided on Chud? “Well, we had a second interview yesterday, and then went and met with him, which was also a second interview. So, yeah, we were choosing between what we thought were good people right up until the end. Got to the point where we thought it was probably Chud’s and we went down to have dinner just to make sure that what we thought we knew, and our instincts were reinforced by that meeting.”
Did you get to talk to all the candidates you would have liked to? “Yes, but had we not felt like we had the right guy, we had additional people that we would’ve been interested in talking to.”
Can you switch to a 3-4 defense without having to blow up that side of the ball and rebuild the roster? “Absolutely. Whichever we play, and I think you should pay attention closely to Rob’s comments, that there are a lot of hybrid defenses out there right now that actually kind of go back and forth depending upon the down, distance, circumstance and opponent. I think either system we play there’s additional needs of talent to add to the defense to get it to the quality we want. But neither would require a massive revamping of the talent we have.”
What is Chudzinki’s role in personnel decisions going forward? “He’ll be very involved in them. First off, he will totally drive the what are we looking for, what are the skill sets, what are the qualities and characteristics we’re looking for in every player at every position. He won’t even be involved, he will dictate that. After that, he’ll be part of … we keep describing this group of 3, 4, 5 people that will do all the work and ultimately make the decisions on exactly who to pick or trade for or not trade for or those kinds of things. He’ll be a very integral part of the second half and he’ll be determinant in the first half.”
Is there a timetable for hiring a new GM/personnel guy? “No. I mean, there’s outstanding candidates left. We’ve started and will continue to meet with them and I have no concern at all we’re going to get a really good person.”
Does Rob have final stay on his coaching staff? “Everything’s always subject to our approval, but he’s going to have whoever he chooses to have on his coaching staff.”
What is the status of the current staff? “Rob is meeting with them this afternoon. He’s going to identify to them which ones of them he wants to interview and then from that he’ll decide who he may want to retain.”
Can you comment on your power within the team affecting some head coaches not being interested in the job? “Don’t even know that that perception’s out there and I think the evidence of who we met and who was interested in the job and who we got should be rather conclusive on the reality of that.”
Does Chud remind you of any current coaches? “We asked him in the interview who do you think you’re like and frankly he didn’t have an answer. He just described himself and who he was going to be and who he was. So I don’t think we can really pigeonhole an analogy there.”
Chud doesn’t seem to be as intense as Bill Cowher, so what do you think his leadership style is going to be? “I don’t think he’s going to show it in that way, but I think he’s going to firm and clearly in control and players will know what’s expected of him and I think there will be consequences when those expectations are not met. So in that sense when we talk about leadership those are the things we are talking about. I think his style will be different than those people (Cowher, Gruden) but I think he’s going to end up just as clear and unambiguous and as in charge as those guys are.”
The fact that you feel you don’t need so many more players would make it easier to switch defenses? “This is what Chud said to us and frankly this was consistent with all the interviews we did. Every offensive coach we interviewed we ask them, ‘What is the most difficult thing to play against?’ And the answer in all of those cases was these hybrid 4-3, 3-4, which made it more difficult to know what you were going to be against on any given play. So I think it’s clear to say that’s the way the league is headed. We happen to be lucky to think we have a significant number of players that can fit into either a 4-3 or 3-4 and then leave the coordinator the option of being one of these hybrids or committing to either direction and still be at about the same place we would be personnel wise to get up to the talent level we are shooting for.”
How much did Chud talking about vertical passing game appeal to you? “The fact that he was very aggressive, fearless, had an attacking mindset was very important to us. We believed that whatever you are doing that being aggressive and not having a fear of failure and putting the other side on the defensive is what succeeds. So the fact that he thought that way was very important.”
Chud’s emphasis on situation football, did other candidates speak about that too? “There were varying degrees on situation football. We think it’s important. He thought it was important and it was part of the good fit.”
Is Norv Turner going to be the new OC? “We are not going to get into the specifics of who’s on the staff, but the specifics of who he was thinking were the right people to bring in and the ability to attract those people was important to us.”