Reporting Daryl Ruiter
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and new head coach Rob Chudzinski were the center of attention Thursday night at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards.
Both handed out an award and worked the packed room.
Haslam, along with former Brown Eric Metcalf, presented former Browns tackle and current analyst Doug Dieken with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Chudzinski presented the Courage Award to Notre Dame Academy freshman soccer player Molly Miller, who is a cancer survivor. Her father, P.J. Miller, was the best man in Chudzinski’s wedding. He lost his battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2009.
Haslam and Chudzinski both stopped backstage at the awards and touched on a variety of subjects pertaining to the team.
Below is the text of their Q & A sessions.
Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam
How is Chudzinski doing?
“I think Chud is off to a great start. We had the opportunity to have dinner last night with Chud and Chris Tabor, who of course stayed over, and then with Norv Turner, who I’ve never had the opportunity to meet but really is legendary in pro football in terms of his offensive knowledge and playcalling ability and then Ray Horton, who of course I knew from the Steelers and then actually interviewed for this job. I think he’s putting together a tremendous staff and then just sitting and talking to him at dinner, we’re all very excited. He almost has his staff complete. I think it’s going to be a wonderful staff, and the kind of staff we need here.”
What can you say about Michael Lombardi to ease the many concerns out there about him running the personnel department?
“I think Michael is as knowledgeable and smart and passionate and as hard a working guy as there is in pro football and we feel very fortunate to have Michael as part of our team. His job is to bring great players to Cleveland and I will tell you this, he was there at five this morning, and I said, ‘do you want to come to dinner tonight’ and he said ‘no, I’ve got work to do,’ so nobody’s going to outwork Michael Lombardi and we feel like we’ve got a great guy.”
What kind of offense will Norv bring to Cleveland?
“Chud and I were just talking at dinner. I think it will be uptempo. I think he’s going to put our players in position to make plays and I think he’s going to throw the ball down the field and I think you win in the NFL by scoring points and I think you win in the NFL by throwing deep and making long plays. It’s really hard to drive down the field and get four or five yards at a time. I think you’ve got to have some big plays and I think their offense does that.”
Did you ever imagine your first offseason being this busy when you bought the team?
“We didn’t know until a week before the end of the season that we were going to have these moves and it has been busy and it has been hectic and you’ve all been a part of it. It’s been a very fluid situation. We had dinner last night and I was in the building all day today. The energy level, the intensity and the enthusiasm, several of the players have been back. Trent was in yesterday, Trent was in today, D’Qwell’s been back and the excitement level is there. So we feel really good about where we are.”
How do you think the changes as well as the fresh and unique approach to running the Browns is being received?
“These are the best sports fans I’ve ever seen anywhere and I grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, big college sports town, but the fans here are tremendous. We’re going to do everything we can to continue to earn those fans’ support. But like I’ve said over and over, the best thing we can do is win games and we all understand that. The uniforms, the stadiums and all of the other stuff, people talk a lot about, but at the end of the day if we win games, it’ll make the fans happy and that’s the best thing we can do for Northeast Ohio.”
Do you think you’ll make a strong run at bringing Phil Dawson, who will be a free agent, back?
“The coaches and Michael will make that call. You have to remember we have a completely new set of individuals. Chud’s been here, what 10 days now? And really they’ve been focused on hiring a staff, which is what we want them to focus on. They’ve just now started looking at our team. So those decisions will be made over the next few weeks.”
Have you come to appreciate what Dawson does on the field and what he means to Browns fans?
“Phil’s a great player and a great person. He’s much like Doug Dieken, who we’re going to give an award to tonight. That’s the kind of people we want here in Cleveland, people who are great on and off the field, and Phil’s that kind of guy. No doubt about it.”
What about Josh Cribbs’ future?
“Let me just say this, Cribbsy, we were talking today, Chris Tabor had dinner with us last night, I don’t know if there’s a tougher player in the NFL than Cribbsy. Just like everybody else, we’ll have to take a look at where Josh is and where he fits into our plans. But we certainly appreciate the unbelievable effort and job that he’s done. And we’re really happy that he got to go to the Pro Bowl. He really deserves that. He’s a quality guy. He works his tail off. I don’t anybody that’s ever played the game that’s been as good at returning and covering kicks as Cribbsy is. He’s a great player, a great athlete and as tough as they come.”
What are your thoughts on the addition of Ray Horton as defensive coordinator?
“I think you’ll have that opportunity next Tuesday. I actually asked, ‘Why wasn’t Ray up there?’ I think he was interviewing people and he actually went home today. He hadn’t been home in about 10 days. But I will say this: Of course, we knew him from the Steelers and when we interviewed him for this job, [he was] fired up, intense. I think he’ll relate extremely well to players. I think the players will like him. Probably we’ll switch to the 3-4 defense. I think it’ll be an attacking defense. I think he told me in Phoenix with the Arizona Cardinals that he blitzed more than anybody in the league except for the Houston Texans. So I think it’ll be exciting and fun to watch. He’s really excited about the players we have here. We need to add one or two to really round out the team. But I think you’ll like him as a person and like him as a coach.”
What is your message to fans who are concerned about the team being blown up and starting from scratch again?
“Let me reiterate a couple of things: I do think we have some really good, young players. I think we’ve said since Aug. 3 when I announced at Berea, our goal was to build a team that was going to be consistently good over a period of time, and we’re going to do that the right way. And there’s two models in our division that have been good since 2000, so it is doable. We’re not going to knee jerk. We’re not going to try to win 10 games next year and then go back to winning four. It’s going to take a little bit of time. We do have a good young team, but the key word there is young. So we’re going to try to do it the right way and put together a team building through the draft, selectively using free agency, and I think we have the opportunity to put together a real good team in the next two, three, four years.”
Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski
Could you touch on the addition of Jon Embree as tight ends coach to the staff Thursday?
“We hired Jon Embree as tight ends coach. He’s been at the University of Colorado. I’ve known Jon for awhile now. He’s got a great reputation. He’s done a great job with tight ends; he’s coached tight ends before at Kansas City and Washington. Obviously he worked with Tony Gonzalez and did a great job with him and developed some young guys in Washington. I’m really pleased to have Jon on the staff. I feel like he’ll do a great job and continue, the tight end position is so critical for us. You want a guy in that position that can manage those guys and really take them to another level. That’s what I feel like Jon will be able to do for us.”
What about Brian Baker as an outside linebackers coach?
“Brian’s been a real versatile coach. Coached for a long time in the NFL, a lot of experience, has done a great job developing pass rushers. We’ll use Brian as primarily an outside backer coach to help with developing our outside rushers.”
Have you discussed how or if Phil Dawson and Josh Cribbs fit into your plans?
“We have not. We haven’t even gotten to that point. Again, the coaching staff is what I’m focusing on. We’re getting all our guys in. We’re going to go through and evaluate our players. That’ll be the first thing we do in the next couple of weeks and kind of put together what we want our players to be so we can get into free agency and get into the draft.”
Are those two guys you’d like to have on your team?
“They’ve obviously had success. We’ll just have to wait and see and see how everything fits together on that.”
How relieved were you to land Norv as OC?
“There was a lot of pitch to Norv. After I got the job, I had to put on the recruiting hat and do one of my best recruiting jobs to get Norv here. I didn’t tell him there was any snow or any cold weather, but he decided to come and certainly for a lot of reasons that’s a huge piece to be here both personally and professionally for me.”
What about new defensive coordinator Ray Horton saying he could’ve hired Norv if he got Arizona job?
“I’m just glad they’re both here. It couldn’t have worked out better for us.”
Are you ready to say what type of base defense you will run – 3-4 or 4-3?
“We’re gonna do both. We’re gonna have packages where we do both of those. Brian gives us, whether we’re a 3-4 or a 4-3, a lot of experience and a developer of pass rushers, particularly on the outside.”
Who is representing the Browns at the Senior Bowl and does the lack of coaches being present affect the evaluation of talent?
“The scouts and our personnel people went down to the Senior Bowl. I just had too much work to do and our staff just getting all in town and getting together. We have plenty of work to do here. And we can catch up on the Senior Bowl tape. Everything’s filmed down there. That won’t be an issue, as far as evaluations go.”