BEREA — One of the bigger perceived ‘gets’ for rookie head coach Rob Chudzinski was to be able to land Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator. Turner brings 38 years of coaching experience, including 14 seasons as head coach.
Chudzinski said Turner was the first guy on his list to hire.
“I knew that Norv was the guy that I wanted to bring here,” he said. “I had that trust level. We have a great relationship and I was sitting in there (when Turner was the head coach) and learning. I think we’re that close.”
Chudzinski feels Turner will allow him to truly be a head coach in his first year, unlike, in Pat Shurmur’s first year where he served as his own offensive coordinator.
One of the first things that Chudzinski mentioned was that Turner will be calling the plays and will be the quarterbacks coach.
“Norv is outstanding at it and it will give us an opportunity to win,” Chudzinski said. “It will allow me to be more involved with special teams and the defense and be involved in all phases and not just be labeled as just an offensive coach.”
Chudzinski said he doesn’t feel awkward being the head coach after being under Turner as the Assistant Head Coach with the Chargers.
“I don’t see the situation as awkward at all,” he said. “I’m a team guy and everybody is going to contribute.
“Norv has been one of the best coaches in the NFL for a long time,” Chudzinski said. “Our offensive philosophies mesh really well.
“He’ll be extremely valuable as a resource, having been a head coach, being just 20 feet down the hall,” he said. “We’ve sat down a little bit and started shaping what we want to do as an offense.”
Nor does Turner.
“I know how to be an assistant coach,” he said. “I look forward to coaching with the Cleveland Browns, with new ownership, new leadership and a big part of it is working with Rob.”
“What (Rob’s) trying to do got to me. Having a feel for the youth on the roster was exciting to me. It looked like a great opportunity to be with someone who shares the philosophy with me on how to play football.”
Turner was able to get a little glimpse at the Browns roster when he brought the Chargers to town Oct. 28 and lost to them 7-6. He wants to bring an explosive offense to the Browns.
“Offensively, you want to be an exciting team that is a team that is exciting to watch,” Turner said. “Obviously, you have to be able to score points and play fast and that’s how we convey to play the game.”
Chudzinski said he’s excited in the discussions that he and Turner have had so far and think the Browns offense will be strong. He said the coaching staff will adapt to the players they have.
“We talked through it and what we want the offense to look like,” Chudzinski said. “Norv has been one of the best player callers for a long time. It was just a matter of sitting down and defining what the Browns offense would be.”
Chudzinski thinks the duo can adapt to whatever type of scheme they want to play.
“You can have success with all different ways in scoring points,” Chudzinski said. “The good thing is Norv and I are coming from the more traditional quarterback approach, but I’ve had experience the last two years working with Cam (Newton). We’ve talked about some of the things we’ve done and it’s going to be a fun process putting together what we’re going to do.”
One of the top priorities for the Browns will be identifying if Brandon Weeden is the quarterback moving forward. Otherwise, the Browns will need to look at Colt McCoy, Thad Lewis or elsewhere for the trigger man to the offense.
“It’s not only Brandon, but it’s with the whole offense and looking at all the people,” Chudzinski said. “We’ll do that collectively, individually as coaches, and then collectively sit down and discuss that. This whole process is number one and that position is critical in the process and we’ll be doing that.”
Chudzinski was asked if it could be assumed that Weeden would be the team’s starting quarterback as of now.
“I think that’s premature until we get the staff set and talk through the personnel and everybody is on the same page,” Chudzinski said.
Turner said he hasn’t studied Weeden enough to make an evaluation.
“I’m always reluctant to jump to conclusions on young players and Brandon is a very, very young player in terms of playing in the league,” Turner said. “He did some good things in the game we saw with him.
“When I started talking with Rob, we’ve been fortunate to work with young players and hopefully, they continue to grow and develop,” he said. “I looked at what Rob did with Cam. For me, to give an evaluation of Brandon would be unfair. I’ve not met him and am just looking at tape.
“There are things I’ve seen on tape that Brandon does well and I think he has a lot of the skill set that I think we’re looking for,” he said. “He does have a big arm.”
Turner said his job as quarterbacks coach will be to help develop the players to the best of their ability, whoever it ends up being.
“I go to my history and track record and whoever you’re coaching whether the receiver or quarterback, you’re looking for ways for him to improve,” Turner said. “Certainly, there are things that (Weeden) can improve on. Part of being a quarterback is getting everyone around you playing at a high level and on the same page because they feed off of each other. I’m excited about working with young guys and Rob and I both have done that in the past.”
“The most important thing you do as a coach is to adjust to the guys you have,” Chudzinski said. “You find roles for them and put them in a position to have the success that they have. First we have to look at the guys we have and what they can do and how they fit in to do what they do best.”
Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi and Chudzinski have all been non-committal regarding Weeden’s future thus far since joining the Browns.
Turner said he was impressed with what he saw in film prior to the Browns and Chargers game.
“The thing that happens when I was getting ready to play Cleveland is you saw potential,” he said. “There were certainly guys who caught my attention.”
He mentioned the offensive line and the wide receivers. He also said Trent Richardson was explosive.
“I was able to see Trent up close and he made an explosive play against us,” Turner said.
Turner has been able to bring out the best in running backs during his career.
“I’ve been able to have been fortunate to have outstanding, great running backs,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to coach five backs that have led the NFL in rushing, so I know what it takes.”
Chudzinski said the evaluation process is just getting started as he’s spent most of his time assembling a staff of coaches.
“That’s what the evaluation process is,” he said. “Looking through and evaluating them to see what adjustments need to be done scheme-wise.
“In my experience you start out defining these are the guys we like and how do they fit in with what you are doing,” he said. “There are guys who you aren’t what you would define but they’re very productive. I can give you a lot of examples of guys who weren’t as tall or as big as you’d like but you continue to mold into your system.”
Turner and Chudzinski were both asked about McCoy.
“To get into the evaluation of players is not fair,” Turner said. “I am familiar with Colt when he was coming out and he was a productive player.”
Chudzinski offered similar sentiment.
“I’ve had a little chance to look at him,” Chudzinski said. “He’s had some success. I’ve had a chance to talk with Colt and I’m looking forward to this process as we make decisions going forward.”
Chudzinski admitted that the era of the quarterback that is able to run is here to stay.
“As you look around at college and you see guys running around (zone reads) these are the types of guys coming to the NFL and to be able to adjust to them to do what they’re used to and merging that with what is traditionally done in the NFL,” he said. “You’re going to see more and more of it and I think it’s going to be here to stay.”
Chudzinski said the key to a successful offense is being able to have big play ability.
“The thing you have to do in this league because the defenses are so good you have to get chunk plays,” he said. “You have to put your guys in position to create those plays and adjust to your personnel to get the ball in your playmakers hands. You have to be able to run the ball and you’re looking for balance.
“That doesn’t mean you have to run the ball 40 times a game and throw 40 times a game,” he said. “You have to be able to adjust to win the games, whether it’s a high scoring game or a bad weather game.”
Turner’s offenses have been one of the best at making big plays. He explained why he first hired Chudzinski at San Diego.
“One of the things I’ve always tried to do is continue to grow and remain relevant,” he said. “I felt Rob could help. Rob brought a lot of things that I hadn’t been exposed to offensively. The first year we were 13-3 and were explosive. We were always in the top four or five in big plays in the league (plays of 20 yards or more). Bringing (Rob) in gave our offense a better look.”
Turner’s resume brings 14 seasons as an NFL head coach where he won 114 regular seasons games. He spent the last six seasons as the head coach of the Chargers and they had a record of 59-43 (.578) in the regular season. His teams won three AFC West titles. He was also the coach of the Redskins from 1994-2000 and the Raiders 2004-2005.
Other topics that were covered during the session with Chudzinski and Turner:
Q: Have you settled on whether you’re going to run a base 3-4 or 4-3 defense?:
Chudzinski: “We’re going to talk more through that. Ray (Horton) is just starting and in our brief discussions, we feel there is some flexibility with the 3-4 or 4-3. Nowadays, people are playing both and we’re going to work our way through that. Ray can coach both and there will be principles for 4-3 and 3-4.”
Q: Since Horton has run the 3-4 the last couple years with the Cardinals, is it safe to assume the base will be the 3-4?:
Chudzinski: “I wouldn’t say that because we’re going to work with the personnel and utilize the guys we have. We will be working through that in the next few weeks.”