December 18, 2014

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Notes: New coach Rob Chudzinski’s defense could be hybrid, will be aggressive

BEREA – The angst among fans over a possible switch from the 4-3 defensive scheme to a 3-4 might’ve been for naught.

New coach Rob Chudzinski said the defensive coordinator he hires will determine if the Browns are a 4-3 or 3-4 base, but either scheme with have versatility.

“There’s a lot of hybrid systems out there,” he said Friday. “I think we have the versatility of going either way.”

The Browns played a 3-4 from 2005-10 before switching to a 4-3 the last two seasons under coordinator Dick Jauron. Fired general manager Tom Heckert drafted to fit the 4-3, but CEO Joe Banner said the personnel can be adjusted to fit either scheme without too much trouble.

“Every offensive coach we interviewed we asked them, ‘What is the most difficult thing to play against?’” Banner said. “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.”

Jauron is well-respected within the locker room and across the league, but CBS’ Jason La Canfora reported he wasn’t expected to stay with the Browns.

The young defense ranked 25th in yardage and 24th in points in 2012.

“Either system we play there’s additional needs of talent to add to the defense to get it to the quality we want,” Banner said. “But neither would require a massive revamping of the talent we have.”

Chudzinski described his ideal defense.

“We’re going to be an attacking-style defense,” he said. “We’re going to create turnovers. That’s what we want to do. We want to get after the quarterback and affect the quarterback’s play. That’s the No. 1 thing that you want to do as a defense.”

 

GM IS NEXT

The Browns wanted to hire a coach before the general manager/director of player personnel, and Haslam said the second search is under way. He wouldn’t put a timetable on it or speculate on candidates.

“There’s outstanding candidates left,” Banner said. “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.”

NFL Network analyst and former Browns personnel executive Michael Lombardi is expected to land a spot, even if he isn’t the head of the department. The Browns have reportedly requested permission to interview Vikings assistant GM George Paton, Kansas City director of pro personnel Ray Farmer, San Francisco director of player personnel Tom Gamble and Seattle vice president of football administration John Idzik.

“I think we’re putting together a great team here, the right person to work closely with Joe and Rob and putting a championship-caliber team on the field,” Haslam said.

Banner was asked about the perception Lombardi influenced the coaching search.

“Mike hasn’t been involved,” he said. “I pick brains of a lot of people and call lots of people.”

 

STAFF CONCERNS

One of Chudzinski’s first orders of business was to meet with Pat Shurmur’s assistant coaches Friday afternoon.

“He’s going to identify to them which ones he wants to interview and then from that he’ll decide who he may want to retain,” Banner said.

Offensive line coach George Warhop and offensive coordinator Brad Childress have been mentioned as strong candidates to join Andy Reid’s staff in Kansas City. Childress would likely be a senior assistant.

Chudzinski had already started making calls Thursday night to put together his staff. FoxSports.com reported former Chargers coach Norv Turner would be offensive coordinator, but Chudzinski wouldn’t discuss his plans.

Banner was asked if Chudzinski sold the ability to land Turner during the interview process.

“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,” Banner said.

The Charlotte Observer reported Shurmur is a candidate to replace Chudzinski as offensive coordinator with the Panthers.

 

IN SEARCH OF

Haslam had never been involved in a coaching search. So he learned a lot in the 11-day journey that landed Chudzinski.

“We did not have one person — contrary to what you read — we did not have one person as a favorite,” Haslam said. “We were very open-minded as to who that person might be.

“I will tell ya this, it was a very interesting process. I learned a lot during the process because we talked to some of the top coaches in the country, whether they were pro or college. So to hear their philosophies and to learn from them was very interesting.

“And of course to be here today with Rob and to learn more about him was obviously tremendously informative, too. It was a great process — tiring, OK — but very interesting and very educational for us.”

Banner had been through the process with the Eagles in 1999 but was reminded how cool it is.

“It’s very intense, and to anyone that’s a football fan it’s incredibly fascinating,” he said. “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, OK, 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.”

 

GO GET ’EM

Banner was impressed when Chudzinski described his offense as one that attacks.

“The fact that he was very aggressive, fearless, had an attacking mindset was very important to us,” Banner said. “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.”

Haslam also liked what he heard when talking to others about Chudzinski’s innovative schemes.

“Several of the coordinators, and I think this is the biggest compliment you can get, said, ‘I hate to go against the guy. He’s a great schemer, I’m never sure what he’s going to run. It’s always a challenge,’” he said. “Offensive players, defensive players that he had played and coached with, coached against, said the same type of things.”

 

EXTRA POINTS

The Browns didn’t reveal the terms of Chudzinski’s contract, but the Plain Dealer reported it was four years at a little more than $3 million a year.

** Chudzinski wouldn’t get into specifics of the roster, including quarterback Brandon Weeden. He said he wants to watch all the game tape and meet with the staff.

“There are some pieces here and some parts here that we can build on as Jimmy had talked about,” he said. “It’s going to be a process.”

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.