BEREA — Coach Rob Chudzinski made his name in the NFL as an offensive coordinator and play caller, and his success in those roles played a significant part in the Browns’ decision to hire him Jan. 10.
But Chudzinski had no problem turning over the play-calling duties to coordinator Norv Turner, who was introduced Wednesday. Turner will also coach the quarterbacks.
“First of all, Norv is outstanding at it so it will give us a great opportunity to win,” Chudzinski said of calling plays. “Secondly, it will give me an opportunity to be more involved with special teams and more involved with defense and those guys in those areas. One of the things as head coach I want to be careful of is to just be classified as an offensive guy. I’m the head coach of the football team.”
Turner has coached for 38 years, including 14 as an NFL head coach. He hired Chudzinski as an assistant in San Diego in 2009.
“Obviously with my relationship with Norv, he’ll be extremely valuable in his experiences as a head coach and me having a sounding board with somebody with that kind of experience that’s 20 feet down the hall,” said Chudzinski, who’s known Turner for about 20 years.
Chudzinski knew all along he wanted Turner as his coordinator and convinced owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner that he’d be able to land him. Turner was wanted by other teams, but picked the Browns.
“To me, this is incredible,” he said. “Certainly my relationship with Rob is a big part of the reason I wanted to be here.
“In talking to Rob, I think the excitement of what’s happening here in Cleveland, he really got to me. Having a feel for a lot of the players on the roster, the youth of the team was extremely exciting to me and it looked like a great opportunity to be with someone who obviously we share a philosophy in terms of offensive football and the way you play football.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera worked with Turner in San Diego and told the Charlotte Observer he tried to hire Turner to replace Chudzinski as offensive coordinator.
“He and I did talk,” Rivera said of Turner. “We talked about the opening. One thing he told me was he had a lot to think about.
“I had heard that Joe Banner called him directly during that whole process. That’s the hard part because you don’t know when or what went on in that conversation.”
Vice president of player personnel Michael Lombardi was hired after Turner, but was a factor in Turner’s decision. They worked together with the Raiders when Turner was head coach.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for him,” Turner said. “I know how hard he works at this. He’s one of the best evaluators of talent I’ve been around.”
DECIDING THE DEFENSE
Chudzinski said no determination has been made on what scheme the Browns will use for their base defense. Ray Horton was hired as coordinator last week and is expected to be introduced to the media next week.
“We’re going to talk more through that,” Chudzinski said. “In our brief discussions about it, we feel like the guys here, there’s some flexibility with the 4-3, 3-4. And so much nowadays whether you’re in sub or nickel personnel or whether you’re in base, people are playing both.
“We’ll work through whether it’s going to be 4-3, 3-4 in base. Ray can do anything. He can coach any of those different schemes and we’re going to utilize a little bit of everything.”
The Browns used a 4-3 the last two years under coordinator Dick Jauron. Horton ran a 3-4 in Arizona and was part of a 3-4 in Pittsburgh prior to that.
Turner, who has coached five NFL rushing leaders, was asked for his take on Cleveland running back Trent Richardson, who rushed for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie, despite playing most of the season with injured ribs.
“I got to see Trent firsthand,” Turner said of the Browns’ 7-6 win over the Chargers. “He made an amazing, explosive run against us in that game. He’s an impressive young player and I’ve been fortunate through most of my stops to be with outstanding running backs. Guys who have characteristics like Trent.”
Turner said he hasn’t done deep roster evaluations, but he watched plenty of film of the Browns offense before the game in October.
“I saw potential,” he said. “I saw guys that when they were doing things right they did ’em very well. When you’re dealing with young players, getting them to do it over and over and over again can be the challenge.
“But certainly there’s guys that got my attention. I thought the offensive line was a good offensive line, I thought there were guys on the outside that had a chance to be good players and be guys that could make big plays.”
Chudzinski hired Scott Turner as receivers coach, giving father and son a chance to work together for the first time.
“It’s a unique opportunity,” Norv said. “I’ve never hired my son and I’ve had opportunities as a head coach to do that. I like the way he’s started his career.”
Scott Turner was a graduate assistant at Oregon State, then worked two years at a high school and three years at the University of Pittsburgh before spending the last two years as Carolina’s offensive quality control coach.
“The big opportunity for him was to go to Carolina,” Norv said. “Ron Rivera hired him and he worked with Chud and he kind of earned his own right to be on this staff because of what he’s done with Chud.
“You feel like, ‘Hey, I’ve done something. I’ve raised a guy that understands what you’re supposed to do.’”
Chudzinski said his first priority remains filling out the coaching staff. He has yet to hire coaches for the running backs, tight ends and linebackers.
“I feel we’re off to a great start,” Chudzinski said. “I’ve been taking my time with it. I want to make sure we do it right and we get the right people in here, the people that are going to help develop the guys on this team, because that’s what it boils down to is making those guys the best guys they can be.”
** Tight end Benjamin Watson was selected as one of five finalists for the Byron “Whizzer” White award, the NFL Players Association announced. The award recognizes players who go above and beyond to perform community service in their team cities and hometowns.
Charlie Batch (Steelers), Chad Greenway (Vikings), Charles Tillman (Bears) and Jason Witten (Cowboys) are the other finalists.
** Kicker Phil Dawson was named special teams captain for USA Football’s 2012 All-Fundamentals team through a national fan vote. The team honors 26 players who exhibit exemplary techniques for youth players to emulate.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.