The Browns looked on both sides of the ball Wednesday as they continued their coaching search.
Former Browns offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, who holds the same position with the Panthers, was at team headquarters in Berea, according to multiple reports. Chudzinski grew up a huge Browns fan in Toledo, and if he got the job, it would be his third stint on the Cleveland sideline. He was tight ends coach in 2004 under Butch Davis and returned in 2007 as coordinator. He spent two years on the job before leaving when general manager Phil Savage and coach Romeo Crennel were fired.
Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reported the Browns were also scheduled to interview Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer later in the day.
The Browns aren’t confirming any interviews.
Zimmer is the second defensive coach (Cardinals coordinator Ray Horton) to meet with the Browns in the two-week search that began when Pat Shurmur was fired Dec. 31. Of the eight candidates known to have interviewed, six have offensive backgrounds.
Zimmer, 56, has been an NFL defensive coordinator for the last 13 years. He was with the Cowboys from 2000-06, spent a year with Atlanta and the last five in Cincinnati.
He’s fiery, straightforward and loved by his players. He’s interviewed several times over the years, including last year with Tampa Bay and Miami, but has never gotten the head coaching job he seeks.
“Mike Zimmer is a damn good football coach,” tweeted Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, who played for Zimmer in Dallas and for Zimmer’s son, Adam, in New Orleans.
Chudzinski, 44, called the plays in the best offensive year by the Browns since their return. In 2007, quarterback Derek Anderson, receiver Braylon Edwards, tight end Kellen Winslow and left tackle Joe Thomas earned trips to the Pro Bowl as the Browns went 10-6 and ranked eighth in total offense and scoring with 351.3 yards and 25.1 points per game. Anderson threw 29 touchdowns, while Edwards, Winslow and running back Jamal Lewis had 1,000-yard seasons.
The production fell off a cliff in 2008 as the Browns dealt with a series of injuries. They ranked 31st in yardage (249.1 per game) and tied for 30th in scoring (14.5 points).
After two years in San Diego, Chudzinski joined Carolina as coordinator in 2011 and teamed with rookie quarterback Cam Newton to turn around a dismal offense. The Panthers set team records for yards (6,237) and first downs (345) a year after franchise lows. They went from last in the NFL in yards to seventh.
Chudzinski interviewed for head coaching jobs last year, which got him a raise and extension with the Panthers. Carolina regressed a bit in Newton’s second year, ranking 12th in yardage (360.7) and tied for 18th in scoring (22.3).
Zimmer has experience in the AFC North and leading 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. Cincinnati has finished no worse than 15th in total defense under Zimmer and has three years in the top 10. Dallas ranked No. 1 in the NFL in yardage in 2003 and No. 2 in scoring.
The Bengals have reached the playoffs three times in the last four years.
Zimmer was voted Cincinnati’s Halas Award winner in 2009 after Vikki, his wife of 27 years, died unexpectedly during the season. The award goes to the individual who overcame the most adversity to succeed. He was also named NFL assistant coach of the year by Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers and CBSSports.com as the Bengals won the AFC North and the defense ranked fourth in yards allowed and sixth in scoring.
The Bengals rallied around Zimmer, who showed a soft side but is more known for his no-nonsense approach. He’s blunt with reporters and potential bosses and doesn’t hesitate to drop a few four-letter words.
He worked for Barry Switzer and Bill Parcells in Dallas before an ill-fated season with Bobby Petrino in Atlanta. Petrino ran out on the Falcons during his first season to coach at Arkansas.
“He’s a gutless (expletive),” Zimmer said of Petrino in 2010. “Quote that.
“He is a coward.
“He ruined a bunch of people’s lives, a bunch of people’s families, kids, because he didn’t have enough (guts) to stay there and finish the job. That’s the truth.”
The Chargers are reportedly also interested in Zimmer, who reiterated last month he doesn’t understand why he’s never been a head coach.
“I always thought people wanted coaches that can coach and I think I can coach,” he said. “Obviously, there’s probably some more that goes into it, but when you say what do you want in a coach? Somebody to get these guys to do what they’re supposed to do when they’re supposed to do it. Play real hard, don’t make mistakes.”
The Browns have also interviewed ex-Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, Horton, Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman, Oregon’s Chip Kelly, Penn State’s Bill O’Brien and Syracuse’s Doug Marrone. Kelly and O’Brien stayed in school and Marrone was hired by the Bills.
Cowher not coming
Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher told Newsday on Tuesday he thinks he’ll coach again in the NFL. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Wednesday it won’t be this year.
Citing a source close to Cowher, Dulac reported he may not return to the sideline for another four or five years. He’s happy in his role as a CBS analyst.
Cowher was contacted in the past couple of weeks by several NFL teams who are looking for a coach, and the Browns are believed to be one of those teams. But Cowher told teams he wasn’t ready to return.
Cowher was a Browns assistant from 1985-88 and has been mentioned as a candidate for the head job the last two times it’s come open. But he’s never returned the interest.
Childress in K.C.
Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress was reportedly in Kansas City on Wednesday. He’s in play for a job on the staff of coach Andy Reid, who was hired last week.
Childress worked with Reid in Philadelphia from 1999-2005 as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. His only season in Cleveland was 2012.