New Browns coach Rob Chudzinski’s first coaching hires demonstrated the power to attract a sought-after commodity, the comfort of familiarity and the willingness to try something new.
Six assistants were announced Thursday, a week after Chudzinski was hired as a first-time head coach. He went to his past for four coaches, including highly acclaimed offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Chudzinski also retained a pair of assistants from fired coach Pat Shurmur’s staff.
Joining Turner as new to the Browns are receivers coach Scott Turner (Norv’s son), offensive line coach Mike Sullivan and strength and conditioning coach Brad Roll. Staying are special teams coordinator Chris Tabor and offensive line coach George Warhop.
Warhop and Sullivan both carry the title of offensive line coach, while Warhop will take the lead role.
Chudzinski has yet to name any defensive assistants, but no one from Shurmur’s staff is expected to be kept. Redskins secondary coach Raheem Morris will reportedly interview with Chudzinski today for the defensive coordinator job.
“I am very excited about the coaches we have been able to add to our staff thus far,” Chudzinski said in a news release. “I have worked with Norv, Mike, Scott and Brad previously and know the quality of coaches and teachers that they are, and how much our players will benefit from their presence.
“After sitting down and getting to know both Chris and George, I was extremely impressed with the type of coaches and men that they are. Not only was this special teams group vastly improved from the previous season, but special teams became one of the top units in the league last year. George played an integral role in helping to shape a young unit that I feel made great strides last year, and which has the potential to get even better. The continuity we have been able to create by retaining Chris and George will be big pluses in both of their respective areas.”
Norv Turner is the signature hire and helped sell owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner on Chudzinski’s ability to build a staff in his first opportunity.
Turner has coached for 38 years, including 14 as an NFL head coach. He spent the past six seasons as coach of the Chargers, going 59-43 with three AFC West titles.
Chudzinski worked for Turner in 2009 and ’10 as tight ends/assistant head coach.
“Norv has been one of the most respected offensive coaches in the NFL over the last 25-30 years, and he has had a tremendous amount of success at each one of his stops — as a position coach, coordinator and head coach,” Chudzinski said. “I was able to learn a great deal in the time that I worked for him in San Diego, and I expect that having him as our offensive coordinator will make a big impact on that side of the ball.”
Turner, who is expected to call plays, made his reputation as coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys in 1991-93 with quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and receiver Michael Irvin. The Cowboys won the Super Bowl in 1992 and ’93.
Turner favors a vertical passing game like Chudzinski, and he complements that with a strong running game. Turner’s system has produced the NFL’s leading rusher five times with Smith (1991-93), Ricky Williams (2002) and LaDainian Tomlinson (2007).
Sullivan previously worked for the Browns as assistant offensive line coach from 2001-04 and 2007-08. He spent the last four seasons as line coach with the Chargers. He played with Chudzinski at the University of Miami.
Roll has 32 years of experience and was assistant strength coach at USC in 2012 after 19 seasons in the NFL. He was Miami’s strength coach when Chudzinski played for the Hurricanes.
Scott Turner was offensive quality control coach the last two years in Carolina, where Chudzinski was coordinator. He played quarterback at UNLV and worked as a college assistant for four years.
Warhop survived his second regime change. He was brought to Cleveland by Eric Mangini in 2009 and stayed under Shurmur. He leads a young unit that appears to be on the upswing and is a strength of the team.
Tabor’s units struggled during his first season in the role in 2011, but rebounded significantly in 2012. Led by kicker Phil Dawson, returner and cover guy Joshua Cribbs and rookie coverage specialist Johnson Bademosi, the Browns’ special teams were in the top five in the league in overall ranking.
Chip sails past Browns
Apparently, Chip Kelly was never close to coaching the Browns.
The former Oregon coach was introduced as Eagles coach Thursday and said his decision came down to leaving for Philadelphia or staying at Oregon. He interviewed with the Browns for seven hours on Oct. 4, but refuted reports at the time that he was “close” to a deal.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie painted the same picture.
“We knew it was either the Eagles or Oregon, nothing else,” he said. “No competition for Chip. It was did he want to stay or come to us.”
A Philadelphia reporter tweeted it seemed like Lurie was taking shots at Banner, a childhood friend who spent 19 years as Lurie’s right-hand man with the Eagles. Their relationship provided an interesting subplot to the Kelly chase.
The Browns and Eagles set their sights on Kelly after firing their coaches Dec. 31 and interviewed him on back-to-back days — the Browns first. The Browns were reportedly waiting for Kelly to finish meeting with the Eagles to hammer out the details of a contract, but Kelly spent nine hours with the Eagles.
The Browns then decided to return from Arizona and reports said it was because they weren’t sure Kelly was committed to leaving for the NFL.
They seemed to be proved right when Kelly said he was returning to Oregon. But he changed his mind less than two weeks later and joined the Eagles.
The Akron Beacon Journal reported FirstEnergy will pay the Browns $6 million annually for the next 17 years for naming rights of the stadium. The $102 million covers the length of the team’s stadium lease with the city.
The deal, without financial details, was announced Tuesday. Haslam said the cash influx will be used to make the team more competitive.