On Saturday, the Indianapolis Colts hired Rob Chudzinski as a special assistant to head coach Chuck Pagano. Chudzinski was fired this offseason by the Cleveland Browns after just one year as their head coach. Prior to that, he was the offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers for two years, from 2011-2012. Pagano and Chudzkinski are close and have worked together before. They first met while Pagano was a graduate assistant at the University of Miami in 1986, where Chudzinski was a freshman tight end. They later coached at Miami together from 1995-2000, and then again in the NFL in Cleveland for a season in 2004.
In Carolina for two years as offensive coordinator, Chud (as he is known) led the Panthers to the 7th ranked offense in 2011 and the 12th ranked offense in 2012. He coached number one overall pick quarterback Cam Newton, who in 2011 accounted for 4,757 yards and 35 touchdowns between his passing (he threw for over 4,000 yards) and his rushing. In 2012, Newton accounted for 4,610 total yards and 27 total scores. In his first season without Chud, in 2013, he didn't even top 4,000 total yards - but he did score 30 total touchdowns.
An for an opposing view, read Hiring Rob Chudzinki is an odd hire, undermines Pep Hamilton, by Brad Wells
In Cleveland, he led the 18th best offense, which some people will point to as not great. But considering that the Browns traded away Trent Richardson and were quarterbacked by Brandon Weeden, 18th actually doesn't look too bad. You can't just look at the rankings - you have to look at the talent. On the offensive side of the ball, there wasn't a ton there outside of wide receiver Josh Gordon.
Chudzinksi certainly wasn't perfect as a head coach, and just like every first year head coach he had his struggles. But he most definitely didn't deserve to be fired after only one year on the job.
Now he's got a new job, and it's with the Indianapolis Colts. And I, for one, love the hire by the Colts. They got a former NFL offensive coordinator and head coach for cheap, as the Browns still owe him $10.5 million for the remaining three years of his contract.
Some don't like the move because they see it as Chuck Pagano undermining Pep Hamilton as offensive coordinator. I admit that these are valid concerns, but I'm quick to point out that we don't know exactly what Chudzkinski will be doing and we also don't know if that was at all the motive behind the move. Consider last offseason when the Colts signed quarterback Matt Hasselbeck - nobody thought that was seen as a move to undermine Andrew Luck, even though they paid Hasselbeck $8 million for 2 years. It was a different situation, sure, but my point is that moves are not always made to replace people but are sometimes made to instead try to help them. I truly don't think that Pagano made this move trying to force a power play with Pep Hamilton or anything like that but instead I think that Pagano made this move to try to help himself, the team, the offense, and Hamilton.
Also remember that in the NFL, it's all about who you know. Chuck Pagano and Rob Chudzinksi know each other very well, and so Pagano extended an invitation to his friend to work with him in Indianapolis for this year, and Chud took it. Simple as that. I think this is a one-year position for Chudzinski. I see either one of two things happening after the season - 1) Pep Hamilton accepts a head coaching position and the Colts promote Rob Chudzinski to offensive coordinator, or 2) Rob Chudzinski leaves to accept a coaching job with another team. Money isn't a worry to Chud, as he'll be still getting paid by the Browns, and I just don't think he wanted to take a year off or take a media job - thus, he joins his good friend Chuck Pagano's staff in Indianapolis.
There is a widespread belief amongst those who cover the Colts and the Colts organization itself that Pep Hamilton will be a head coach soon, and I absolutely believe the same thing. He is a very smart, talented, and likable person who I think will make a good head coach. There is a real chance that after next season Hamilton will be getting serious looks, as he did this offseason from Vanderbilt. That could have played into the decision to hire Chudzinski, as he could learn the system for a year, get familiar with Andrew Luck, stay in the NFL, and then would be a security blanket for the Colts if Hamilton left. In fact, I see this move as more of a bad thing for Clyde Christensen than I do for Pep Hamilton, even though I don't really see it as a bad thing at all. Christensen would be a serious candidate to replace Hamilton if the current offensive coordinator left because of Christensen's familiarity with the offense and quarterback Andrew Luck. Now, with Chud around for a year, the most logical hire for the sake of consistency might be Chudzinski instead of Christensen.
But let me restate one very important thing - we don't know exactly what Rob Chudzinski's role will be. I've said that it would be smart for Chuck Pagano to bring someone along who can help him through some of the difficulties he had in coaching (such as game management). While some might not think Chud is a good choice for that role, there's a chance that his primary role will be helping Chuck Pagano and not working with the offense. In fact, I say it's likely that his role is to help Pagano, it just depends on how. Maybe he'll give him advice on coaching, or maybe he'll help his defensive-minded friend by helping out the offense.
My point is this: Pep Hamilton and Rob Chudzinski don't have to be rivals. Plenty of coordinator-caliber coaches work together fine in the NFL. I see this move not as a slight at Hamilton or a lack of confidence in him but rather a move trying to help him with the offense. Chudzinski brings 20 years of experience, 10 of which have been in the NFL. He's been around the block, so to say. You don't think that could be incredibly valuable to Hamilton, and you think Pagano would have still brought Chud along if he wasn't going to help Hamilton? If the Colts do terrible in 2013, there's a chance even Pagano wouldn't be there next year - does he really want to sabotage the offense and undermine his current offensive coordinator? Absolutely not. Chudzinksi is a good coach, and every team can use more of those. Chud is especially talented in coaching tight ends, and the Colts have two very good young tight ends in Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. Chud could help in that area. He also has experience working with a number one overall pick quarterback and letting him throw the ball and playing to his strengths.
He worked with Trent Richardson in Cleveland for an offseason and two games before Richardson was traded to the Colts. Chudzinski reportedly wasn't a fan of trading Richardson but was overruled. Either way, he knows the conversations that went into trading the running back and what the reasons were. He likely has insight into Richardson's struggles that others don't, and that could turn out to be helpful as well.
As far as free agents go, it doesn't hurt the Colts, that's for sure. Several have wondered whether this move would help bring Alex Mack to Indy, and while I'll say I don't really think it will have that big of an impact, it won't hurt the Colts. Mack reportedly wasn't a fan of the Browns firing Chudzinski. And let me add another important note, too - don't believe everything you read in the media. Some people will talk about how Chudzinski wasn't liked by players in Carolina or Cleveland, and I'll just say this - not everything you read is true, and basing an opinion off of a media report citing unnamed players is weak at best. I've heard of players who really liked Chud and the general consensus was also that the players were not at all fans of the firing of Chudzinksi. What is the real truth? As always, it's probably somewhere in the middle. But let this remain a caution to you to not believe everything you read.
If you ask me, I love the move to hire Rob Chudzinksi as a special assistant to the head coach (or, as Dwight Schrute might say, special assistant head coach). He is a very cheap hire that will pair him with good friend Chuck Pagano. He will provide help to Pagano but also to offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, and while we don't know what his role will officially be yet, I don't see it at all as a lack of faith in Hamilton as an offensive coordinator but rather a move intended to help him.
"Rob and I have a long professional relationship and his résumé speaks for itself," Pagano said. "He brings a wealth of knowledge and will be a tremendous help to our entire team moving forward. Needless to say, we're excited to have ‘Chud' joining our family."
"The newly-created role isn't yet clearly defined, but the Colts plan to have Chudzinski help in all areas, both during the week and on game days.His involvement will extend to game planning and in-game decisions.
"Other teams have used similar approaches with experienced coaches, including recent examples such as the Ravens with former Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo and the Buccaneers with former Browns coach Butch Davis."
He also added that, "With the Colts, Chudzinski's role won't be limited to offense. However, that's where the majority of his experience has come." To me, that sounds like he was brought in primarily as a help to Chuck Pagano, which is what I thought of when I first heard of the move and is what I still think is the most likely role. At the same time, he will be helping the offense, too.
"Chud's addition to the staff should be a good thing for the Colts. He has experience working with running back Trent Richardson, who was traded this past season from Cleveland to Indy for a first-round pick (No. 26 overall), and he should help provide some offensive creativity that Pep Hamilton's system often lacked.
"Additionally, Chudzinski known as a tight-end friendly coach. That's not bad news for Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen (or Andrew Luck)."
ESPN's Mike Wells likes the move as well, writing that getting Chudzinski for cheap was like "shopping at the Goodwill store and got a product that should be priced higher, but they managed to get it on the cheap." He also added that:
"As far as Hamilton goes, hiring Chudzinski will help him, especially with Pagano being a defensive coach. What can't be forgotten is last season was the first time that Hamilton was an offensive coordinator in the NFL. It was an adjustment for Hamilton going from college to the NFL. Chudzinski spent two seasons as offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers and two seasons with the Browns.
"This is a winning situation for the Colts."
Count me among the many that love this move for the Colts. And count me among the many that don't see this as a bad thing for anybody, even Pep Hamilton. Instead, I think we should be crediting Chuck Pagano for continuing to improve his staff and for surrounding himself with someone who could help him as well. I think this was a great move for the Colts.