ESPN's Mike Wells views the Colts hiring of Rob Chudzinski as a good thing, and he may very well be right. In fact, I hope he is. However, I'm not as convinced that bringing the former Browns head coach on board as a "Special Assistant to the Head Coach" in Indianapolis is such a good idea.
For starters, Chudzinski's title suggests he does not work for offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, which could be a problem. Last season, Hamilton was given complete control over the Colts' offense to the point where head coach Chuck Pagano pretty much ignored all offensive practices at training camp. Pagano is a defensive coach, and his knowledge of offense is about as extensive as my knowledge of Russian figure skating.
With "Chud" now on staff, and with his title suggesting he answers only to Pagano, it seems to undermine Hamilton's authority.
For an opposing view, read Hiring Rob Chudzinski was a great move for the Colts, by Josh Wilson
Think about it. Hamilton ran the offense last year. It scored an average of 24.4 points-per-game and was ranked 17th in passing yards and 20th in rushing yards. They also allowed an NFL league low 14 turnovers. Andrew Luck threw for 23 touchdowns and had only 9 interceptions. He also completed 60% of his passes. The Colts won 12 games - including their one playoff victory - because of the offense's productivity, especially in the fourth quarter. Not because of of the defensive side of the ball, which is controlled mostly by Pagano.
If you compare Hamilton's offense to that of former coordinator Bruce Arians - who, like Chudzinski, has a history with Pagano - the numbers are solid. Luck had a better year in 2013 under Hamilton, and the Colts offense, especially in the months of December and January, really found its groove.
Based on his accomplishments, and on the story that Hamilton turned down the Vanderbilt head coaching job to stay with the Colts, it would be reasonable for Hamilton to expect that he'd retain his control over the offense in 2014. Chud's hiring says otherwise. If I were Pep Hamilton, I'd have a big problem with Chudzinski being hired in his present capacity. I'd also be regretting turning down that Vandy job.
It's certainly possible that Hamilton was consulted prior to the hiring, but it doesn't seem that way. It seems more likely that Pagano is bringing in "his guy" to help him control the offense more. Imagine you're doing your job - either at an office or onsite somewhere - and, based on most metrics, you're doing it quite well. Then, your boss hires his old college buddy to act as a "special assistant." Your boss's buddy has the same background you do, and he does not answer to you. He talks directly to your boss most likely about the very stuff you are doing.
How would that make you feel?
If anything, Pagano hiring another offensive-minded coach seems silly considering that the deficiencies of Pagano's defense are what held the Colts back in 2013. Unlike the offense, which was racked by devastating injuries to multiple skill players, Pagano's defense was healthy. When you factor in how the injuries forced Hamilton to change his offense mid-season, the numbers they produced are even more impressive. I mean, how effective would Bruce Arians' offense have been in 2012 if Reggie Wayne went down in Week 7, which is what Hamilton had to contend with?
That, and Hamilton had to work with many of general manager Ryan Grigson's failures from free agency, such as Samson Satele and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
The question I keep coming back to is, How does this hire help the Colts?
Chudzinski wasn't exactly a stellar offensive coordinator in Carolina, and he only lasted one season in Cleveland as head coach. Granted, the Cleveland gig was a raw deal, but it's pretty clear that Chud isn't some sort of offensive guru who was well-liked everywhere he coached.
Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams and wide receiver Steve Smith said that their team's improvement from 2012 to 2013 was because Chudzinski was gone! Last year, Smith essentially said that Chudzinski's tinkering with the Panthers' offense mid-season in 2012 was because he was hoping to impress potential teams looking for a head coach rather than trying to win football games.
"I think it was really a power move by the former offensive coordinator [Chudzinski] – he was really positioning himself and trying to show, ‘Hey I’m capable,’" Smith said. "I think he was applying for a head coaching job, and our offense kind of suffered because of that. At times, we got kind of cute and did things that weren’t necessarily us."
If anything, Hamilton shows more promise as an O.C. than Chudzinski, especially Hamilton's ability to adapt.
Again, I really struggle to see how this hiring benefits anyone except Chuck Pagano personally. It sends an odd message to the players, and it suggests that Pagano does not have full confidence in Hamilton. If he did, there would be no reason to hire Chudzinski. If there were a reason, then Chudzinski could have been hired as an assistant to Hamilton, or as a position coach working for Hamilton.
I honestly hope the hire helps the Colts, but, like Steve Smith said of Chudzinski last season, it seems like more of an internal power play.