The Indianapolis Colts fired offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton on Tuesday night, replacing him with Rob Chudzinski, who has been with the Colts the past two years - first as a special assistant to head coach Chuck Pagano and then this year as associate head coach.
Chudzinski's role with the Colts has largely been unknown, but we do know that he has helped in all phases of the game and is has helped out Chuck Pagano during the game from the booth. His bio on the Colts' website also says that he "helps with game management and handles special projects." Pagano and Chudzinski are friends, dating back to their days together at the University of Miami, and so after Chud was fired by the Browns, Pagano hired him. Chud began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Miami (where he played tight end), and then he became the school's tight ends coach from 1996-2000. After that he took over as Miami's offensive coordinator from 2001-2003, helping lead one of the most potent offenses in school history and helping them win a national championship in 2001 (his third with the school after winning two as a player). During his time at Miami, he helped develop tight ends such as Bubba Franks, Jeremy Shockey, and Kellen Winslow Jr. - all three of whom were first round draft picks in the NFL.
In 2004, Chudzinski became the tight ends coach for the Cleveland Browns and took over as offensive coordinator during the season. He served as the tight ends coach for the San Diego Chargers from 2005-2006 before heading back to Cleveland as the team's offensive coordinator for the 2007 and 2008 seasons. He again was the tight ends coach for the Chargers from 2009-2010, also serving as the assistant head coach. The Panthers hired him as their offensive coordinator in 2011, and he spent two years with the team before being hired by the Browns as their head coach in 2014. After a 4-12 season, however, the Browns fired Chudzinski after only one season, after which he reunited with Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis. With Chudzinski as head coach, both the Derek Anderson-led Browns (2007) and Cam Newton-led Panthers (2011) had tremendous seasons, with both quarterbacks making the Pro Bowl in those respective seasons. Furthermore, both of tight end Antonio Gates' 1,000-yard receiving seasons have come while playing for Chudzinski (2005 and 2009).
So what can Colts fans expect to see from Chudzinski now that he has taken over as offensive coordinator? To get a better idea, we reached out to Dawgs by Nature, SB Nation's site covering the Cleveland Browns, and one of their staff writers, Rufio, was kind enough to provide some thoughts. Here's what Rufio had to say about Chudzinski:
Rob Chudzinski has a long reputation of feeding the ball to tight ends and "#1" wideouts. In Chudzinski's most recent stint with the Browns, he created Pro Bowlers in Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. Before that, he was our offensive coordinator when Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr. made the Pro Bowl. I would expect a heavy dose of any receiver who can threaten the defense over the top as well as any TE who can be a threat down the seam.
Chudzinski comes from the Norv Turner/Air Coryell school of offense, so expect lots of vertical routes from the wide receivers and the TE. Everything in the offense will be likely to be built around the "9 route," and I'd bet that most passing plays will send at least two wideouts and the TE vertical down the field for 12 yards to begin the play. Chudzinski also has been a "power" running guy, with lots of counter/power in the run game and less zone blocking. He had a great play action game in Cleveland off of split zone, though, where he would slide the linemen toward in the direction of the zone blocking and have both the back and the TE slide the other way.
Chud has also shown a willingness to change his offense to fit the skills of his QB and even to add "college" offense (read: "good" offense) into his system--at least compared to the average NFL guy. In his days with the Carolina Panthers, Chudzinski borrowed concepts like inverted veer option plays and some called QB runs from Auburn's playbook in order to ease Cam Newton's transition to the NFL (and to take advantage of having a 6'5" 265lbs quarterback who can run). Oh yeah, and Steve Smith and Greg Olson had pretty decent success too.
What does this mean for the Colts? Well the one that jumps off the page in my opinon is that T.Y. Hilton is probably going to be turned loose to do what he does best. I'm not sure about Pep Hamilton's usage of Hilton, but I'd make a big bet that Chud will spam him as a deep threat. I'd expect a guy like Colby Fleener to get down the field and catch a lot of passes as well. As for Andrew Luck, I'm not sure what Chudzinski will do to utilize his skill set (which seems to be "everything"). But my guess is that he would give an intelligent QB like Luck a lot of freedom to change things at the line. I'd expect an offense that passes early and often, which might not be a bad thing with #12 under center.
Thanks again to Rufio for giving us information regarding what to expect from Rob Chudzinski as he takes over the Colts' offense!