“Defense wins championships” has always been kind of a misleading idiom. You simply need to out score your opponent to win a football game.
The NFL has done its part in recent years to help the offense its score points in bunches. Meanwhile, the Browns and scoring points haven’t been the best of friends the last two seasons. The Browns’ offense was stuck in a system that last worked 20 years ago and, as a result, they averaged 13.6 points per game in 2011 and 18.9 in 2012.
The Rob Chudzinski era began in Berea on Friday, Jan. 10 and with it a new offense philosophy. That philosophy is predicated on an “attacking” offense, according to the Toledo native. Moreover, it isn’t about forcing players to adjust to a system, but adapting your players’ skill sets to a philosophy.
Chudzinski is an offensive-minded coach, but he won’t be the only one in the building. Norv Turner, who was recently fired as head coach of the San Diego Chargers, will be the Browns new offensive coordinator.
“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 in a press release. "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."
Chudzinski didn’t speak directly about Turner at his introductory news conference Jan. 10 and neither would owner Jimmy Haslam or CEO Joe Banner. Chudzinski did talk football. Offensive football.
“I like to be balanced,” Chudzinski said. “Balance, to me, is not running the ball and throwing the ball the same amount of times. You run when you need to run to win it and you throw when you need to throw it to win.
“You need to win games different ways in this league.”
Turner, 60, has a career record of 118-126-1 after head coaching stints in Washington (1994-2000), Oakland (2004-05) and San Diego (2007-12). Yet it is his stints as offensive coordinator, especially in Dallas (1991-93) where he seems to excel.
Chudzinski was the Chargers assistant head coach and tight ends coach from 2009-10. During those two years, the Chargers were 22-10 and averaged 28.4 and 27.6 points per game, respectively. In 2011, with Chudzinski in Carolina, the Chargers fell to 25.4 points per game.
“Being in San Diego prepared me and allowed me to see the day-to-day things head coaches deal with that come across their desk,” Chudzinski said. “I got a good sense of what this job would entail.”
Turner’s job would be a role reversal, as the former boss becomes the underling. Turner never succeeded as a head coach and, the narrative was, he could never take advantage of a talented roster and get his teams into — advance far into — the playoffs.
But it was his role as the Cowboys offensive coordinator during the early 90s that has carried his NFL career.
Chudzinski has never been a head coach before. It makes sense from his point of view to hire someone he’s worked with, he likes and he is on the same page with from an offensive philosophy standpoint.
It also appears Chudzinski and Turner have pieces on this Browns’ roster that fits with their philosophies. Brandon Weeden has the strong arm to lead a vertical passing attack. Josh Gordon has the size and speed to get down field, as does Greg Little. Finally, a healthy Trent Richardson behind an above average offensive line is a promising pairing.
It comes down to the quarterback. And what is the one big key for a young quarterback to succeed in the NFL? He’s got to be placed into the right system. A year ago, Weeden’s natural abilities were thwarted with the West Coast offense. Now, it appears those abilities will be able to be unleashed.
Things are aligning for the Browns to possess a bona fide NFL offense and one that will help this team compete and win football games.
“(Rob) is a very decisive person,” Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said. “We met five to six hours at the house the other day. He has a clear offensive philosophy and he’s clear what his role in the defense and special teams will be. It’s very well thought out and defined. He understands, decisively, how important it is to have a strong support team around him, too.”