The team rebooted its search and spoke with several other candidates including Whisenhunt, who was in Cleveland on Thursday for a second interview. Chudzinski met with the Browns on Wednesday at Haslam's estate on Lake Erie, where he laid out his coaching philosophies.
"Rob was very decisive," Haslam said. "'This is how I'm going to do things. I'm an offensive guy, but here's my role on defense. Here's my role on special teams. Here are the type of people I would bring in as coordinators, here are the type of coaches.' It was just very definitive."
Chudzinski received a phone call on Thursday that Haslam and Banner wanted to have dinner with him in Charlotte, N.C. They had been impressed with Chudzinski's thoroughness in the first interview, but wanted to spend more time with him.
"''We felt very positively that Rob was the man," Haslam said. "This organization has had a lot of change in terms of leadership, so it was exceptionally important that we get that right. An hour through dinner, we felt like that definitely this was the right guy."
Haslam said he wasn't aware of Chudzinski's Ohio background or his love for the Browns.
"It's a great story, but if Rob had been from Plano, Texas, we'd have hired him," Haslam said.
Banner has tracked Chudzinski's career for some time as he does with "the best young people in the league." It was Banner who had plucked Andy Reid, a then-unknown assistant from Green Bay, and hired him as Philadelphia's head coach in 1999. Reid spent 14 years with the Eagles before he was recently fired.
Now that they've hired a coach, Haslam and Banner will focus on finding a new general manager to help pick players for Chudzinski, who will be involved in finding the next GM.
Chudzinski has it better than any of his five predecessors in Cleveland. He inherits a young roster with more talent than the team has had in years, and it's his job to develop a team that has lost at least 11 games in each of the past five seasons.
Chudzinski understands Cleveland's passion for football — and its pain.
He knows the heartbreak felt by Browns fans, who are still waiting for their team to make the Super Bowl. He knows it because he's felt it, too.
The Browns have had other coaches, but never one so intensely attached to the team. Chudzinski could have stayed in Carolina and waited for another head coaching job to come along. But there's no other job that could match this one.
To Chudzinski, this was the only one.
"I wouldn't have missed this opportunity for anything in the world," he said. "To bring back the pride, the passion, the success this franchise has had in the past, I want to be part of that."
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