Nine years later, the man cordially known as "Chud" is back in Cleveland – this time as the team's head coach.
Chudzinski first appeared on the radar as a potential head coaching candidate following Cam Newton's incredible record-breaking rookie campaign last year. He earned head coaching interviews with Jacksonville, St. Louis and Tennessee, but each team ultimately passed.
After the Panthers took a step backward offensively this season, Chudzinksi's name wasn't at the tip of many people's tongues in terms of highly sought-after head coaching candidates.
Thus, it was a shock to many when the news broke that the 44-year-old was interviewing with the Browns, who fired head coach Pat Shurmur after two subpar seasons.
It was an ever bigger shock when the team passed on former Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt to hire him.
But, if anyone was going to give Chudzinski the chance, it was going to be the Browns.
He grew up in Toledo, about two hours from Cleveland, and began his pro coaching career with the Browns.
In fact, this is his third separate stint with the team.
After serving as tight ends coach in 2004, the Chargers hired Chudzinski to the same position in 2005. After spending two seasons in San Diego, he came back to Cleveland in 2007 to serve as offensive coordinator, where he remained for the next two seasons.
During his first season calling plays, the Browns – with current Panthers backup quarterback Derek Anderson under center – ranked eighth in total offense after finishing as the NFL's second-worst unit the previous year. Four offensive players were named to the Pro Bowl and the team finished 10-6, but failed to make the playoffs.
However, Cleveland took a major step back in 2008, finishing with a 4-12 record and the league's 31st-ranked offense. Brian Daboll replaced Chudzinski as offensive coordinator after the season, and the drifting coach headed back to San Diego to serve as the Chargers tight ends coach – again.
Chudzinski finally broke his back-and-forth journey between Cleveland and San Diego when then-Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera was hired as the Panthers head coach in 2011. Rivera brought Chud to Charlotte to serve as Carolina's offensive coordinator, and he hasn't looked back since.
As for Rivera, he has five assistant coaching jobs to fill following the firings of three position coaches, and, now, the departure of Chudzinski.
Former Chargers head coach Norv Turner- who has ties to both Rivera and Chudzinski from their San Diego days – immediately comes to mind as a great offensive coordinator candidate, but early reports have indicated that Turner will join Chudzinski in Cleveland.
Stay tuned in the coming days for more updates.
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