When the Colts hired Rob Chudzinski in February, the great mystery was this: what, exactly, would the former Browns head coach do in the role of special assistant to head coach Chuck Pagano?
Finally, we have our answer: a little of this, a little of that.
“My relationship with Chuck played really into this,” Chudzinski said Wednesday at the Colts complex. “We’ve known each other for a long time. Whatever I can do to help him be successful, whatever that is, whatever role, whatever jobs, there’s nothing too big or too small that I won’t do. That’s why I’m here.”
Their relationship dates back nearly 30 years to 1986, when Pagano was a graduate assistant and Chudzinski a tight end at Miami. They went on to coach together with the Hurricanes for six seasons (from 1995-2000) and again with Cleveland in 2004.
So when the Browns surprised the league by firing Chudzinski after a 4-12 record in his lone season as the head coach, the Colts wasted little time making the call. Though he brought with him the reputation as a creative offensive mind, having served as a coordinator with the Browns and Panthers, Chudzinksi is not limiting himself.
In fact, his biggest impact may wind up being on the defense, strangely enough. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky worked with Chudzinski in San Diego (2005-06) and has embraced the opportunity to have his old friend view the Colts’ defense through an offensive coordinator’s eyes.
“It’s great to have an ex-offensive coordinator to sit and throw (stuff) at, back and forth,” Manusky said. “I can sit down with Chud for a good 30, 40 (minutes) or an hour and go through stuff, melt through stuff of what he did in Carolina and what he did in Cleveland, as well. It’s a great addition for me to have a guy like that from an offensive perspective. You understand, ‘OK, I want to beat this protection, but how do you actually beat that protection? What are they looking at?’ All those little nuances an offensive coordinator has, it’s great to get the repertoire back as a coordinator.
“Even when we’re breaking down tape from teams we’re playing next year, it’s great to sit with him, why are they doing those things? You never know as a defensive coordinator because you’re not in those meetings, why they’re trying to attack that coverage. When I sit with him for hours, I listen to what he’s thinking and those little things that you want, that’s what he really helps with. He helps me out more than the offense, probably.”
In his unusual role, Chudzinski will not be assigned to any particular position group or meeting room, floating between them as needed. He has been particularly successful working with tight ends throughout his career, which should benefit Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. He revitalized moribund offenses in Carolina and Cleveland with creative schemes, which makes him a valuable resource for Pep Hamilton.
He knows Trent Richardson well from their time together in Cleveland, which could be a key to unlocking the running back’s immense but as-yet unrealized potential. The Colts play AFC North opponents on their schedule this year, so Chudzinski undoubtedly will bring game-planning insight.
“It’s really no different than any place I’ve been before in terms of what I feel my role is,” Chudzinski said. “I’m trying to be the best coach I can be, trying to help people around me be better as well and anything I can do to help this team win and win a championship. Again, just sharing experiences, sharing some thoughts, maybe ideas, some drills. …
“Whether it’s coaches or players, sometimes just a word of encouragement in the background, that’s the biggest difference. As a head coach you’re out front. In the role I’m in now it’s a little more behind the scenes but (there are) things you can do to help guys out and give them perspective or give them a pat on the back, whatever it may be, to help.”
Sounds like it actually will be more like a lot of this, a lot of that.
HOT READS: MOALA OUT FOR SEASON
>> Fili Moala finished last season on injured reserve, and that’s where he will spend this one. The veteran defensive lineman will miss 2014 after reportedly sustaining a partial tear of the ACL in his right knee in a collision with a teammate during OTAs this week. Moala missed most of the 2012 season with an injury to the same knee. He was re-signed to a one-year contract in March, so this could spell the end of his Colts career.
>> Mario Harvey has found a new home at fullback. The former linebacker had been used in the backfield as an extra blocker in goal-line and short-yardage situations but the Colts opted to move him full-time to take advantage of his size and strength.
>> Second-round pick Jack Mewhort has been working primarily at left guard, with Hugh Thornton on the right side, when he takes snaps with the first-unit offensive line.