From Comcast SportsNetCLEVELAND (AP) -- Rob Chudzinski's first head coaching job will be with the team he loved as a kid.Chudzinski, who spent the past two seasons as Carolina's offensive coordinator, has been hired by the Browns as their sixth full-time coach since 1999. It's the third stint in Cleveland for Chudzinski, who worked with the Browns previously as an assistant.The Browns hope the first-time head coach can end years of despair and constant losing, and maybe resurrect a franchise that has made just one trip to the playoffs in the past 14 years.Chudzinski will be the Browns' 14th coach in team history. He replaces Pat Shurmur, another first-time coach when he was hired, who was fired on Dec. 31 after a 5-11 season. For the past two years, the 44-year-old Chudzinski has worked with talented Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.When owner Jimmy Haslam embarked on his coaching search last week, he pledged to bring back the "best person for Cleveland."After meeting with at least seven other candidates, Haslam, who bought the Browns this summer, decided along with CEO Joe Banner that Chudzinski, was ready.Known simply as "Chud," Chudzinski coached tight ends in Cleveland for Butch Davis in 2004, and then came back to the Browns in 2007 and was offensive coordinator for two seasons under Romeo Crennel.Chudzinski, who was never embarrassed to acknowledge he rooted for the Browns while growing up in Toledo, Ohio, interviewed with the team on Wednesday. He was viewed by many as a longshot for the job, not because he wasn't qualified, but Haslam figured to make a big splash with his first coaching hire.However, Chudzinski wowed Haslam and Banner during his meeting and the team decided it was time to end their search after nearly 10 days.It's not yet known whom Chudzinski will bring in as his coordinators. There are reports he may hire former San Diego coach Norv Turner to run his offense.In his first season in Carolina, Chudzinski turned Newton, the No. 1 overall draft pick, loose and the Panthers set club records for total yards (6,237) and first downs (345). Carolina also scored 48 touchdowns after getting just 17 in the season before Chudzinski arrived. The Panthers jumped from last in the league in total yardage to seventh, the biggest improvement since 1999.Following the season, Chudzinski interviewed for head coaching jobs with St. Louis, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay before returning to Carolina.Newton continued to develop in his second season with Chudzinski. The Browns could be counting on him to improve Brandon Weeden after his uneven rookie season.After his first stint on Cleveland's staff, Chudzinski spent two seasons as San Diego's tight ends coach, working with perennial Pro Bowl standout Antonio Gates.Taking over the Browns offense in 2007, Chudzinski helped the Browns win 10 games -- the most since their expansion rebirth in 1999 -- and had four players make the Pro Bowl.However, in 2008, the Browns struggled on offense and a six-game losing streak led to a 4-12 finish and Crennel's firing. The Browns finished 31st in offense that year.Chudzinski went back to the Chargers for two more seasons before he was hired in Carolina.On Thursday, former Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt was brought to Cleveland for a second interview and he appeared to be the frontrunner. The Browns were also expected to meet again with Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and interview Indianapolis offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.But in the end, the Browns decided to go with Chudzinski, who has no head coaching experience but is regarded as one of the league's brightest up-and-coming coaches.The hiring won't cause Cleveland fans to dance in the streets, but it is in keeping with Banner's past of hiring a coach without a meaty resume.When he was in Philadelphia's front office, Banner went outside the box and hired relatively unknown Andy Reid, who spent 14 seasons with the Eagles before he was fired after this season.The Browns can only hope it goes as well with Chudzinski.
High School Lites featured plenty of great action on Friday night as NBC Sports Chicago had highlights of many of the area's top matchups. Some playoff dreams came to fruition while others crashed and burned.
Watch tomorrow as the IHSA playoff brackets are revealed tomorrow on NBC Sports Chicago+ at 8 p.m. Be sure to also follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights.
DRIVE: Prairie Ridge: Episode 10
Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Back of the Yards QB Jeremiah Harris
St. Xavier Team of the Week: De La Salle Meteors
Friday's Top 25 Games
No. 3 Maine South 56, Niles West 9
No. 4 Marist 42, Joliet Catholic 14
No. 5 Lake Zurich , Mundelein
No. 6 Phillips 53, Clark 0
No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 50, Sandburg 14
No. 10 Barrington 40, Conant 19
No. 11 Huntley 45, McHenry 7
No. 12 Naperville Central 35, Lake Park 21
No. 13 Hinsdale Central 42, Hinsdale South 14
No. 16 Wheaton North 20, Waubonsie Valley 10
No. 17 Crete-Monee 52, Cahokia 8
No. 18 St. Rita 47, Marmion 14
No. 20 Lyons 31, Oak Park-River Forest 14
No. 21 Nazareth 48, Marian Catholic 7
No. 22 Oswego 30, Plainfield Central 0
Mount Carmel 35, No. 23 Providence 34
Saturday's Top 25 Games
No. 7 Loyola vs. Brother Rice
No. 8 Glenbard West vs. Proviso West
Theo Epstein answered questions from the Chicago media for more than an hour on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but the most interesting part might have been what the Cubs president didn’t say, something along the lines of: These are our guys.
Or at least Epstein didn’t give the same full-throated endorsement of The Core that he delivered after engineering the Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox this summer, getting an All-Star pitcher without giving up anyone from the big-league roster.
Whether it’s the way the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs throughout the National League Championship Series that ended Thursday night, the inconsistencies and frustrations during a 43-45 first half of this season or the reality of losing 40 percent of the rotation, you walked out of that stadium club press conference thinking big changes could be coming.
“We’re going to pursue all avenues to get better,” Epstein said.
The Cubs already understood this would be a challenging time to dramatically reshape their pitching staff, with Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Big Boy John Lackey and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents.
The Cubs don’t really have many (any?) high-end, headliner prospects left to trade after borrowing heavily from their farm system to acquire Aroldis Chapman for last year’s World Series run and get Quintana to help solidify the rotation through 2020.
All of Major League Baseball is looking beyond this winter and preparing for the monster free-agent class that will hit the open market after the 2018 season.
Meaning it’s time for the Cubs to make some difficult decisions about all these young hitters they’ve collected.
“It may or may not be,” Epstein said. “Those choices, they’re not unilateral things. You can’t sit there and decide: ‘Hey, this guy, we’re moving him.’ Because you don’t know what the return might be. You don’t know how the different moving parts might fit together.
“I think going into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them — and keeping an open mind to anything — is appropriate under the circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable.”
Let’s assume All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, MVP third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras are essentially untouchable.
The Cubs used the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Ian Happ with the explicit idea that the college hitter should be on a fast track and could be flipped for pitching later: Is it time to sell high after the rookie just put up 24 homers and an .842 OPS?
During an exit meeting with Albert Almora Jr., Epstein said he couldn’t promise an everyday job in 2018, though the expectation would be more responsibilities: Think anyone else would be interested in a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s already playoff-tested?
Do you want Addison Russell or Javier Baez as your everyday shortstop for the next four years? Is there an American League team willing to bet big that Kyle Schwarber will crush 40 homers a year as a designated hitter?
The Cubs have to ask themselves those types of questions, which could mean getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on some riskier pitching investments and sapping the strength that has turned them into the dominant force in the NL Central.
“We’ve really benefitted from having two or three extra — and ‘extra’ in quotes because they’re not really extra — starting-caliber players on the roster,” Epstein said. “That helped us win 97 games in ’15, 103 last year, 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything.
“Having an Addison Russell go down and being able to move Javy Baez to shortstop — that’s an obvious example of it. But those things show up every week for us. There’s a day where someone can’t make the lineup and someone else slides in and you’re still starting eight quality guys. That’s huge.
“Sooner or later, you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. There’s no sort of deadline to do that. But I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”
Translation: The Cubs are open for business. Make your best offer.