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.
Everything leading into Week 7’s Bears-Saints game makes it sound like Mitchell Trubisky will make his return under center, but officially he’s still questionable.
Trubisky still has that designation despite being a full participant in practice on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Trubisky has missed the past two games with a left shoulder injury.
Defensive tackle Bilal Nichols and offensive lineman Ted Larsen are also questionable. Nichols was limited in practice on Friday with hand and knee injuries. Larsen was a full go in practice on Friday with a knee injury after being limited on Wednesday and Thursday.
Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe are listed on the injury report, but expected to play.
The Bears have three options on their roster to start on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, the first game of — in all likelihood — the post-Kyle Long era in Chicago. Is a guy who’s only played 30 snaps as a guard in his pro or college career really the right choice?
Rashaad Coward may be new to the position, but the Bears like his athleticism, physical edge and work ethic he brings to the offense. Also in the conversation: 10-year veteran Ted Larsen and undrafted rookie Alex Bars.
Coward has more immediate upside, but Larsen (who's officially questionable with a knee injury, though he practiced in full Friday) is more a you-know-what-you're-getting guy. Coward's upside, though, lies in the athleticism and physicality he showed in limited time against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4.
“He’s a tough guy, he plays very, very hard,” offensive line coach Harry Hiestand said. “It’s super important to him, he’s very prideful, he’s very determined to keep his guy from making a play and that’s a big part of this.”
That Hiestand has actual game film on which to evaluate and teach Coward is important. And the Bears saw him do some good things in letting his raw talent take over against the Vikings.
“Going into the game, I was like F it,” Coward said. “It is what it is. It’s either you do it or you don’t.”
Coward said on Monday he practiced with the No. 1 offense, and given Larsen was limited in Wednesday's and Thursday's practices, there's a decent chance Coward will start on Sunday.
Larsen, though, is the kind of guy who could get the nod on Sunday without getting many reps during mid-week practices.
Larsen suffered the injury in Week 4, which led to Coward entering the game, and he didn’t travel to London with the Bears in Week 5. But his veteran experience — he’s started 87 games in his career — and flexibility to play guard or center make him a trusted backup.
“I played a lot of football,” Larsen said. “I’m ready whenever they want to use me.”
There is a possibility the Bears rotate Larsen and Coward on a series-to-series basis, as the team did with a veteran (Eric Kush) and a greenhorn (James Daniels) at left guard last year.
"It’s something that could definitely happen," Nagy said. "I’m not opposed to that. And then you can also balance and see, whether it’s Ted or Rashaad, how are they playing and we can get a feel for that during a game and we feel comfortable with both."
Bars is unlikely to factor this week but does have long-term upside. He turned down an opportunity to join the New England Patriots’ 53-man roster earlier this month because he saw a better opportunity in Chicago. That his college offensive line coach is now his pro offensive line coach certainly played into that decision, too.
Many thought Bars would be a mid-round draft pick prior to his final season at Notre Dame, but a torn ACL and MCL suffered last September knocked him down to being an undrafted free agent. The opportunity to link back up with Hiestand helped bring him to Chicago, where he played well during the preseason — but not well enough to make the Bears’ initial 53-man roster.
“The transition to this level coming off the injury was an adjustment I had to make, still making it every day,” Bars said. “I’m trying to improve and work against really, really good guys.”
The Bears’ starting right guard for the rest of 2019 will hardly be settled by who starts against the Saints in Week 7. Coward may get the first crack, but if his inexperience overshadows his talent, the Bears may need to call on a safer option in Larsen. And that could open the door for Bars to start, too, if he proves to Hiestand behind the scenes he’s back on the track he was on prior to his collegiate injury.
Whoever plays, though, needs to be better than Long was over his four games prior to going on injured reserve. The Bears made that difficult decision in part to improve at right guard. It’s now on Coward — or Larsen, or Bars — to make good on that promise.
"Between the three of them I think it will be fun for us to kind of work through what decision, where we want to go with that," Nagy said. "And then whoever it is, let's go. There's no looking back."