CLEVELAND - Rob Chudzinski's roots run 44 years deep with the Browns.
As a kid, he buckled on his orange helmet and ran around his backyard in Toledo, Ohio, pretending he was Ozzie Newsome. He sat outside in the snow and watched Cleveland games on TV through the window to make it feel like he was in the Dawg Pound.
On Friday, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity came true for Chudzinski, who was introduced as the Browns' sixth fulltime coach since 1999. Although he has never been a head coach, "Chud" was selected over candidates with more experience and stronger resumes.
A long-time fan of the Browns, Rob Chudzinski hopes to bring much needed change to Cleveland.
Chudzinski, though, stood out. He wanted it more than anyone.
"It's a dream come true, almost unbelievable in a lot of ways," Chudzinski said.
There is a segment of Browns fans as stunned as Chudzinski, whose hiring seemed to come out of nowhere.
After interviewing several high-profile candidates, including Oregon coach Chip Kelly, former Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt and other top coordinators, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner picked Chudzinski, who spent the past two years as Carolina's offensive coordinator.
Haslam said he spoke with "nine or 10 of the best coaches in the country" and insisted Chudzinski was on the team's list of candidates from the outset.
"Rob was always on our radar screen," Haslam said of his first coaching hire. "Rob has been identified as a top, bright, young guy for a long time. I feel very confident we've got the right guy."
This is Chudzinski's third stint with the Browns. He coached Cleveland's tight ends in 2004 and was the team's offensive coordinator in 2007-08. In his first season calling plays, the Browns went 10-6 and had four players make the Pro Bowl. It hasn't been nearly as good since he left.
"Happy to see Chud coming back," Browns Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas said in an email to the AP. "We had a good year in 2007. Very smart offensive mind. When he left, I knew he'd be a great head coach someday!"
Chudzinski's first task is to assemble his staff. He'll speak with the assistants still under contract and is confident he'll be able to bring in quality coaches to build the Browns into a consistent winner. Chudzinski would not comment on any specific candidates, but there are reports he'll hire former San Diego coach Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator.
Working on an hour's sleep after getting his dream job. Chudzinski would not comment on any players on Cleveland's current roster. He said his philosophy will be to "attack" on offense and defense and he feels the Browns have the versatility to run a 4-3 or 3-4 defense.
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.
"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."