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Ten Browns points, and a personal remembrance

By Pat McManamon

Go away for a week to tend to the affairs of an older brother who passed away just before Christmas, and lo and behold the Browns hire a coach. A good coach. A smart coach. An exciting coach.

It’s not fun watching someone’s life be carted away on a truck, so it was tough to keep up on things sports-related while gone (yes, there are more important things).

So let’s try to catch up.

1)      I like Rob Chudzinski. If for no other reason than he’s an NFL coach who runs an NFL offense that has been proven to work in the NFL. Which means that though Chudzinski will bring in some of his guys, no major overhaul is needed. The Browns don’t need to “start over” again. They can tinker and add pieces and parts and … who knows … maybe even win.

2)      Norv Turner would be tough to argue with as an offensive coordinator. It seemed odd at first that Turner would work for a guy who used to work under him, but a wise friend who knows Turner advised: “Norv doesn’t care about that.”

3)      Let’s not diminish the influence Jimmy Johnson will have on this season’s Browns – especially if Turner is indeed hired. Chudzinski is a product of Miami, and Turner worked for Johnson at Dallas.

4)      Consider the numbers the Browns put up in 2007 with Chudzinski calling plays, with Jamal Lewis running, Derek Anderson throwing and Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow catching. Anderson had 29 TDs and 3,787 yards passing. Lewis ran for 1,304. Edwards had a monster season with 1,289 (and 16 TDs), and Winslow had 1,106. Those are some serious numbers

5)      When Chudzinski was the Browns tight end coach, he and offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie were nearly inseparable. Chudzinski became Robiskie’s right-hand man. The two broke down film together, studied together and game-planned together. Chudzinski grew up in the NFL under Robiskie. When Chudzinski returned as coordinator, Rip Scherer was on the staff as quarterbacks coach, and actually interviewed for the same job Chudzinski received (at the request of Phil Savage). Scherer set that aside and became to Chudzinski what Chudzinski had been to Robiskie (follow that?). Point: There’s a lot of rumors out there that Turner may bring his son to the staff, and that Ken Dorsey may become quarterback coach. That may happen. But it also seems to make sense that Scherer would be on the short list to be some part of the offensive staff. His help was invaluable to Chudzinski in Cleveland.

6)      The 2007 season was the one when Charlie Frye started the opener, then was traded on Tuesday. The decision to start Frye over Anderson was debated at great length, and Chudzinski and the offensive staff favored Anderson by a small margin. Romeo Crennel, being a loyal guy, favored Frye because he had started part of the previous season and had more experience.

7)      There’s a lot of chatter that Anderson will follow Chudzinski from Carolina back to Cleveland, which would be interesting given the way Anderson ripped the fans when he left. Then again, my colleague Zac Jackson brings some reality to those reports in this report.

8)      What the heck … some folks are ready to take LeBron James back, right?

9)      One other fact: Anderson has thrown four passes the last two seasons, and would be four months older than Brandon Weeden if he joined the team.

10)   What remains to shake out is who picks players, and how much of a role Joe Banner will have on player selection. It will be interesting to see how that goes.

As for my brother Dave, he was the guy who sat next to me in the stands on that cold January day when the Browns played Oakland in the playoffs back in 1981. He looked at me and asked “What do you do?” as Brian Sipe and Sam Rutigliano huddled during a timeout. Throw it, I said – I was teaching high school at Walsh Jesuit at the time, had season tickets and had seen it work all year. He had been watching games from his home on Venice Beach, and agreed.

Naturally, we were both wrong.

So after the game we followed the advice of a cousin, a Cleveland fire fighter who said to go to the top of the lower deck in the old stadium and find a door behind section whatever. On the door would be a sign that read: “Media Lounge. Do not enter.”

“Open the door and walk in and we’ll meet for a beer,” the fire fighter cousin said.

Dave and I did just that, and dissected the game at great length with three or four fire fighters in the warmth of the media lounge (Never underestimate the wisdom and smarts of a Cleveland fire fighter). Of course while we were inside in toasty warmth another cousin – we call him “Bub” — who rode to the game with us was waiting at the car – in minus 800 wind chill or something. While he froze, we talked. Remember there were no cell phones in those days, so he pretty much stood by the car and tried to keep warm, which didn’t go well. Eventually he got so fed up he went to get on the bus, but didn’t because he didn’t have enough change. Finally, he remembered the “media lounge” and headed back. He was a little perturbed, shall we say, when he got off the elevator and saw us in the lounge.

We always thought he should have figured it out.

No, none of us were in the media at the time.

That Cleveland sports bond was always part of a close relationship with the brother older than me, and one that never went away. He’d follow every Cleveland team, his high school alma mater (the place on West 30th) and always wonder what was going on with the Browns. (Just last summer, I dropped him an e-mail after the Lakers traded for Dwight Howard that simply read “Dwight Howard?” He wrote back: “Just another reason to hate the Lakers.”) Anytime the Browns played a game in LA or San Diego or even Oakland, he’d meet me for the weekend and we’d have a grand time, though of course he was out and about having fun while I was on a “business trip.”

I miss him. A lot.

But I must add these two points:

That was the one and only time I entered a media lounge without proper credentials, and the availability of that media lounge following Red Right 88 had nothing whatsoever to do with my decision to become a sportswriter.

RIP Dave.

You’re a good man.

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