INDIANAPOLIS – With Miami in 1986, Rob Chudzinski was a freshman tight end while Chuck Pagano served as a graduate assistant on Jimmy Johnson’s Hurricanes staff that included Butch Davis as defensive line coach.
Davis has said a young Pagano was “like a flea on a hot brick bouncing around from one position to the next.”
Wednesday, Chudzinski recalled those times while expressing his anticipation in serving under Pagano in 2014.
“The thing I remember about him the most is he would run,” said Chudzinski. “After every play, he would run about 30 yards downfield and be running back.
“He’s not quite running as much in practice nowadays, but still an excitable guy, high energy, has a great relationship with the players.”
Now, Chudzinski has migrated from Cleveland to help Pagano keep his Colts among the NFL’s top performing teams.
“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,” said Chudzinski of his role as special assistant to the head coach. “(It’s) sharing experiences, sharing some thoughts, maybe ideas, some drills.”
As Pagano once excitedly navigated a practice field that included Chudzinski, “Chud” is mobile in assisting tutelage here.
“I go around to different rooms and spend time with different guys, different position groups, different coaches, different players, and try to spread myself out a little bit,” said Chudzinski. “All of the coaches have been great. It’s an outstanding staff, a great group of men, and they’ve been eager to pick my brain on things.”
Chudzinski coached tight ends with Cleveland and San Diego, serving also as assistant head coach with the Chargers in 2009-10.
He was the Browns’ offensive coordinator from 2007-08 and served the same role with Carolina from 2011-12 before landing the top spot with the Browns last season.
Restructuring in Cleveland forced an early exit for Chudzinski.
“So many times you talk to your team about putting things past you, moving on and going to the future. That’s what I’ve done,” said Chudzinski. “I’m excited about this place and what’s going on here.
“Whatever I can do to help and any way I can help, I’m willing to do. … There’s nothing too big or too small I won’t do.”
In 2011, Carolina had three players rush for at least 700 yards, including quarterback Cam Newton, who became the first rookie to top 4,000 passing yards.
Last year, Cleveland’s Josh Gordon topped the league with 1,646 receiving yards in 14 games, while tight end Jordan Cameron snared 80 passes for 917 yards and seven scores.
San Diego tight end Antonio Gates had both career 1,000-yard seasons (2005, 2009) under Chudzinski’s command, while the 2007 Browns offense was one of the franchise’s most prolific in years.
Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is among those using Chudzinski as a reference tool.
“I can sit down with Chud and melt through stuff he did in Carolina and Cleveland,” said Manusky. “It’s a great addition to have a guy like that from an offensive perspective. Even though (Pagano) is here, it’s still a defensive perspective.
“When we’re breaking down tape of other teams we’re going to be playing (this season), it’s great to sit with him and (learn), ‘Why are they doing those things?’ You never really know as a defensive coordinator because you’re never in those (offensive) meetings. It’s those little things.”
Pep Hamilton cited Chudzinski’s “wealth of experience,” specifically mentioning the strategic advantage he will provide as the Colts face the AFC North this year, plus battling Tennessee.
Tennessee’s defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, was Chudzinski’s choice for that role with Cleveland last year.
“When we start to zero in on some of the things we’ll do from a game-planning standpoint,” said Hamilton, “there will be a lot of information that should be able to help us prepare.”
It is a reuniting of two Hurricanes who want to provoke bluster in Indianapolis, a spot where Pagano has not dropped consecutive games.
Said D’Qwell Jackson, who hopped from Cleveland to Indianapolis as well, “(Chud’s) been in the defensive room, he’s been in the linebackers’ room, he’s been all around. They’re getting a lot of good knowledge out of him because he’s got a ton of background.”