Browns to feel Jimmy Johnson's influence
JAN 14, 2013 11:53a ET
Hurricane style is coming to Cleveland.
And it has nothing to do with the drink in New Orleans.
New Browns coach Rob Chudzinski has roots that go back to “the U,” and it’s the Miami Hurricanes that give him his offensive and defensive approaches.
Both are based on attacking and playing aggressively, and both have their foundation in Jimmy Johnson, Chudzinski’s first college coach and a coach whose impact in Cleveland probably should not be minimized.
To the point that when Chudzinski was hired, Johnson tweeted he is one of “my guys.”
The thread from Johnson goes through Norv Turner and Butch Davis to Chudzinski, who played for Johnson and coached under Turner and Davis.
Does the system guarantee success?
It’s a good start. It has worked in several places, from Miami to Dallas to San Diego to Washington to Chicago.
But any system needs players. Johnson had a great run in Dallas, but he didn’t leave Miami with the same impact -- because he didn’t have as many good players.
The Browns have added talent the past couple years under Tom Heckert. They need to add more. And the person doing the adding has yet to be determined.
One thing not to expect to be imported from Miami, though, is the flamboyance. Chudzinski wants his players to be enthusiastic, but he won’t encourage the excessiveness.
But fans should enjoy Chudzinski’s approach because he’s aggressive.
His offense is based on a vertical passing game that opens up the field for the run. It’s what Johnson did when he coached the University of Miami, where Chudzinski played for him.
He said at his introductory news conference that the system he used as offensive coordinator goes “back to Miami”
“I had been around that system for a long time prior (to joining the Browns),” he said.
In Miami, a guy named Kosar had great success with it under Howard Schnellenberger as coach. When Johnson took over, guys like Michael Irvin and Brian Blades and Randal Hill thrived at receiver in the vertical system. The passing game opened up the run for backs like Alonzo Highsmith and Melvin Bratton.
When Johnson left, he took the system to Dallas, where Irvin and Alvin Harper piled up stats while Emmitt Smith was running.
Back in Miami, Dennis Erickson kept the basics, but modified the system to bring a one-back/spread to UM. He wound up winning two national titles.
Johnson hired Turner as offensive coordinator in Dallas to call the plays in Johnson’s system. When Turner left the Cowboys to coach Washington and San Diego he took it there.
Chudzinski played for both Johnson and Erickson; Chudzinski’s system more resembles Johnson’s because it uses two backs. There are modifications and adjustments, but the attacking style down the field came right out of Johnson’s playbook.
Defensively, Chudzinski made no secret of the style he wants.
“We’re going to be an attacking style defense,” he said. “We’re going to create turnovers. That’s what we want to do. We want to get after the quarterback and affect the quarterback’s play.”
Which again sounds like it’s right out of the Hurricanes' manual.
There, the defense was predicated on the defensive line getting up the field and disrupting plays by clogging run lanes or harassing the quarterback. There were just a few basic fronts and a basic approach, which players liked. Each practice play started with defensive coach screaming at the line to “get up the field.”
“We don’t go around blocks, we don’t go underneath blocks, we go through blocks,” Johnson screamed at one of his first practices as Miami Dolphins coach.
An aggressive, up-the-field approach clogs blocking lanes and allows linebackers to run and make tackles.
It’s not an approach with high-risk blitzes a la Rob Ryan, but it is one predicated on disruption through aggression.
When Johnson went to the Cowboys, Erickson took over. He liked the Miami defense so much he didn’t change a thing. “Why would you?” he always asked.
Chudzinski saw the results.