CLEVELAND — The Browns hauled their coaching search to Arizona and back. They talked to high-profile college coaches, NFL assistants and a fired pro coach who took a team to a Super Bowl.
None of them was hired.
Instead, Rob Chudzinski became their pick.
With no experience as a head coach at any level, Chudzinski was hired Thursday night by the Cleveland Browns, the team he cheered for as a kid. This is Chudzinski's third stint with the team, but this time around he's the guy in charge.
Chudzinski, who spent the past two seasons calling plays as Carolina's offensive coordinator, is the Browns' sixth full-time coach since 1999 and 14th in team history.
Just as it appeared the Browns might be going in another direction, the team selected the 44-year-old Chudzinski to revive a team that has made the playoffs just once in the past 14 years.
Chudzinski will be introduced Friday at an 11 a.m. news conference, where owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner likely will be asked how they selected Banner after speaking to at least seven other candidates and flirting with Chip Kelly before he returned to Oregon.
"Chud," as he's known to players and friends, Chudzinski worked as the Browns' tight ends coach in 2004 and was their offensive coordinator in 2007, when the team won 10 games — their most since an expansion rebirth in 1999.
A lifelong Browns fan who grew up in Toledo, Ohio, Chudzinski 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, Chudzinski has worked with talented Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and resuscitated Carolina's offense, which was one of the league's worst before he arrived.
When Haslam and Banner embarked on their coaching search as 2013 began, the pair vowed they would wait as long as necessary to find "the right coach" for Cleveland. They promised to give their new coach final say over the roster and planned to pair him with an executive to help pick players.