BEREA — “Chilly” is coming to the North Coast, and the Browns hope he’ll bring some heat to the offense.
Coach Pat Shurmur hired Brad Childress as offensive coordinator Friday, adding a veteran coach who spent almost five years as a head coach and is an expert in the West Coast offense.
Childress was hired to help an offense that averaged only 13.6 points per game in 2011 (30th in the NFL) and ranked 29th overall in yardage — 28th rushing and 24th passing.
Shurmur served as the offensive coordinator and play caller in his first year as a head coach at any level. A league source said he’ll call plays “to start” in 2012, but Childress could take over at some point. The arrangement will remain under discussion.
Shurmur has the edge in play-calling experience. He’s done it the last three seasons, starting with two as the coordinator with the St. Louis Rams. Childress’ only season calling plays was 2006 as Vikings head coach, according to ESPN.com. The Vikings finished 23rd in yards and 26th in points (17.6).
“The coordinator role obviously, it’s like having another decision-maker amongst your staff that has the title of being able to say we’re going to do this or do that,” Shurmur said in his season-ending news conference when asked if he’d allow the coordinator to call the plays. “His final role, there’s a lot of different models as to how that works.”
Childress, 55, was Vikings coach from 2006-10, when he was fired after starting 3-7. He went 39-35 with Minnesota, won consecutive NFC North titles and almost reached the Super Bowl in 2009 with quarterback Brett Favre. The Vikings lost to New Orleans in overtime in the NFC championship game.
Childress didn’t coach in 2011 after 33 straight years, including 13 in the NFL, and spent time working for SiriusXM NFL Radio. He spent a long time talking with Shurmur during a training camp visit.
They worked together from 1999-2005 on the offensive staff of the Philadelphia Eagles. Childress was quarterbacks coach then coordinator for four years (head coach Andy Reid called the plays) while Shurmur went from tight ends/offensive line coach to quarterbacks coach when Childress got the promotion.
“Brad and I are very good friends,” Shurmur said after the season. “I think he’s a terrific coach.”
During their time together the Eagles won four straight division titles and made the playoffs five straight years, including a trip to Super Bowl XXXIX. With Childress as coordinator, the Eagles ranked in the top 10 in offense twice, totaling more than 5,000 yards each season.
Shurmur and Childress became experts in the West Coast system under Reid, who learned from Browns president Mike Holmgren.
Childress also shares an agent, Bob LaMonte, with Shurmur and Holmgren, so the transition should be smooth.
Childress will ease the workload on Shurmur by formulating the game plans and leading offensive meetings during the week. Holmgren said during the season having a coordinator would enable Shurmur to spend more time looking at the big picture and dealing with other issues that require the head coach’s attention.
Shurmur interviewed a couple of coordinator candidates in 2011, but they signed with other teams and he decided to handle the job himself. In addition to the poor statistics on offense, the Browns had isolated struggles with clock management and substitutions. The expectation would be that another set of experienced eyes in Childress would help the operation.
Childress interviewed for the head coaching job in Tampa Bay, but Rutgers coach Greg Schiano was hired Thursday.
Childress joins defensive coordinator Dick Jauron and defensive assistant Ray Rhodes as former NFL head coaches on the staff, and that doesn’t include Holmgren.
The Browns made two previous hires to the staff this month. Nolan Cromwell was hired as a senior offensive assistant, replacing the retired Keith Gilbertson, and Tim Hauck was added as defensive backs coach, replacing Jerome Henderson, who left for the same position in Dallas.
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