One of the apparent top candidates for the 49ers’ position of offensive coordinator on Jim Tomsula’s first staff is a coach who is currently off-limits.
The Indianapolis Colts reportedly declined permission this week to the 49ers and St. Louis Rams to interview Rob Chudzinski for their vacant coordinator positions. Chudzinski’s contract reportedly expires next week, at which point he becomes a free agent. All indications are that the 49ers want an opportunity to speak with Chudzinski about running the team's offense.
“I’m not going to get into specifics, but it’s ultimately my job to make sure that good people stay in this building and don’t just walk right now,” Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said Friday in a press conference. “So we’ll address that, and do our best to keep good people here.”
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Chudzinski, 46, is considered a good person – with a track record of NFL success, beginning with his first coordinator job in 2007 with the Cleveland Browns. Derek Anderson had his career year, throwing for 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns. Receiver Braylon Edwards caught 80 passes and 16 touchdowns, as the Browns went 10-6.
Coincidentally, when Eric Mangini was hired as Browns coach in 2009, Chudzinski was out. Chudzinski joined Norv Turner with the San Diego Chargers as assistant head coach/tight ends before going with Ron Rivera to the Carolina Panthers.
Cam Newton was the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft. In his first two seasons with Chudzinski, Newton threw for 7,920 yards with a 7.9-yard average per pass attempt. He also rushed for 1,447 yards. In the next two seasons without Chudzinski, Newton threw for 6,506 yards (7.0 average) with 1,124 yards rushing.
“Everyone knows, coming from Auburn, it was a hand signal and we were gone,” Newton said on an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio in 2013. “When I came here (Carolina), it was a culture shock. There were things thrown at me that I never would’ve even imagined. The whole college system was training wheels and without having coach Chud around, I would not have had the season I had.”
[MAIOCCO: 49ers' top coordinator spot still vacant]
During another interview, Newton praised Chudzinski’s ability to draw on his past coaching experiences to find what works best for the players with whom he works.
"The thing that makes coach Chudzinski so different is that he's like a hybrid,'' Newton said. "He takes so many different forms of offense and combines it with his own. He's been under Norv Turner and learned so much from him. But coach Chud understood what I could and what I was comfortable with. He also has to have a dominant running game. So for us to have a downfield passing attack, we have to combine it with those factors, and just makes him even more of a flexible coach.''
[MAIOCCO: 49ers' Tomsula can lean on staff members' experience]
Chudzinski was fired after posting a 4-12 season as Browns head coach in 2013, leading to his position on Chuck Pagano’s staff with the Colts.
From 1994-2003, Chudzinski coached at his alma mater, the University of Miami . He was offensive coordinator from 2001 to ’03 while Frank Gore was on the team. Gore is on a long list of NFL Pro Bowl players from Miami that Chudzinski coached, including Andre Johnson, Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis, Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow and Bryant McKinnie.