BEREA, Ohio - If anyone knows the soul-crushing angst and heartbreak of being a Browns fan, it is Rob Chudzinski.
Born in Toledo in 1968, Chudzinski grew up rooting for -- and being mostly disappointed by -- his beloved Brownies. So there might be no better person in position to do something about where the team goes from here than Chudzinski. After all, there's way more at stake here for the 45-year-old than just getting his first head-coaching gig.
It's more than just football. This is personal.
"There's no place I'd rather be," Chudzinski told me during a recent visit to the Browns' training facility. "This is a dream job for me. We have the best fans in the world, and it's an honor for me to be the head coach of the Browns.
"You look at some of the kids watching practice and you remember how it was for you, how much you looked up to the players and the team, and how important it was to you at that age. Just seeing their faces brings back great memories. So I'm going to do everything in my power to get things turned around and make it happen."
There's a lot to do. Chudzinski takes over a franchise riddled with problems that go all the way back to the Browns' return to Cleveland as an expansion franchise in 1999. He is the seventh coach since then, and the Browns have been to the playoffs only once.
Chudzinski, who had his heart broken along with the rest of the Browns' die-hard fans when they lost in the AFC Championship Game three times in the 1980s, inherits a team that went 5-11 under Pat Shurmur, who was fired after two seasons by incoming owner Jimmy Haslam.
Haslam has his own problems now that his trucking company is being investigated amid accusations of a fraudulent rebate program, but it is Chudzinski who has the difficult challenge of bringing the Browns back to respectability.
"We're a young team. We have potential," said Chudzinski, who was a Browns assistant coach in 2004 and again in 2007-08. He was the Panthers' offensive coordinator before being hired as the Browns' head coach.
He added, "We have a lot of work to do and a lot of players to develop. I think we're on the right track and we'll get to where we want to be."
Eli, RG3: Lots in common
Their personalities are about as different as you can get, but the Redskins' charismatic quarterback, Robert Griffin III, and laid-back Eli Manning have plenty in common as far as Barry Cofield is concerned.
Cofield, a Redskins nose tackle, has played with both quarterbacks. Though he acknowledges the vastly different outward personality traits, he says both share plenty of the same characteristics.
"They both have a commanding presence, they both command and get the respect of their teammates, and they're both guys that work as hard as anyone else in the building," Cofield said. "That's all you can ask for."
Cofield, who was with the Giants for their 2007 Super Bowl run but signed with the Redskins before the 2011 season -- when the Giants won it again -- is highly impressed with Griffin's maturity, especially given that it's only his second year in the league.
"He's a great guy on and off the field," Cofield said. "He's incredibly talented but extremely humble. You can tell his parents had a great influence on him. He works hard and prepares just like an Eli Manning."
Smith a hit in Kansas City
Alex Smith has been everything the Chiefs have expected. The former 49ers quarterback, who was traded to Kansas City early in the offseason, has solidified the position after taking over for Matt Cassel.
"He's a smart guy," coach Andy Reid said of Smith. "He gets it. He makes it easy."
The coach then offered a compliment no quarterback ever received before the invention of the computer.
Said Reid, "He doesn't run out of gigabytes."
Sluggish preseason for Cam
The Panthers are expecting big things from third-year quarterback Cam Newton, and so is Newton himself.
But it has been a slow start for the former No. 1 overall pick.
In eight series in his first two preseason games, Newton has only one touchdown drive, and that was on a short field after an interception gave Carolina the ball at the 18 in the opener against the Bears.
"We kicked two field goals ," coach Ron Rivera said, "but I want touchdowns."
- A lot was made of a potential rift between Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and Mike Shanahan regarding the coach's cautious timetable for RG3's return from a knee injury. Don't think there's much there. It's a hypercompetitive player wanting to play and a coach who's taking a longer view of his rehab slowing things down. Looks like a healthy -- and relatively mild -- disagreement to me.
- Quote of the week: Eagles quarterback Michael Vick on being re-energized by new coach Chip Kelly. "I'm having fun playing football. I fell in love with the game again. I thank coach Kelly for getting me back to that point."
- Former Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty is now a 3-4 defensive end with the Ravens. He was a 3-4 end at Virginia and then in Dallas, where he was drafted by Bill Parcells. "It's more of a home for me," Canty said. "It's more natural." Referring to different ways of lining up, he added, "Being able to play the 3-technique, 5-, 9-technique, kick down in sub defense and stuff like that. I think that's home for me."
- Newly signed Ravens tight end Dallas Clark wore No. 44 when he starred for the Colts, but that number already was taken by veteran fullback Vonta Leach. So Clark decided to wear No. 87 in honor of former Colts teammate Reggie Wayne.