Apr 26, 2013; Berea, OH, USA; at Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski talks during a press conference at the Cleveland Browns Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
The Cleveland Browns Family Fun Night drew 24,131 to watch the team practice at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The event was free of charge just like training camp, which has also been drawing in huge numbers. The Browns are never short on attendance or support but this number almost doubled the number of people who attended the event in 2011 and it seems like there is a level of excitement with this team that has lacking in recent years. The combination of increased talent as well as a front office that seems to be making good moves early in the eyes of fans have people attending events in droves and they capped off the event with a great moment for a young kid battling cancer.
The new front office has come in the stated goal of improving the fan experience. The most obvious way to do that would be to have better football on the field and while the team appears headed for better days, the immediate investments to improve the fan experience have appeared to not only drawn in more for events but endeared the front office to the fan base.
There has been more investment in the stadium with the most obvious improvement being the ability to get cell service, which had inexplicably not been addressed previously. The environment at practice for training camp has been more inviting for fans. Considering the circumstances surrounding Jimmy Haslam and the legal hurdles he could still potentially face, this is notable. It would have been easy for the fans to turn away, throw up their hands, and do something else, but the Browns organization has done enough to keep them around and bring more of them into events.
This has not only been limited to free events like training camp and this evening but tickets have been selling faster with two of their home games selling out faster than had been done in recent years. The efforts of the organization are worth pointing out but maybe the most important aspect has been the presence of Rob Chudzinski.
Chud has been a good personality for the Browns to have as their head coach with the turmoil going on and with the efforts the front office has made, his outgoing personality and willingness to involve the fans in practice has been great for his reputation. Starting with just getting the crowd riled up for different situations but making efforts like grabbing a fan out of the crowd with a Jim Brown jersey on to meet the man himself sticks with people. He is a football coach and is working to improve his team but he is also staying after practice to sign autographs and shake hands as well. Ultimately, Chud is going to be judged on his record, which is something he knows, but should he be the guy who can ultimately lead the Browns to success they have not had since the 80’s, these type of efforts are going to help escalate him from just being a great coach to being a local legend.
Chud was born and raised a Browns fan and this was his dream job, so he has enjoyed every second of it and fans have enjoyed it along with him. For all of the great moves Chud has made with fans, his best move may have been this evening. A move he credited to his own five year old son, Chud brought in a a five year old child battling cancer to make the last carry of practice and score a touchdown in front of a stadium full of people. Certainly, that is a memory that kid will have forever but it is one that fans are going to remember as well.
The type of personality Chud has compared to that of Pat Shurmur will have little or no bearing on his ability to coach this football team and the second the team loses its first game, there will be people questioning if Chud is the right guy for the job. Still, it does not hurt that Chud has this positive momentum when it comes to relating to the fans and the local media is drinking the Kool-Aid by the jug to this point.
For a team that plays its first exhibition this coming week, the head coach and the organization as a whole has done quite a bit to get fans to buy in and create positive momentum. Perhaps, it will all come apart if the Browns look bad against St. Louis on Thursday, but it seems like this is the most positive people have been about this team since the hiring of Mike Holmgren as President. Hopefully, this goes better than that did.