Browns tab Bills DC Pettine as next coach

Updated: January 23, 2014, 3:54 PM ET


By
Pat McManamon
| ESPN.com


Mike Pettine was named the 15th coach of the Cleveland Browns on Thursday.

The Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator was hired after he met for a third time with Browns brass, including owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner.

Pettine, 47, was not on the Browns’ original list of candidates, but he emerged as others either took themselves out of consideration or were hired elsewhere. The Browns first interviewed Pettine last Thursday, then met with him again on Tuesday in Mobile, Ala., where Pettine had been attending Senior Bowl practices for the Bills.  He will be introduced by the Browns at a 4:45 p.m. ET news conference.

“We are thrilled to announce Mike Pettine as the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns,” Haslam said. “Mike is the epitome of what we want the Browns to be — tough, aggressive and innovative — with a blue-collar, team-first mentality. He knows what’s necessary to beat teams in the AFC North. Most importantly, Mike has repeatedly shown the ability to lead his players to consistent improvement and success, clearly what we are striving for as he leads the Cleveland Browns moving forward.”

Pettine emerged from a number of candidates that included former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, among others.

“We wanted to be thorough from the start,” said Banner, “and we interviewed as many people as we could. From that group, we hired the best individual for this job. Our players and fans are going to really enjoy Mike Pettine and his leadership style. We’re excited to have him out in front of our team, and we look forward to working closely with him.”

The son of a high school coaching legend in Pennsylvania, Pettine is a disciple of New York Jets coach Rex Ryan. Pettine was the linebackers coach when Ryan was defensive coordinator in Baltimore, then joined Ryan with the Jets where he was the team’s defensive coordinator.

When Pettine’s contract expired after the 2012 season, he joined the Bills as defensive coordinator. The Jets ranked first in defense in 2009, and this season the Bills ranked second in the league with 57 sacks.

Pettine joins a difficult situation, as he becomes the Browns’ third coach in three years. He also takes over after Rob Chudzinski was given one season.

The Browns have not won more than five games in any of the previous six seasons, and fan unrest and impatience with the team has been strong. While fans and media picked at the Browns for the amount of time it took to hire a coach — Chudzinski was fired the night the season ended — Pettine badly wanted the job, according to people in Buffalo.

In late December, a panel of former coaches and general managers had Pettine on a list of worthy candidates for future openings. The Bills did not want to lose him.

Pettine believes in an aggressive, attacking defense like Ryan, and this season the Bills allowed the league’s lowest completion percentage (55.3 percent) after the Jets had held quarterbacks to 52.6 percent the previous four years.

Buffalo blitzed nearly 40 percent of the time when the opposing quarterback dropped back to pass. Buffalo’s run defense, though, struggled, finishing 28th in the league. Even the Browns’ woeful rushing offense managed to run on the Bills.

Pettine is direct, forceful and will attack the same way former Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton did — with multiple fronts and different personnel groups.

  • Covered Browns, Cleveland sports since 1998
  • Previously worked at Fox Sports Ohio, AOL Fanhouse, Akron Beacon Journal/Ohio.com
  • Cleveland native, proud father of two daughters

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