Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Sports

January 23, 2014

Browns hire Bills' DC Mike Pettine as new head coach

The Buffalo Bills lose their best assistant coach.

(Continued)

CLEVELAND —

As other teams filled their head-coaching vacancies, the Browns kept looking. The lengthy delay led to a national perception the team didn't have a clear plan. Aware of the criticism, Haslam sent a letter to Cleveland fans last week explaining why the team was being "methodical" in finding Chudzinski's replacement.

"We are strongly committed to finding the right person to coach the Cleveland Browns," Haslam wrote.

And, in the end, Pettine, who had his first interview on Jan. 16, was Cleveland's choice — even though he may not have been the team's first one.

The Bills are sorry to see Pettine leave.

In one season in Buffalo, Pettine improved the defense in every statistical category, transforming a shaky unit into one of the league's nastiest. With an aggressive style Pettine perfected working under Ryan, he turned Buffalo's pass rushers loose, and the club finished with a franchise-record 57 sacks.

The Bills had trouble stopping the run, but they finished 10th in the league in yards allowed, Buffalo's highest ranking since 2004. Buffalo also had four Pro Bowl selections on defense, including former No. 1 overall pick Mario Williams, who had 13 1-2 sacks.

While he was with the Jets, Pettine's defenses finished in the top 10 four years in a row, and New York had the NFL's top-rated defense in 2009.

Pettine has his work cut out for him in Cleveland.

The Browns have been to the playoffs (2002) just once since their franchise rebirth in 1999 and have never built any sustained success or momentum. Change has been the only constant.

Perhaps the team's biggest issue has been an inability to find a franchise quarterback; 20 QBs have started for the club in 15 seasons. Cleveland is expected to address its quarterback quandary in May's draft. The Browns have 10 selections, including two in the first round.

The Browns also have plenty of salary-cap space to sign free agents, and with six Pro Bowlers, the talent cupboard is far from bare.

Football has formed Pettine's life. His father, Mike Pettine Sr., won four state championships at Central Bucks High School West in Doylestown, Pa., and retired in 1999 as the winningest coach in state history.

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