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Browns receive permission to interview Bills LB coach Jim O'Neil, who's expected to become new DC

By Nate Ulrich Published: January 27, 2014

The Browns have received permission from the Buffalo Bills to interview linebackers coach Jim O’Neil for their defensive coordinator opening, the Bills announced this morning.

The interview is viewed as a formality because new Browns coach Mike Pettine is expected to hire O’Neil. On Thursday, the New York Daily News reported O’Neil would become the Browns’ defensive coordinator if the Bills let him out of his contract.

Pettine said he plans to call the defense’s plays this year.

"I do see that right now," Pettine said Thursday after his introductory news conference. "Very similar to what Rex [Ryan] and I did in New York. He called it the first year and then turned it over after that. I have a feeling it will be similar. For lack of a better analogy, training wheels. When I feel comfortable with taking them off, taking them off.”

Still, Pettine could benefit greatly from having a right-hand man like O'Neil to help game plan. After all, Pettine, 47, and O’Neil, 35, have been joined at the hip throughout their careers.

Pettine served as the Bills’ defensive coordinator during the 2013 season, when O’Neil coached the Bills’ linebackers. Pettine was the New York Jets’ defensive coordinator from 2009-12, when O’Neil coached the Jets’ defensive backs.

O’Neil also played football at Central Bucks High School West in Doylestown, Pa., in the mid-1990s. Pettine’s father, Mike Pettine Sr., was O’Neil’s coach. The younger Pettine was an all-state quarterback and defensive back and C.B. West before graduating in 1984. He served as an assistant coach for his father from 1988-92.

O'Neil is obviously fluent in the 3-4, hybrid defense Pettine uses. The system should mesh well with the scheme the Browns transitioned to last year under the guidance of now-Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton.

“He plays a multi-front,” Browns CEO Joe Banner said Thursday. “He plays it a little bit differently [than Horton], but from a personnel perspective, it’s a good fit.”

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