BEREA: The Browns took another major step in completing their new coaching staff by hiring Ray Horton as their defensive coordinator Friday.
Horton spent the past two seasons filling the same role for the Arizona Cardinals and employed a 3-4 system stemming from his days as a pupil of noted Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
Horton, 52, replaces Dick Jauron, who guided the Browns’ 4-3 defense for the past two seasons. Horton signed a four-year, $8 million contract, Arizona Sports 620 reported.
“We are truly excited that we were able to get someone of Ray’s caliber as our defensive coordinator,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said in a statement. “He possesses a great deal of experience as a player, position coach and coordinator in the NFL and has been part of some of the top defenses in the league throughout his career. He is an extremely talented coach, and I know that he will work very well with the young nucleus of players we have on defense.”
Horton interviewed with owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner for the Browns’ head-coaching position Jan. 1 in Arizona, though Chudzinski was chosen for the job. Horton also reportedly interviewed with the Cardinals twice and was frustrated when they hired Bruce Arians instead. He had “a heated exchange” with Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim after he was told he didn’t get the job, XTRA Sports 910 reported.
In Horton’s two seasons with the Cardinals, their defense ranked 12th (337.8 yards allowed per game) in 2012 and tied for 18th (355.1) in 2011.
In 2008, Haslam bought a minority stake in the Steelers, so he’s familiar with Horton, who was a defensive backs coach in Pittsburgh from 2004-10. The Steelers used LeBeau’s 3-4 scheme and finished with a top-10 defense in each of Horton’s seven seasons with the team.
Although most of Horton’s coaching experience is in a 3-4 scheme, he told Arizona reporters he can teach a 4-3 system partly because he played in one. Horton was a defensive back in the NFL from 1983-92. The Cincinnati Bengals selected him in the second round (53rd overall) of the 1983 NFL Draft. He also played for the Dallas Cowboys, winning Super Bowl XXVII in the final game of his career.
With Horton aboard, Chudzinski’s coaching staff is taking form. The Browns named former San Diego Chargers coach Norv Turner their offensive coordinator on Thursday.
“As we’ve said before, an important factor in hiring Rob was our confidence in him being able to put together a top-quality staff,” Banner said in a statement. “He has assembled an extremely impressive group of coaches, and that will be very beneficial as we develop our players.”
The Browns still have openings for the following position coaches: quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends, defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs.
Calling the plays
Chudzinski said he would be willing to relinquish play-calling duties if he secured the right offensive coordinator. So is Turner someone he would be comfortable with calling the plays?
“He is,” Chudzinski said. “But we need to work through some of the things offensively. He’s going to be here on Monday. So we’ll have a big list of things to work through, and that’ll be one of the things we’ll discuss.”
Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie told CSNPhilly.com he believes Banner, his childhood friend and former president of the Eagles, is the source of anonymous, critical comments about Eagles GM Howie Roseman that appeared Jan. 14 in a story by Jason La Canfora of CBS.
Banner released a statement denying the claim.
“Any implication that I had anything to do with Jason La Canfora’s story is completely false, outrageous and borders on being libelous,” Banner said in the statement.
On Friday, Banner added, “It’s just unfortunate and untrue.”
Banner said he expects the Browns to be players in free agency, which begins March 12, but they will never build their team around it. … Chudzinski said he has talked to 10-15 players, including quarterback Brandon Weeden and linebacker D’Qwell Jackson.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abj.