CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The No. 1 question since Rob Chudzinski was hired as head coach finally has an answer – sort of.
What base defense will new defensive coordinator Ray Horton and the Browns run?
“Probably we’ll switch to the 3-4 defense,” owner Jimmy Haslam said Thursday night at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards. “I think it’ll be an attacking defense. I think he told me in Phoenix with the Arizona Cardinals that he blitzed more than anybody in the league except for the Houston Texans. So I think it’ll be exciting and fun to watch.
“He’s really excited about the players we have here. We need to add one or two to really round out the team. But I think you’ll like him as a person and like him as a coach.”
Horton, who spent the last 2 seasons running the Cardinals defense, dropped the “probably” and was pretty matter of fact in discussing what he’ll run in Cleveland in an interview on Xtra Sports 910 in Phoenix Thursday afternoon.
“It won’t be a hybrid, not unless we’re playing golf,” Horton said in the interview. “It will be the same defense we ran here. It’ll be a stick-’em defense, go get ’em. That’s what we do.”
Despite Haslam’s and Horton’s comments, Chudzinski continued to tap dance around the questions about the scheme Thursday night.
“We’re gonna do both,” Chudzinski said. “We’re gonna have packages where we do both of those. [Outside linebackers coach] Brian [Baker] gives us, whether we’re a 3-4 or a 4-3, a lot of experience and a developer of pass rushers, particularly on the outside.”
Horton also dropped another nugget in that interview with Xtra Sports 910 when he said that he would’ve hired Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator had he been given the Cardinals head coaching job. Turner gave Horton his first coaching job in Washington.
Luckily for Chudzinski, he ended up with both Horton and Turner in Cleveland.
“I’m just glad they’re both here,” Chudzinski said. “It couldn’t have worked out better for us.”
Horton is expected to be introduced to the media next Tuesday in Berea where the new defensive scheme will be the topic of conversation.
The reason for the focus on which scheme they’ll run is because former general manager Tom Heckert spent 3 years loading up on defensive linemen for the 4-3. Now Michael Lombardi will have to reverse course and load up on linebackers to effectively run the 3-4.
They won’t be able to shift gears overnight either.
Lombardi will need multiple years to stock that side of the football with players that fit Horton’s new scheme.
Despite the pending change, Haslam did his best to ease fears of yet another massive rebuilding project.
“I do think we have some really good, young players,” Haslam said. “I think we’ve said since Aug. 3 when I announced at Berea, our goal was to build a team that was going to be consistently good over a period of time, and we’re going to do that the right way. And there’s two models in our division that have been good since 2000, so it is doable. We’re not going to knee jerk. We’re not going to try to win 10 games next year and then go back to winning four. It’s going to take a little bit of time.
“We do have a good young team, but the key word there is young. So we’re going to try to do it the right way and put together a team building through the draft, selectively using free agency, and I think we have the opportunity to put together a real good team in the next two, three, four years.”
The Browns last ran the 3-4 defense for 6 years under Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini with limited success due to the lack of appropriate personnel.
Hopefully this time around they get it right – and it doesn’t take 6 years either.