CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Ray Horton has returned to lead the Browns defense and the offensive and special teams staffs were also announced by head coach Hue Jackson.
Horton, who spent the last 2 seasons with Tennessee, returns to Cleveland after spending the 2013 season here before Rob Chudzinski and the coaching staff were fired after just 1 season.
“I am excited to come back and help Coach Jackson win,” Horton said. “We haven’t worked together previously, but I think there has been a mutual respect from across the field. It’s one of those things where you appreciate the challenges from matching up against each other from opposite sides of the field.”
In Jan. 2013 Horton authored one of the more memorable quotes in recent memory at his introductory press conference, “We’re going to look like an aggressive, forward attacking defense that has big men that can run and little men that can hit.”
The Browns ranked ninth in the league in total defense in 2013, marking the team’s best finish since 1994 after finishing 23rd the year before. Cleveland’s defense also limited opponents to an average of 3.9-yards per carry, which ranked eighth in the NFL and marked Cleveland’s best total in 18 years, registered 40 sacks, their most since 2001.
Horton was also instrumental in the development of cornerback Joe Haden and safety T.J. Ward who were selected to their first Pro Bowl.
The Titans, who went 3-13, finished ranked 12th in the league in total yards allowed, seventh in total passing yards allowed and 18th against the run this season while totaling 39.0 sacks as a team this past season.
“His defenses have gone after the quarterback. They have been effective in stopping the run. They had a very good pass defense when he was here,” Jackson said. “That is what we need to do. We have some of the premier passers in this division when you talk about Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco. We are going to have slow those guys down to have a chance to compete in this division. That is what we expect from our defense.”
Jackson rounded out his offensive and special teams staffs with the announcement of 9 hires.
“I think we’ve been able to assemble a really good group thus far,” Jackson said.
Jackson is not hiring an offensive coordinator since he will call plays but Pep Hamilton, Al Saunders and Kirby Wilson will serve as his top 3 offensive assistants.
“I have made the decision to call plays,” Jackson said. “I think I have to start that way for our team. When you take these jobs you get them for a reason. You have to be aware of what you’ve been successful at and what got you this opportunity. You want to make sure the team is really good at what got you here, first and foremost.”
Hamilton will be the associate head coach-offense and primarily work with the quarterbacks, Saunders was named the senior offensive assistant/wide receivers coach and Wilson the running backs/run game coordinator.
Hamilton’s resume includes coaching Colts quarterback Andrew Luck at Stanford and Indianapolis, Jay Cutler in Chicago as well as former 49ers and current Chiefs QB Alex Smith in San Francisco.
“He is going to help us mold that ‘guy’ into being one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League,” Jackson said. “That is our goal. We have to have a signal caller that can play at a high level. That is Pep’s number one mission and mine too as we go through it.
“In his role as the associate head coach, when I step out, he steps in. I have a lot of confidence and trust in Pep. He has done a great job calling plays in the National Football League. I am going to give him a lot of responsibilities as we move forward.”
Saunders, who was Jackson’s offensive coordinator in Oakland during the 2011 season, is the most decorated assistant on the staff. With over 40 years of coaching experience – including the past 32 in the NFL – he has been a part of 15 playoff teams, five division titles and one Super Bowl championship as an NFL coach. His offensive units have ranked first in the NFL in total offense, passing, rushing or scoring 20 times.
“You will be hard pressed to find a better offensive coach in the National Football League than Al Saunders,” Jackson said. “He has been my right hand in Oakland. He has been my right hand in so many situations. His role in working with the wide receivers will be very important to the success of our offense. He’s a great football coach and is going to be a tremendous asset to the Cleveland Browns.”
Hal Hunter is the new offensive line coach, Mark Hutson – assistant offensive line, Greg Seamon – tight ends, and Bob Saunders – offensive quality control.
Shawn Mennenga – special teams assistant and Stan Watson – special teams quality control rejoin special teams coordinator Chris Tabor who was retained last week.