Browns hire Mike Pettine as new head coach

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

It took some time, but the Browns have their new head coach.

The Cleveland Browns concluded their search for a head coach on Thursday, announcing the hiring of former Buffalo defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

Pettine becomes the 18th head coach in Browns history and replaces Rob Chudzinski, who was fired after one season. He'll bring a defensive background to Cleveland with five years of experience as an NFL defensive coordinator. He coached in Buffalo last season, following four seasons as the Jets defensive coordinator. Pettine made a relatively quick accession to becoming a NFL head coach, rising through the ranks in a little more than 10 years.

He was a high school head coach as recently as 2001. His NFL coaching career began with the Baltimore Ravens in 2002. He coached in Baltimore for seven seasons, moving his way up the ranks, eventually becoming outside linebackers coach under then-Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. When Ryan was hired as the head coach of the Jets, he brought Pettine with him to New York as the defensive coordinator.

New York finished first in scoring and total defense during Pettine's first season. The Jets ranked in the top 10 in total defense every season during his four years there, but dropped off in scoring defense. He left New York following the 2012 season, reportedly to get out from under Ryan's shadow. Ryan is known as one of the better defensive coaches in the NFL, and going to Buffalo allowed Pettine to prove he could run a top defense on his own.

The Bills defense improved significantly in Pettine's lone season with the team. Buffalo jumped from the No. 22 total defense in 2012 to No. 10 this season. It improved from No. 22 in yards per play to No. 6, an improvement of 0.7 yards per play, according to TeamRankings.com. The Bills defense finished the season fourth in Football Outsiders' defensive DVOA.

Cleveland interviewed Pettine twice, the second occurring on Tuesday at the Senior Bowl. The situation escalated when Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase -- thought to be one of, if not, Cleveland's top target -- pulled his name out of consideration and told the Browns they could "move on with their search." The hiring of Pettine concludes a lengthy search in which Cleveland was turned down by some of its reported targets, including Gase and New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

The Browns have an unsettled quarterback situation to solve, but Pettine should have plenty of talent to work with on the defensive side. Cornerback Joe Haden will likely play a similar role to what Darrelle Revis played in New York. T.J. Ward, Phil Taylor, Paul Kruger, Barkevious Mingo and Desmond Bryant are among the talented defensive pieces already in place.

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