Defensive coordinator Ray Horton has elected to leave the Tennessee Titans and rejoin the staff of the Cleveland Browns as their defensive coordinator, the team announced on Friday, two days after it was first reported by NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.
Horton was hired by former head coach Ken Whisenhunt before the 2014 season. He stayed on staff following Whisenhunt's firing in the middle of the 2015 season. The Titans named Mike Mularkey the interim coach and promoted him to the full-time position after the season.
Horton got an interview for the job, but reportedly felt "insulted" that the Titans wouldn't consider him as head coach and rumors surfaced that he would return to the Cleveland Browns, where he served as defensive coordinator in 2013. Horton denied the rumors, but after being granted permission from the Titans to interview with the Browns, opted to return to Cleveland and join new head coach Hue Jackson's staff.
"I am really excited to be back," Horton said. "I love the fans of Cleveland. When I was here last time they really embraced me. I can't tell you how many times I've met Cleveland fans in different cities. It is a great fan base. I am excited to come back and help Coach Jackson win."
Jackson was hired earlier in January and has never worked with Horton before, but said that he wanted a defensive coach with experience in the AFC North.
"I have always watched Ray from afar," Jackson said. "We have known each other. I have competed against him. I remember my time in Cincinnati competing against him when he was here. The guy is a tremendous football coach. He knows this division. He was raised in this division. He played in this division.
"He understands what needs to be done to get our defense back to where it needs to be. I wanted somebody that knew the lay of the land and understood the division, understands the culture here and understands the change that we need to make and someone who can lead our young players and develop players to get better."
Under Horton's leadership in 2013, the Browns defense was ranked ninth in the league in yards allowed, but struggled on third downs and in the red zone. Head coach Rob Chudzinski was one-and-done in Cleveland, and Horton accepted the defensive coordinator position with the Titans.
The Browns were going to have to pay Horton this season one way or the other:
Funny/sad Ray Horton tidbit: #Browns will pay his salary regardless this year from his original CLE contract. Might as well have him coach.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 19, 2016
Before working with the Titans and Browns, Horton was the defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals from 2011-12. He also had stints as a secondary coach with the Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers.