July 22, 2014

Medina
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Browns: Staff taking shape, O’Neil will be defense coordinator

The moving trucks will be heading west on I-90.

New Browns coach Mike Pettine began to fill out his staff Monday by naming eight assistants, including three who worked under him in 2013 when he was defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills.

He retained three coaches from Rob Chudzinski’s Cleveland staff, including special teams coordinator Chris Tabor. Pettine was hired Thursday.

Jim O’Neil was added as defensive coordinator. He was Buffalo’s linebackers coach last year, working with the outside linebackers as the Bills set a franchise record and ranked second in the league with 57 sacks. He spent the previous four years under Pettine with the Jets, serving the final three years as assistant defensive backs coach.

Pettine plans to call the defensive plays as O’Neil adjusts to the promotion. O’Neil played high school football for Pettine’s father, Mike Sr., at Central Bucks West outside Philadelphia. He worked for eight years on the college level before joining the Jets.

Linebackers coach Chuck Driesbach, 61, and assistant linebackers coach Brian Fleury are also following Pettine from Buffalo.

Driesbach spent last season as linebackers coach with the Bills following 36 years in college. He worked with the inside linebackers in Buffalo, overseeing the development of second-round pick Kiki Alonso, who was named the Professional Football Writers of America Defensive Rookie of the Year. He was assistant head coach/defensive coordinator at Rice from 2007-11.

Driesbach also attended Central Bucks West, played for Pettine Sr. and goes way back with Pettine. Driesbach was defensive coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh when Pettine was a graduate assistant in 1993-94.

Fleury was defensive quality control coach on the Bills last year, his first season in the NFL. He spent the previous four years as secondary coach and special teams coordinator at Towson University.

Jeff Hafley was hired as secondary coach. He will enter his third year in the NFL after two seasons as safeties coach with the Buccaneers. He spent 11 years as a college assistant.

Tabor will stick around to work for his third head coach in Cleveland. He was hired by Pat Shurmur in 2011 and will be in his fourth season as coordinator.

Tabor was one of three assistants brought back by Pettine. Assistant special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga joined the Browns in 2011, and assistant secondary coach Bobby Babich in 2013.

While the defensive staff took shape, the offensive side remained filled with questions, although Pettine did hire Brian Angelichio as tight ends coach. He was with Tampa Bay the last two years.

The next priority is hiring an offensive coordinator, and a few names have already been crossed off the list.

The Browns were interested in former Texans coach Gary Kubiak, but nfl.com’s Ian Rapoport reported Kubiak wanted to be “pseudo head coach” and sought a little more power than the Browns were willing to give. Pettine said after he was hired he wanted to take an active role in all three phases.

Kubiak was announced as coordinator of the Ravens on Monday afternoon.

“I think coordinators that step up to be head coaches, the common mistakes that they made is staying in their comfort zone,” Pettine said Thursday. “I’m not going to spend an inordinate amount of time in the defensive room. I think I can use my defensive expertise to help our offense. I think I can do that to help our special teams. I think that’s important.

“I think too many times on NFL staffs, offensive coaches don’t truly know how defenses work, defensive coaches don’t truly know how offenses work and that’s where you fall short. There’s truly not enough sharing of information back and forth and you really end up as offense, defense and special teams as three independent subcontractors. I think you’re doing yourself a disservice that way and I feel that’s my responsibility as the head coach to be able to be a bridge for information to be able to flow back and forth.”

Former Ravens coordinator and current LSU coordinator Cam Cameron told the LSU sports information director he was staying put, and NOLA.com reported the Browns had expressed their interest.

Cowboys coordinator Bill Callahan was considered a possibility if Dallas hired Scott Linehan as play caller, but the Star-Telegram reported Callahan would stay for 2014 regardless.

A candidate still in the running is former Titans coordinator Dowell Loggains, according to a Cleveland.com report.

He worked six years with the Titans, including the last 21 games as coordinator. He wasn’t retained when Ken Whisenhunt was hired as coach to replace Mike Munchak. Before being named coordinator, Loggains was quarterbacks/passing game coach for 2½ years.

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @scottpetrak.