BEREA--One of the worst kept secrets is official.
On Friday, the Browns announced that Ray Horton will rejoin the team as defensive coordinator. Horton has been an NFL defensive coordinator the past five seasons, including the 2013 season when he served as the Browns defensive coordinator. He has coached in the NFL the past 22 seasons following a 10-year playing career as a defensive back. As a player and coach, he has made it to the Super Bowl five times, where he has three wins.
“I have always watched Ray from afar,” Jackson said in a release from the team. “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.
“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. 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.”
Horton said he's glad to be back in Cleveland.
“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. 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.”
Horton's defense went from 23rd in the league the previous year to the ninth-ranked defense in the league in total defense in 2013, marking the team’s best finish since 1994. The Browns 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. The Browns’ defense also registered 40 sacks, their most since 2001. Corner Joe Haden and safety T.J. Ward were each selected to their first career Pro Bowl.
Horton spent two seasons (2014-15) as the defensive coordinator for Tennessee. The Titans finished sixth in the NFL in sacks per pass play, seventh in passing yards allowed and eighth in rush average against in 2015. In his first season with the Titans, the team recorded at least one sack by 18 different players, a team record and the most in the NFL in 2014.
Horton also spent two seasons (2011-12) with Arizona as defensive coordinator. In 2012, Horton guided a defensive unit that led the NFL in passer rating allowed (71.2) and interception percentage (4.4%). The defense also ranked second in the NFL in interceptions (22) and third-down efficiency (32.9%), third in red zone defense (44.4%) and fourth in takeaways (33). They also ranked fifth in passing defense (200.8 ypg), first downs allowed (288) and points allowed per drive (1.42). Defensive back Patrick Peterson ranked fourth in the NFL with seven interceptions and led the league with five fumble recoveries en route to a Pro Bowl selection. Horton made an immediate impact upon his arrival in 2011, as the club’s defense allowed 34 total touchdowns, their fewest since 1994, while leading the NFL in third down efficiency (31.4%).
Prior to his time in Arizona, Horton spent seven seasons (2004-10) as the defensive backs/assistant defensive backs coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers. During his tenure in Pittsburgh, he helped the Steelers defense rank in the top 10 in the NFL in total defense each season, including leading the NFL on three occasions (2004, 2007-08). Horton was pivotal in the development of safety Troy Polamalu, as he was selected to six consecutive Pro Bowls (2005-10), named first team All-Pro three times (2005, 2008, 2010) and was voted as the 2010 AP Defensive Player of the Year.
In addition, the Browns announced the rest of the offensive and special teams coaching staffs.
Pep Hamilton (associate head coach-offense), Al Saunders (Sr. offensive assistant/wide receivers), Kirby Wilson (running backs/run game coordinator), Hal Hunter (offensive line), Mark Hutson (assistant offensive line), Greg Seamon (tight ends) and Bob Saunders (offensive quality control) will round out the offensive staff, while Shawn Mennenga (special teams assistant) and Stan Watson (special teams quality control) rejoin special teams coordinator Chris Tabor.
“I think we’ve been able to assemble a really good group thus far,” Jackson said. “We are very excited about the men who have decided to come here to Cleveland and join the organization in our quest to win football games. As an offensive staff, I think first and foremost we have to work together. Our players need to see a staff that is committed, that is together and will do anything and everything to help them become better football players. What we wanted to do is try to hire the best staff that was going to give us a chance to teach, motivate, instill discipline and drive our players.
“The other thing that I love about this group of coaches is they all want to be here with the Browns," he said. "They want to be a part of the change. I want a bunch of guys who really want to be in Cleveland because they have to understand there is a lot of work ahead. We are going to have to roll up our sleeves and get some work done and just put our head down and go. Do it the right way. We need guys that are going to be loyal, guys who can be totally trusted and guys when I turn my back I am not worried about what they are doing. They are trying to do one thing, which is improving this team to help us win."
Jackson also announced that he will be calling the plays in 2016.
“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.”