On Thursday January 23, 2014, the Cleveland Browns hired Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine from the Buffalo Bills to be their new Head Coach. He only spent one year in Buffalo but before that was the defensive coordinator for the New York Jets under Rex Ryan. Many in Bills Nation were appalled when the news came out that he was interviewing for the job and some went so far as to state the Bills should fire Doug Marrone and replace him with Pettine. However while the initial affect is devastating (the defense was the lone bright spot this season), it is not the end of the world and here is why.
When Pettine took over the job he inherited a team that was 22nd in yards allowed, 26th in points allowed, 18th in sacks, and 20th in INTs. In one year he improved the team to 10th in yards allowed, 20th in points allowed, 2nd in Sacks and 2nd in INTs. The turnaround made one of the worst defenses in the NFL to a top 10 unit. While he is gone, the system will more than likely remain. When Doug Marrone hired Pettine, he wanted an aggressive defense that would put constant pressure on opposing offenses and create turnovers and that identity will remain.
Marrone likely will be promoting someone in house to be the replacement. The two most likely candidates are DBs coach Donnie Henderson and Outside Linebackers coach Jim O’Neil. Both have been praised for the job they did with their respective units and more than likely one will join Pettine in Cleveland and the other will get promoted to DC. Either of them would more than likely keep the same defense except maybe some of their own twists to it. Henderson has actual DC experience as he was the DC under Herm Edwards in 2004-2005. O’Neil is young at 35 and has the most connections with Pettine. More than likely O’Neil will go to Cleveland and Henderson will be promoted which is not the worst thing in the world. Henderson was praised for his work with the DBs, as even without his top two guys for half the year, the Bills ended up with the 5th best pass defense in the NFL. Jairus Byrd has also gave him glowing reviews and it may help persuade Byrd to stay (hopefully).
Finally when Pettine was hired, most knew that it would be a short-term stay. He wanted to be a HC and instead of staying in NY, he left for Buffalo to show that it was not Rex who was running the defense, but in fact him. Pettine showed that and head coaching jobs were going to happen. Unfortunately for the Bills, the Browns fired their Head Coach after one year and every coach they wanted rejected them. This meant that Pettine rose to the top and his type of personality meant he could not say no to a challenge. While I would have liked for him to stay another year as the Bills offense catches up to the defense, I understand that this may have been his best chance to be a Head Coach. Even with him gone, he left a pretty good system in place for the next guy to come in and be successful. The same thing happened to both the Cardinals and Seahawks and their defenses actually ended up improving. So for all the doom talk circling around, relax, good times are coming, and they are coming soon.