Thearon W. Henderson
On the same day that the Cleveland Browns announced that Mike Lombardi would be hired as the VP of Player Personnel, the team announced another moving: the hiring of defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
Much like getting Norv Turner as an offensive coordinator was a major score, getting Horton for the defensive side of the ball is another big plus to round out Rob Chudzinski's staff. Horton has a great deal of experience working with the secondary, something that was a common attribute for the people they were interested in (Mel Tucker, Raheem Morris, and Horton). Horton was the Bengals' defensive backs coach from 1997-2001, and was the Steelers' secondary coach from 2004-2010.
Horton has served as the defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals over the past two seasons. While the Cardinals' quarterback situation and offense in general were dismal, it was Arizona's defense that kept them competitive. Arizona had the 18th ranked defense in 2011, and improved to 12th in 2012. Horton's defenses were pretty much the best in the league at stopping teams in third down situations.
Chudzinski stated the following on the hiring of Horton:
"We are truly excited that we were able to get someone of Ray’s caliber as our defensive coordinator. He possesses a great deal of experience as a player, position coach and coordinator in the NFL and has been part of some of the top defenses in the league throughout his career. He is an extremely talented coach and I know that he will work very well with the young nucleus of players we have on defense."
Horton was seen as a well-respected defensive coordinator around the league and was one of the people the Browns interviewed for their head coaching vacancy a couple of weeks ago. It looked like he might stay in Arizona, but when Bruce Arians was hired, it was announced that Horton would not be retained. Their loss is Cleveland's gain, as the team didn't waste any time in snatching him up.
Horton ran a 3-4 defense with the Cardinals, and obviously has more experience with that type of defense from his time with the Steelers. I would say that Horton will try to bring a very aggressive defensive style to Cleveland. When he was introduced as the Cardinals' defensive coordinator two years ago, here's what he said in his opening interview:
"I am here to say right now the first call is going to be a blitz," Horton said. "No question about it."
That was the message delivered by Horton, who signed a three-year contract as the replacement for the fired Bill Davis. He talked about pressure, about coming fast, about aggressiveness. He said he wanted, when the game was over, teams to "know they played the Arizona Cardinals." The theme didn’t stop.
Horton said he was "definitely going to be a Dick LeBeau devotee" and he’s in a spot LeBeau said he’s long expected, all the way back to Horton’s playing days.
"Our model is going to be, ‘Go get ’em,’" Horton said.
What do you think about Horton-to-Cleveland? Is a switch to the 3-4 inevitable, or do you think he'll still try to deploy more of a hybrid look?
UPDATE: Reports are saying that the Browns are paying big bucks for the defensive coordinator position:
Wow. That's huge $$ for a DC. Banner will pay. RT @kyndra620: Horton contract w/ Browns 4 yrs $8 mil-says he's ecstatic bout going 2 CLE— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) January 18, 2013