The Cleveland Browns officially announced the hiring of Jim O'Neil as their defensive coordinator Monday afternoon. There really hadn't been any other names in the mix to be Mike Pettine's defensive coordinator -- as long as the Bills were willing to let him out of his contract, which they did, he was going to be the guy.
The Browns announced eight staff-related moves in total, five of which came on the defensive side of the ball. This post will cover the defensive guys, while the other three positions will be summarized in subsequent posts.
Defensive Coaches Hired
- Jim O'Neil - Defensive Coordinator (New): Although O'Neil will be the team's defensive coordinator, Pettine has previously stated that he will call plays on defense. This hire is all about familiarity. O'Neil was with the New York Jets from 2009-2012 as a defensive backs coach, as he worked closely with defensive backs like Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie under Pettine. O'Neil followed Pettine to the Bills as their outside linebackers coach during the 2013 season. The Bills were second in the league with 57 sacks last year.
- Chuck Driesbach - Linebackers Coach (New): Driesbach spent 36 years at the college level in various roles, including defensive coordinator, defensive backs coach, defensive line coach, running backs coach, receivers coach, and tight ends coach. Miraculously, he coached in the NFL last year for the first time, also serving under Pettine's staff in Buffalo as the team's inside linebackers coach, where he got to work with defensive rookie of the year candidate Kiko Alonso.
- Brian Fleury - Assistant Linebackers Coach (New): The purging of the Bills' staff continued with Fleury, who was the Bills' defensive quality control coach in 2013, his first season in the NFL. Prior to that, he spent several years as a secondary coach and special teams coordinator in the college ranks. If there is one thing you can say about the Browns' defensive staff, it's that the coaches all seem to have versatility in the positions they've coached.
- Jeff Hafley - Secondary Coach (New): Finally, we have a coach without a lot of ties to Pettine in Buffalo, although he was hired earlier this month by the Bills under the vague title of 'Defensive Assistant.' Hafley spent the past two years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, first as assistant defensive backs coach, and then this past season as safeties coach.
- Bobby Babich - Assistant Secondary Coach (Retained): So far, Babich is the only defensive coach who was retained from Ray Horton's staff. He held the same title last year, but had to re-interview with Pettine this year to keep the job. His cause was probably helped by the fact that Hafley is a newcomer himself to Pettine's staff.
The Browns still have a vacancy at the defensive line coaching position, and it's not yet been said whether Ken Flajole will be retained as inside linebackers coach or not (my guess is no). The only other defensive person in limbo is Daron Roberts, who was the team's defensive quality control coach last year.