My first choice would have been to retain Dick Jauron as defensive coordinator. He deserved to stay after what he's done with the Browns defense the past two years.
Still, the Browns did quite well for themselves on Friday by hiring Ray Horton as their defensive coordinator, although this move doesn't make quite the splash as landing Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. The Browns decided to hire Horton after another target, John Pagano, was retained by the Chargers.
“We are truly excited that we were able to get someone of Ray’s caliber as our defensive coordinator,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “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."
Here are three reasons why I like the addition of Horton:
Cleveland gets a coordinator who knows how to make quarterbacks feel uncomfortable. In 2012, Horton's second year as the Arizona defensive coordinator, the Cardinals held quarterbacks to a 54.3 percent completion rate (third-best in the NFL) and picked off 22 passes (second-best in the league) while allowing 20 touchdowns. Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson combined for three touchdowns, 11 picks and a 23.4 QBR score against Arizona.
The Browns get a coordinator who is familiar with the style of play in the AFC North. Horton spent seven seasons (2004-10) as the defensive backs/assistant defensive backs coach with the Steelers. During his time there, he helped with the development of Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.
Cleveland gets a coach who is extremely motivated. Horton, who was considered a top head coaching candidate in Arizona, reportedly had a heated exchange with new Cardinals general manager Steve Keim when he found out that Bruce Arians got the job. Horton felt like he deserved that job after paying his dues as an assistant. Horton was interviewed for the Browns head coaching opening before they hired Chudzinski.
One of the knocks on Horton is his attitude. According to NFC West blogger Mike Sando, Horton is a bit of a loose cannon, the way Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley has sometimes been. Some of the things Horton says publicly suggest he thinks he's smarter than everyone else.
The bigger question is whether Horton's scheme is a good fit for the Browns. Horton ran a 3-4 defense in Arizona and likely will want to run that in Cleveland.