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Monday, January 27, 2014
Tabor stays, O'Neil joins Pettine's staff

By Pat McManamon

The Cleveland Browns confirmed the news broken by Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone on Monday.

Marrone revealed that three coaches would be joining Mike Pettine in Cleveland, and lo and behold he was right. The three were announced Monday evening.

O'Neil
The Browns also announced that Pettine will retain special teams coach Chris Tabor and his assistant Shawn Mennenga.

Jim O’Neil will leave Buffalo to be the Browns' defensive coordinator, with Brian Fleury (assistant linebackers coach) and Jeff Hafley (secondary) also heading West past Erie to join Pettine’s staff.

Also on the staff will be Brian Angelichio (tight ends) and Chuck Driesbach (linebackers). Angelichio was with Tampa Bay last season, Driesbach with Buffalo until he was fired Jan. 14. Bobby Babich will be retained as assistant secondary coach.

The two coordinators obviously are key. In O’Neil, Pettine brings in a trusted friend and coach. O’Neil and Pettine worked together in New York (Jets) and Buffalo for five years, but go back farther. O’Neil played for Pettine’s father at Central Bucks High School in Doylestown, Pa.

Pettine said last week when he was hired that it was probable he would call defensive plays himself. He said the first year he would tutor the hired coordinator in what he wants while he made calls, then in the next year take the "training wheels" off.

Whether that changes with an associate as close as O’Neil remains to be seen. O’Neil would seem to have as close an understanding of what Pettine wants as anyone.

Tabor will be working for his third Browns coach. He was hired by Pat Shurmur and was on Rob Chudzinski’s staff as well.

Early in the season, Tabor was getting good production from Travis Benjamin on punt returns. That effort diminished when Benjamin tore a knee ligament.

Special teams big plays and mistakes always stand out, and it’s no different with Tabor.

A blocked and tipped punt in one quarter against the Bengals played a huge role in the most important quarter of the season. It’s rare for one punt to be blocked in a game, let alone have another one tipped in a single quarter.

In a loss to New England, the Browns also failed to recover a middle-of-the-field onside kick that helped the Patriots win in the final minute.

Pettine’s next major hire will be the offensive coordinator. He said he wants a coach who can tailor the system to the talent, and be flexible enough to adapt to different approaches.