Bills must move quickly to replace Pettine

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
4:21
PM ET
MOBILE, Ala. -- After a coaching search with several twists and turns over the past few days, the Cleveland Browns have hired Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as their next head coach.

Pettigrew
Pettine
The Bills, who want to continue to rebuild as head coach Doug Marrone enters his second season, must now move quickly to replace Pettine and perhaps some members of his staff.

It's unclear at this point which assistant coaches, if any, will follow Pettine to Cleveland. When Pettine arrived from the New York Jets last season, he brought along three of his lieutenants: defensive line coach Anthony Weaver, linebackers coach Jim O'Neil, and assistant defensive backs coach Samson Brown. Of that group, O'Neil would be the most likely to serve as Pettine's defensive coordinator in Cleveland.

Bills defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson has experience as a defensive coordinator for the Jets (2004-05) and the Detroit Lions (2006). He could be a candidate to serve in a role under Pettine in Cleveland, or to replace him in Buffalo. Henderson coached with Pettine with the Baltimore Ravens, but was also Marrone's defensive backs coach in his final season at Syracuse.

The Bills could also look outside of the organization to replace Pettine. One possible option on the market is Gregg Williams, who served as Bills' head coach from 2001-03. Williams was suspended for the entire 2012 season as part of the New Orleans Saints' bounty penalties, and served as a senior defensive assistant for the Tennessee Titans last season. Williams is known for an aggressive defensive scheme that could make for an easier transition from Pettine's pressure-based attack.

The expectation is that the Bills will waste little time in replacing Pettine. His departure has been on the radar since news first broke of his first interview last week, giving Marrone and other Bills decision-makers time to line up a contingency plan. With most NFL coaching staffs close to being finalized for next season, the options to replace Pettine are dwindling.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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