Horton welcomed as D-coordinator

BEREA – Anyone concerned about a change in the Browns’ defensive system should read Ray Horton’s easy-to-understand manual on football strategy.

The new Browns defensive coordinator doesn’t get caught up in the mechanics of the 3-4 or 4-3. He just wants football players who know how to play the game.

“I really don’t care what we are on defense,” Horton said Tuesday at his introductory press conference. “I want to know what we’re going to look like. We’re going to look like an aggressive, forward, attacking defense that has big men that can run and little man that can hit.”

Horton used the big-men, little-men line about 10 times during the press conference. He made a strong presentation in supporting his theory that it doesn’t matter what a defense is called; it matters what type of players are on the field.

“We may be a 3-4 on one snap and a 4-3 on another snap,” Horton said. “I guarantee we’ll be a 5-2 sometimes and a 4-4 sometimes. We are a multi-front, attacking defense, and that’s the most important thing. Not what player lines up where; how he stands.”

The defense under previous coach Pat Shurmur and coordinator Dick Jauron played a base 4-3. Previous general manager Tom Heckert was aggressive in drafting and signing free agents that could play on the line for that style of defense.

When Rob Chudzinski was named coach nearly three weeks ago, he talked about going to a “hybrid” defense that will use elements of several systems. It immediately set off conjecture about the difficulty the change might present because of the lack of 3-4 style linebackers.

The defense will welcome the return of linebacker Chris Gocong, who missed the entire 2012 season with a torn Achilles’ tendon. Other than Gocong, D’Qwell Jackson and Kaluka Maiava, there’s not much depth at linebacker.

Chudzinski said Tuesday that the new defense will require an adjustment period. He’s confident the personnel returning from last season will be able to adapt easily.

“We felt like from the very beginning that this roster had some flexibility,” Chudzinski said. “If you’re a good football player, you’re a good football player. I don’t think the scheme is so different that good football players won’t be able to fit into this scheme.”

Horton coached defensive backs for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2004-10, developing much of his philosophy from defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. He spent the last two seasons coordinating the Arizona Cardinals defense.

Horton spoke highly of the manner in which LeBeau deals with players and the respect they have for him.

“He treats every person like they’re the most important person in the room,” Horton said. “It’s a gift that not everybody has, to care genuinely about strangers, other people, your fellow coaches and players. There’s a word: ‘man love’ Players love playing for coach LeBeau. That’s the highest form of respect you can get.”

The defense could look much like the Steelers defense, minus some of the Pro Bowl talent. Players will line up at more than one spot. Horton talked about end Jabaal Sheard playing like a strong safety.

“This will be a mirror image of coach Rob and his wishes and his likes and his desires, which is a multi-front, attacking defense,” Horton said. “I’m not sure what Pittsburgh is. I know what we will be.”

Horton interviewed for head-coach openings with the Cardinals, Bills and Browns. His goal remains to be a head coach.

“I’m I disappointed, yes,” he said of the unsuccessful bids with the three teams. “Am I excited to be here? I’m absolutely excited to be here. As you go through that process it was a great learning experience for me, and hopefully Mr. Haslam (owner James Haslam) and Mr. Banner (CEO Joe Banner) learned something, too. It’s important to go through the process because it opens avenues.”