September 22, 2014

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Hiring has star power: Jauron, Browns’ new defensive coordinator, has wealth of playing and coaching experience

BEREA – Dick Jauron was a star running back at Yale, an NFL safety for nine years and a Pro Bowl punt returner.

He began coaching defensive backs in 1986 and was an NFL head coach for nine seasons.

He’s the Browns’ new defensive coordinator.

“Dick is someone I have known for many years, who is an outstanding football coach and very well-respected around the league,” coach Pat Shurmur said Friday in a news release announcing the hiring. “He has a tremendous knowledge of the game and is an excellent teacher.

“His experience in the NFL as a player, position coach, coordinator and head coach will be a huge asset to our staff.”

Shurmur has spent his coaching career on the offensive side, so finding an experienced defensive coordinator was crucial. Jauron also has ties to Browns president Mike Holmgren.

Jauron spent three years as defensive backs coach (1992-94) when Holmgren was coach in Green Bay. Shurmur’s uncle Fritz was defensive coordinator in 1994.

“There were many elements of this job that were attractive for me,” Jauron said in the release. “I have known Pat and his family for a long time and, in fact, I played for and coached with his uncle Fritz.

“I believe that with people like Pat Shurmur, Mike Holmgren and (general manager) Tom Heckert in place, this organization is building a solid foundation. I can’t wait to get started with the Browns.”

Jauron was the first announced staff hire since Shurmur got the job Jan. 13. The biggest vacancies are at offensive coordinator and special teams coordinator. The Browns wanted Brad Seely, who spent the last two years as assistant head coach/special teams coordinator, to return, but he left the organization and was hired by the 49ers.

The Browns allowed an NFL-low 17.8 yards per kickoff return in 2010 and 7.1 yards per punt return, which ranked fifth. The Browns are one of four teams that haven’t allowed a kick return for a touchdown in the last four years.

Jauron was also a candidate to become coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he spent 2010 as a senior assistant/defensive backs coach. Philadelphia finished third in the NFL with 23 interceptions, including an NFC-high seven by cornerback Asante Samuel, who earned a Pro Bowl selection.

Jauron interviewed with the Browns earlier in the week.

Dave Wannstedt, another two-time NFL head coach, interviewed with the Browns on Thursday for the defensive coordinator job, along with former Cardinals coordinator Billy Davis. Wannstedt took a job with the Bills on Friday as the linebackers coach/assistant head coach.

Jauron replaces Rob Ryan, who was hired for the same position with the Cowboys after two seasons with the Browns. Cleveland ranked 22nd in yardage (350.1) and 13th in scoring (20.8 points) in 2010.

Jauron coached the Bears from 1999-2003 and the Bills from 2006-09. He was 60-82 and named AP coach of the year in 2001 after Chicago went 13-3 – his lone winning season – with the NFL’s No. 1 scoring defense.

Jauron went 7-9 in his three full seasons in Buffalo, then was fired in 2009 after starting 3-6. He was also interim coach of the Lions in 2005.

He was coordinator for the Jaguars from 1995-98 and the Lions in 2004-05. He’s expected to install a 4-3 scheme after the Browns have run the 3-4 for six seasons.

The possible lockout could cut down on the offseason practices and make the transition more difficult.

“We’ve got plans for that,” Shurmur said on “Pro Football Talk Live.” “With any new coach there’s a little bit of a learning curve. We intend to get our systems in and get them taught so we can play winning football from Day 1.”

Jauron rushed for 2,947 yards at Yale, setting a school record that stood from 1973 to 2000. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history.

The two-sport star was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals to play shortstop, but became a safety for the Lions, then the Bengals. He made the Pro Bowl in 1974 when he led the NFC with a 16.8-yard punt return average. He appeared in 100 career regular-season games and finished with 26 interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns.

The Browns were unable to land what appeared to be their top two candidates for offensive coordinator, as Mike McCoy stayed in Denver and Bill Musgrave chose Minnesota. One of the issues seems to be that Shurmur said he’ll call the plays, reducing the power of the coordinator.

“I don’t think it’s a problem,” Shurmur said on “PFT Live.” “I know that we’re going to find some top-notch guys to join us here. Those guys that we will hire will become public soon.”

He was asked about the possibility of former Vikings coach Brad Childress, who was offensive coordinator in Philadelphia while Shurmur was quarterbacks coach.

“I really don’t want to go there with who the candidates are,” Shurmur said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Brad. We were hired on the same day in Philadelphia.

“Brad’s a friend of mine. Who knows whether our paths will cross this time or not.”

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.