ADVERTISEMENT

The Cleveland Browns’ lengthy search for a head coach has found its way to Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

The 47-year-old Pettine is scheduled to meet with the Browns on Thursday to discuss their opening. The Bills confirmed that Cleveland had been granted permission to speak with Pettine, who will be the seventh man to interview for the job. The Browns’ job is the last remaining unfilled head-coaching position in the league.

Pettine just finished his first season as defensive chief under Bills head coach Doug Marrone. Buffalo’s defense improved over the previous year in every statistical category kept by the NFL, finishing 10th in yards allowed and 20th in points allowed. Buffalo was second in the league in sacks and second in interceptions.

Even though the Bills finished 6-10, Pettine received good reviews for his direction of the defense. He brought a more aggressive, unpredictable scheme to a Bills unit that had ranked 31st in points allowed the year before.

Losing Pettine would be viewed as a blow to the Bills. Marrone does have one other member of the staff with experience as a defensive coordinator. Defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson previously served three NFL seasons as a defensive chief, two with the New York Jets and one with Detroit.

Cleveland fired head coach Rob Chudzinski after just one year on Dec. 29, the last day of the NFL’s regular season. Since then, Houston, Tampa Bay, Washington, Tennessee, Detroit and Minnesota have filled head-coaching vacancies.

Cleveland already has interviewed six candidates for its head job, but four of them are out of the running. Cleveland interviewees included offensive coordinators Ken Whisenhunt of San Diego and Josh McDaniels of New England, defensive coordinators Dan Quinn of Seattle and Todd Bowles of Arizona, former Titans head coach Mike Munchak and Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo. Whisenhunt subsequently was hired as head coach at Tennessee. McDaniels and Bowles have removed their names from consideration. McAdoo accepted a job as New York Giants offensive coordinator. That presumably leaves Quinn and Munchak still in the running.

The Browns finished 4-12 in 2012, losing 10 straight to end the season. Cleveland has had four different head coaches in the past nine seasons.

Marrone currently has two assistant coaching vacancies to fill. Earlier this month he fired receivers coach Ike Hilliard and linebackers coach Chuck Driesbach.

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com