Aiming to improve a middling kicking game, the Cleveland Browns are hiring Bubba Ventrone as their new assistant head coach/special teams coordinator, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported on Thursday, per sources.
Ventrone, who is returning to Cleveland after playing four seasons with the club, served as the Indianapolis Colts’ special teams coordinator the past five seasons and now succeeds Mike Priefer, whom the Browns dismissed on Tuesday.
The Browns and head coach Kevin Stefanski, who also interviewed Jets assistant Leon Washington for the opening, have now added a second new coordinator to their coaching staff. Cleveland previously relieved Joe Woods of his duties as defensive coordinator and replaced him with Jim Schwartz.
“We are thrilled to add Bubba to our coaching staff,” Stefanski said, via the team’s website. “He brings a proven track record as both a player and coach in this league. As a player, he built a reputation as a top special teamer during his 10-year career. He used that experience to make a successful transition to the sidelines, where his units have routinely performed at a high level. He has an infectious passion for the game and we are excited to have him leading our special teams unit.”
Despite a laundry list of struggles in a 4-12-1 campaign this past season, the Colts found success with their special teams units overall. In Rick Gosselin’s annual special teams rankings, Ventrone’s Colts checked in at No. 8. Indy was 10 spots above the Browns.
Of note, the Colts led the NFL with a 27.8-yard average on kickoff returns, led by Dallis Flowers (715 kickoff return yards).
The 40-year-old Ventrone was a linebacker and special teams standout during an NFL playing career that included time with the New England Patriots, Browns and San Francisco 49ers from 2007-2014.
He began his coaching days with the Patriots as an assistant special teams coach from 2015-2017 before joining the Colts. During his Patriots days, Ventrone was part of a Super Bowl winner in 2016 and a runner-up in his final season.
Ventrone has coached special teams Pro Bowlers Adam Vinatieri, Stephen Gostkowski, Matthew Slater and George Odum.