After two years with the Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi has returned to the AFC North Division, where he spent 14 seasons as an assistant coach with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Returning to the AFC North Division was something Cioffi embraced.
“I’m actually very excited to get back to this division,” Cioffi said. “This division has always prided itself on teams playing great defense and being able run the ball and throw the ball deep. I’m excited to be back here and compete in this division.”
In 14 years with the Bengals, first as a defensive assistant from 1997-2002, and then, the assistant defensive backs coach from 2003-2010, Cioffi said his teams had many memorable games against the Browns.
“We opened up a new stadium in Cincinnati, Paul Brown Stadium, actually against the Browns in the Battle of Ohio,” Cioffi recalled. “I remember (then-Bengals coach) Bruce Coslet saying to me, ‘Hey, on the first play, don’t let them go deep.’ Sure enough, first play, (the Browns) tried to go deep on us. The battle between Cincinnati and Cleveland goes back a long way for me.
“It’s going to be different, but I’m a Brown and I’m here to make this a winner.”
It was in Cincinnati where Cioffi first worked with Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton. He later served as Horton’s defensive backs coach in Arizona. The two were hired in Cincinnati by then Cincinnati assistant Dick LeBeau, now the defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“We became good friends, and our philosophies have always been on par, and when he had an opportunity to be the defensive coordinator, he brought me along as the DB coach, and it’s kind of flourished from there,” Cioffi said.
Under Cioffi and Horton, Arizona’s defense led the NFL in passer rating allowed (71.2) and interception percentage (4.4 percent) last fall. The Cardinals’ defense also ranked in the NFL’s top 10 in interceptions, third-down efficiency, takeaways and passing defense.
“I think Coach Horton loves to attack people, and I like to attack people,” Cioffi said. “It never made sense to me to sit back and wait and react and let people come after you. If you dictate to offenses when you have the opportunity to dictate to them, you end up being better off. I think that’s his mindset.
“In this scheme, when they become comfortable with it and they see how he is, players play hard for him because they like to attack, and it’s just a fun scheme to play.”
During his two years with the Cardinals, Cioffi served as a mentor for cornerback Patrick Peterson, who ranked fourth in the NFL with seven interceptions and led the league with five fumble recoveries in 2012. For his efforts, Peterson was elected to the 2013 Pro Bowl.
“I pride myself on having my players know and understand exactly what we want them to do,” Cioffi said. “And I feel if a player goes on the field, and he’s extremely confident and he understands what we’re asking of him, that gives him the best chance, the best opportunity to play fast and make plays.”