The Browns hired one of the league's top special teams coordinators Friday in Raymond "Bubba" Ventrone, who arrives in Cleveland after serving as the special teams coordinator with the Colts for the last five seasons. He'll also serve as the Browns' assistant head coach.
Here's five things to know about Cleveland's newest coaching hire.
1. Under Ventrone, the Colts built one of the league's best special teams units in four of the last five seasons. Well-esteemed NFL writer Rick Gosselin had the Colts ranked in the top 10 special teams units in four of the last five seasons in his annual special teams rankings. He slotted them second in 2018, 29th in 2019, fourth in 2020, second in 2021 and eighth in 2022. During Ventrone's five seasons, the Colts led the NFL in kickoff return average (24.9) and ranked fourth in punt return average (10.3).
2. Ventrone should be a familiar name to Browns fans — he played with them from 2009-12 and spent the most time with them across his 10-year NFL career. He appeared in 56 games with the Browns and registered 31 special teams tackles. Ventrone was a special teams stud, and he played a key role on both kickoff return and kickoff coverage, helping the Browns to an NFL-best average starting position of 31.4 and to a league-best defensive kickoff return average of 18.9 in 2009. He also registered a 35-yard run on a fake punt, which tied for the longest run of the season for the Browns in 2012.
3. Ventrone is a Pittsburgh native who attended Villanova, where he began to earn his reputation as a hard-hitting safety before starting his path into the NFL as an undrafted free agent. Ventrone was also easy to spot in his playing days because of his long hair, and his nickname came from his dad, who called him "Bubba Big Head." Ventrone liked it, according to Zak Keefer from The Athletic, "because I had kind of a big head" and believed it fit his aggressive style of play.
4. Ventrone has been to the Super Bowl both as a player and a coach. He was a special teams stalwart with the Patriots when they advanced to Super Bowl XLII in 2008, and he returned again to the big game with New England as their assistant special teams coach when they won Super Bowl LI in 2017. Ventrone spent his first three seasons as a coach with the Patriots from 2015-17 before joining the Colts in 2018 as their special teams coordinator.
5. Ventrone has long been considered one of the top bright, young coaching minds in the league. In June 2022, he was named to The Athletic's 40 under 40 list compiling 40 top coaches under the age of 40. Ventrone told The Athletic "I made it as a 'teamer. So for me, it's an easy selling point to get those guys to buy in. I'll show a few clips here and there of myself and when guys see that, 'Oh, well, he did it, he played with that technique,' they respect that."