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Chris Tabor's player-first approach key to his remaining with Browns


Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor

Chris Tabor will never tell you that it's about him.

And that's probably the best place to start when discussing why, despite two head-coaching changes, he is still the Cleveland Browns' special-teams coordinator.

"I attribute it to the players," Tabor said. "We've had the opportunity to coach good players here. We've also had an influx of players come through on the bottom of our roster (from where most special-teams contributors are selected), and the willingness for them to learn our system and want to get better.

"That's made our job easier."

But let's be real. There is nothing easy about being a part of the volatile and often brutally harsh world of NFL coaching. When head coaches are fired, assistants usually are close behind on the path to unemployment.

Tabor joined the Browns in 2011, as part of the staff assembled by Pat Shurmur. When Shurmur was fired after the 2012 season, so, too, were several his assistant coaches … with one exception: Tabor.

The "secure" feeling of remaining with the Browns lasted for all of one season. When Shurmur's successor, Rob Chudzinski, was dismissed on the final day of the 2012 season, there was more heavy turnover among the assistant coaches.

Except, once again, for Tabor.

Mike Pettine included him on the current staff, making Tabor and his assistant, Shawn Mennenga, the longest-tenured coaches on the Browns.

"I don't think it has anything to do with me," Tabor said. "It will always be about the players and their results, and we're just trying to help them get better and better each and every day. And if you can do that, then hopefully you can stay at a place a long time and continue to build your system and make it a very integral part of the game."

The Browns' special teams have been solid through the three seasons Tabor has guided them. They have undergone some significant transition, highlighted by the departure of all-time kicking great Phil Dawson to San Francisco in free agency after the 2012 season.

But they have maintained a level of consistency, with the coverage units doing a fairly good job of minimizing big returns.

Of course, a head-coaching change is another transition with which Tabor has learned to cope.

"There's always something a little new dealing with a different head coach," he said. "But I find it exciting because you're always learning and each coach does a little something different. And it makes you think out of the box sometimes and you do things maybe you're not comfortable with, which I think, personally, helps you grow as a coach and as a teacher. This transition has been really good."

A key factor in that is Pettine's background as a defensive coordinator.

Special teams are generally defensive-driven, with the majority of players coming from the linebacker and secondary positions. In addition, Pettine has worked with some of the top special-teams coaches in the league, including Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, a former special-teams coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles and at three colleges, and former New York Jets special-teams guru Mike Westhoff.

"I think that always helps," Tabor said of Pettine's coaching pedigree. "There is a lot of defensive philosophy behind it, the coverage part. But at the same time, the kick-return game, the punt-return game, it turns into an offensive play.

"The two previous head coaches I worked for were more offensive-minded and Coach (Pettine) is obviously more of a defensive coach. Obviously, philosophies are a little bit different, so to speak, on how maybe the roster will shake out. I think we're going through that process right now. But, really, the main thing is, if we keep developing players – and that's the main thing you want to do, regardless of who you're working for. If you're developing the players and getting them better, that's going to give you a chance to win on Sunday." >>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, for "Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford" on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on We take your questions at 216-578-0850 and via Twitter @Browns_Daily.

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