Pettine's departure would set back Bills

The pickings are slim for the Cleveland Browns. Since firing Rob Chudzinski, the Browns have run through several head coaching candidates and have yet to make a hire.

Their next interview will be with Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, and given the way Cleveland's coaching search has unfolded, it would hardly be a shock if Pettine soon becomes the favorite for the position.

That makes Pettine's possible departure from Buffalo a hypothetical worth exploring. What would it mean to the Bills?

Losing Pettine would be a major blow to coach Doug Marrone in his second year of a rebuilding effort. Marrone lured Pettine away from the New York Jets, and in just one season, Pettine quickly turned things around for a defense that had struggled for years.

If Pettine eventually leaves for Cleveland, it would be a strong bet that at least two of his assistants would follow: outside linebackers coach Jim O'Neil and defensive line coach Anthony Weaver. Both have backgrounds with Pettine, and would likely become building blocks for Pettine's staff in Cleveland.

With inside linebackers coach Chuck Driesbach fired this week, the Bills' defensive coaching staff could essentially be cleaned out by this move. Secondary coach Donnie Henderson would be a wild card, as he has experience with both Marrone and Pettine, and there would be an outside chance he would replace Pettine as defensive coordinator.

The more likely scenario, from this perspective, is that Marrone would choose to bring in another experienced defensive coordinator and re-start the building process on that side of the ball. The problem, however, would be timing. By late January or early February, most NFL and college staffs are complete, leaving the Bills with few "free agent" coaching options.

If Pettine is hired by the Browns and if the Bills choose to bring in a new defensive coordinator -- again, these are "ifs" -- then it will undoubtedly set the Bills back. The defense, while talented at most spots, would have to adjust to yet another new scheme, which is exactly what a second-year coach wants to avoid.

It would not be a monumental obstacle for the Bills to overcome, but one that could pose a significant problem for Marrone this season.