(Reuters) - The Cleveland Browns hired former Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as their head coach on Thursday with hopes he can guide the struggling franchise back to the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.
Pettine replaces Rob Chudzinski, who was fired last month after one season in which he led the team to a 4-12 record that left them in last place in the AFC North division and tied for the third-worst mark in the 32-team National Football League.
"Mike is the epitome of what we want the Browns to be -- tough, aggressive and innovative -- with a blue-collar, team-first mentality," Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said in a statement.
"He knows what's necessary to beat teams in the AFC North. Most importantly, Mike has repeatedly shown the ability to lead his players to consistent improvement and success, clearly what we are striving for as he leads the Cleveland Browns moving forward."
The once-proud Cleveland franchise has failed to win more than five games in a single season since going 10-6 in the 2007 campaign have had three winning seasons since 1990.
The Browns conducted an exhaustive search for a new head coach, interviewing nearly a dozen candidates, including former Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano and New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
"We interviewed as many people as we could. From that group, we hired the best individual for this job," said Browns chief executive Joe Banner. "Our players and fans are going to really enjoy Mike Pettine and his leadership style."
The fiery Pettine, 47, spent four seasons as the New York Jets defensive coordinator before joining Buffalo last year, where he turned the Bills into a top-10 ranked defense.
Under Pettine, the Bills played an aggressive style of defense and set a franchise record with 57 sacks.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue)