Fazio retires, Browns fire Hamilton

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Browns defensive coordinator Foge Fazio retired Tuesday, two days after Cleveland blew a 17-point lead in the second half and lost to Pittsburgh in the AFC playoffs.

In another move on the defensive coaching staff, line coach Ray Hamilton was fired. The 51-year-old Hamilton was in his second season with the Browns and was under contract for one more year.

The 63-year-old Fazio spent two seasons with the Browns. His retirement comes after the Browns gave back leads of 24-7 and 33-21 in the second half to the Steelers, who advanced with a 36-33 win.

Pittsburgh scored 29 points in the second half, including 22 in the fourth quarter against Fazio's defense, which primarily used a three-man line and dropped into deep zone coverages during the Steelers' final two scoring drives.

The Browns also blew big second-half leads to Kansas City and Indianapolis this season.

"This is a decision I have been contemplating for awhile," Fazio said, "and I think it is best to do it right now."

The Browns also blew big second-half leads to Kansas City and Baltimore this season.

Coach Butch Davis refused to discuss staff coaching changes during his season-ending news conference on Monday.

"Foge has dedicated 42 years to the coaching profession, and the game of football has benefited from his commitment at every level," Davis said.

Cleveland's defense wasn't as good in 2002 as it had been the year before under Fazio, who was Minnesota's defensive coordinator for five seasons before coaching Washington's linebackers in 2000.

The Browns led the AFC with 33 interceptions in 2001, but had only 17 this season. Despite the addition of several free agents, Cleveland's rushing defense moved only from 29th in 2001 to 27th
overall this season.

Also, Pro Bowl linebacker Jamir Miller tore his Achilles' tendon in the exhibition season, Courtney Brown missed the last five games with a knee injury and the secondary was ravaged by injuries.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)