CHARLOTTESVILLE, FEB. 18 -- Gary Tranquill, who coached the University of Virginia quarterbacks the last four seasons, today was named quarterbacks coach of the Cleveland Browns, becoming the third Virginia assistant to leave the program in the last week.

Virginia Coach George Welsh has never had an offensive coordinator in his nine years at the university, but Tranquill has been largely responsible for game-day play selection since 1987 and directed an offense that, for much of last season, was the nation's best.

"I'll be forever grateful to George for giving me the opportunity," said Tranquill, who also coached under Welsh at Navy during 1973-76 and was the academy's head coach for five seasons until he was fired in 1986. "Things didn't go too well at the Naval Academy, and I was a little bit down. . . . This is the next step for me."

Last week defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani and linebackers coach Phil Elmassian resigned. Spaziani left after Welsh told him he could remain on the staff in a lesser capacity. Elmassian, who likely would have been a casualty of NCAA legislation that calls for Division I-A programs to reduce football staffs by one coach for the 1992 season, accepted a position as linebackers coach at Syracuse.

Welsh and Tranquill were quick this afternoon to stress that the resignations -- the first since 1987 -- were not a sign of staff turmoil, but rather a byproduct of the Cavaliers' success.

"In this profession, you have opportunities to move on," Tranquill said. "Each coach is different, but the architect of the whole design is still here and he's the most important guy. That's George Welsh."

Tranquill said he never considered coaching in the NFL until longtime colleague Bill Belichick, recently named the Browns' head coach, made the suggestion when Belichick was under consideration for Tampa Bay's head coaching job.

"He asked me if I was interested and it kind of shocked me a little bit," Tranquill said. "I thought about it and figured maybe this is what I wanted to do."