5 Reasons the Cleveland Browns Made a Mistake by Hiring Mike Pettine
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Head coaching jobs in the NFL are a rare commodity. There are only 32 positions in total, and only a handful of those come open each year. Landing a head coaching gig in the NFL is something countless people dream of but few ever get the chance to do. So it was surprisingly laughable that multiple candidates turned down the vacant position with the Cleveland Browns, the last of which was Denver Broncos first year offensive coordinator Adam Gase. He declined so he could “focus on the upcoming Super Bowl.” An excuse that could only have been better had it been so that he could spend more time with his family instead.
It was bound to happen eventually though. We just knew that some day, the Browns were going to be able to sucker somebody--hire the right coach to guide their squad into the future. And so, to everybody's wonderment, it has come to pass. The Cleveland Browns' coaching search has finally--perhaps even mercifully--come to an end with the hiring of the Buffalo Bills' now former defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine. It was a surprising hire to many fans as well. If you hadn't played for him, you'd probably never heard of Mike Pettine. His former players have all had nothing but positive things to say about him in the wake of his hiring, but for the most part, he is a completely unknown quantity in the NFL. And now Coach Pettine has been tasked with the not so easy job of righting the ship in Cleveland and returning the Browns to glory.
But here are five reasons the Browns made a mistake in hiring Mike Pettine...
5. Setting Up Unrealistic Expectations Straight Out of the Gate
Coming in, a new head coach is expected to be optimistic and begin rallying his players. But Pettine walked in and announced that the Browns are a team that are in a position to win. Perhaps he should have qualified that by saying, the Browns are a team that are in a position to win...a few years from now. Has he looked at the roster in Cleveland yet? Has he looked at tape of them last season? Granted, they won a couple more games than the Houston Texans, but so did everybody else. With nothing but question marks up and down his roster, setting the expectations too high, too early can only serve to undermine the team's morale, confidence and erode the camaraderie in the locker room when their talent and play don't match Pittine's expectations.
4. Not Exactly a Brilliant Defensive Mastermind
For anybody not watching the Buffalo Bills play last season, and given their lack of television coverage, hardly anybody watched the Bills play, their defense was pretty atrocious. They gave up a pile of yards on the ground and points by the bushel. Which helps explain their 6-10 record. Outside of the 2009 season when, as the defensive coordinator of the New York Jets who had a hellacious defense, Pittine actually hasn't had a lot of success as a defensive coordinator. The Browns' brain trust applauds his tough, blue collar style, but if they think he's going to be able to plug all of the holes in the floor of their boat, all they're doing is setting him up to get Chudzinski'd.
3. A Relative Unknown Without any History of Success
Being a defensive coordinator is an entirely different world from being the head coach of a football team. As the head coach, the team lives and dies with you and you are responsible for all aspects of the team's play. Usually, a head coach that is brought in to take over a team has a pedigree. They have some credentials that they can point to and say, “hey, see what I did there?” Mike Pettine has nothing he can point to. He served as a defensive coordinator under Rex Ryan with the Jets for a few years and then in Buffalo for a year. Other than that, he has zero coaching experience. Well, unless you want to go back to his stint as a head coach at North Penn High School. Yeah, you read that right. His only experience at the helm of a team was a high school team. His dad may have been a high school coaching legend, but that doesn't necessarily mean those skills are genetic. And lest we forget, high school ball almost isn't the same sport as NFL football.
2. Morale in the Browns Locker Room is Already Low
For some of these players, Mike Pettine is going to be their third coach in three seasons. The lack of continuity, the complete uncertainty and the revolving door that has become the Cleveland Browns' head coaching office, has players questioning a lot of things.
Former Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, after he'd talked to some of his friends and former teammates, was recently quoted as saying this, via Cleveland.com, “I talked to some of the players right after they fired Chud and they sounded deflated, confused and frankly embarrassed by what happened. I've been out of football for a year now and I'm a fan of the Cleveland Browns. It's hard to watch what is going on there. I really feel bad for the fans and players like D'Qwell Jackson and Joe Thomas who have been there for so long. Right now, it seems like they are a rudderless ship. (CEO) Joe Banner does not have the best reputation with some players and coaches. It makes you wonder if there will be a trickle-down effect.”
Quotes like that don't seem to inspire a lot of confidence about the Browns' locker room. If Pettine can get them to buy into him, that's great. If he can't,well, it could be another long, cold winter in Cleveland.
1. There Were Far Better Candidates Out There
Though they'd interviewed, and had been turned down by a number of candidates, the Browns obviously felt the pressure to hire somebody. Anybody. And the hiring of Pettine as the head coach couldn't feel like anything but the organization settling for a warm body to stick in the office that they could point to as the man to fix the Browns. But Pettine's lack of credentials aside, there are a number of qualified coaches out there with better resumes and better track records of success. Coaches like Gary Kubiak, Jim Schwartz, Mike Shanahan or let's get really crazy and throw out names like Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher are still out there.
Could they have lured any of them to Cleveland? We don't know. Because to land a coach like that, the Browns' brain trust would have to give up a lot of organizational control and team owner Jimmy Haslam, CEO Joe Banner and GM Michael Lombardi aren't the types who like relinquishing control of their pieces of the kingdom. If the brain trust could ever manage to take their own egos out of the equation and put their trust in a proven coach, the Browns might finally be on the road to success. Instead, they have Mike Pettine and we wish him all the best.