Coming into this season, it was a nice relief to see the Cleveland Browns run with the same front office as the year before. Owner Jimmy Haslam had already fired two coaches since taking over the team in 2012, and there were rumors coach Mike Pettine was on the hot seat at the end of his rookie season last year. However, both he and GM Ray Farmer were given a pass, and the Browns appeared to be content building some consistency with these two.
Of course, if Pettine survives to see a third year, this would be a true miracle. Such a feat hasn’t happened since the likes of Romeo Crennel, and Vegas odds already list Pettine as a likely candidate to get fired at season’s end.
One thing which may make Pettine’s case a little different than previous Browns coaches, though, is it seems he might be hurting his own cause.
Despite Johnny Manziel bringing Cleveland its only win this season, Pettine decided to put him back on the bench in favor of Josh McCown. The result was exactly what you’d expect from a 36-year-old veteran who’s never been a reliable starter, with the Browns falling to the Oakland Raiders thanks to bad defense and an offense which waited too long to get going.
Pettine indicated McCown won’t be going anywhere next week and beyond, as he claimed there was no temptation to put Manziel back on the field. While this loyalty can certainly be admired, it’s tough to expect anything more from McCown than what was seen yesterday. As a result, you can’t help but wonder if Pettine is sealing his own fate by sticking with McCown at quarterback.
The Browns were an unmitigated disaster on all sides of the ball yesterday, so this isn’t to say it’s McCown’s fault the team lost to Oakland. At the same time, I came into the game looking to see what Pettine sees in McCown which gives him so much faith in the journeyman. I left wondering the same thing.
Obviously, this isn’t the way Pettine wanted things to go when betting on McCown despite the clamors for Manziel. If the coach feels the latter still has work to do in terms of prepping to be the starter, that’s fine. But, when an unseasoned Manziel still looks better than McCown, that’s a problem.
More importantly, it’s a problem which could end up costing Pettine his job.
Patience isn’t exactly Haslam’s strong suit. He can ramble on about how he won’t blow this thing up regardless of how the year goes all he wants, but that’s easier to say when the team is 0-0. The Browns barely look capable of winning another game this year, something owners don’t look kindly on.
What happens if Cleveland continues to regress offensively? What happens if McCown continues to be what we thought he was, a serviceable backup who shouldn’t be starting? And, most importantly, what happens if Pettine keeps starting him regardless?
I can take a guess what’ll happen: Pettine gets fired.
I already assumed this was his last year in Cleveland. The schedule is a gauntlet from here on out, and this team looks like incompetence defined. There’s about a 0.5% chance the Browns don’t regress from their 7-9 season last year. It’s tough for any owner to watch his team head backwards and not blame the men running the show. With Haslam, though, the odds of a firing only increase.
Unfortunately, by insisting McCown gives the Browns the best chance to win, Pettine is making a tough case for himself when it comes to whether or not he should be back next year. It’s still early, sure, and a 1-2 record doesn’t eliminate you from contention. At the same time, has anyone seen anything from the Browns that doesn’t imply this year is going to be a mess?
Sadly, part of said mess is Pettine trying to string together wins with a quarterback who probably can’t get it done. The longer he does so – and the more losses which pile up because of it – the more likely it is Pettine will be job-hunting in January.