It’s crazy what a win can do to the fan-base of a losing team.
The Cleveland Browns had been losers of seven straight games. In that time, fans determined troublesome quarterback Johnny Manziel was on borrowed time, while coach Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer were going to get the ax at season’s end. Some of this seemed justified at times, other instances were caused by overreactions from spectacularly miserable defeats.
However, the Browns snapped the slump this past Sunday, convincingly beating the San Francisco 49ers in a victory where they excelled on almost every aspect of the game. As a result, Manziel was suddenly a potential franchise quarterback, and Pettine was seen as someone who might deserve another chance (Farmer is still a dead man walking).
However, just as losing pushes fans to the far side of negative, winning has a tendency to sugar-coat a bad season. The jury is still out on Manziel, but barring the idea of Cleveland stunningly winning a couple more games this year, Pettine is likely still going to be fired.
Obviously it was great to see the Browns look like a competent football team last Sunday. That said, we can’t forget this is still one of the most disappointing seasons the Browns have played since 1999. One win against a shoddy 49ers team doesn’t change that.
Pettine has still been guilty of plenty of lapses this year which you also can’t ignore. His clock management is terrible at best. His defense has played only one quality game. His players have quit on the field a handful of times this season.
On top of all of this, there’s still a sizable amount of discord within Cleveland’s team facility. Pettine noted there was tension in the building after last week’s blunder of a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. I highly doubt all this stress was erased when Sunday’s win brought the Browns’ overall record to 3-10.
The fact is, in two years as coach, Pettine has proven working with Farmer is not the easiest thing to do. He spent his first season dealing with text complaints from his GM mid-game, and this year he had to work with a roster put together by bad drafting and questionable free agent signings.
Now, the easy thing to say would be “well just get rid of Farmer and keep Pettine.” While this makes sense at surface level, it’s tough to believe it’ll work.
Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam already has a huge task on his hands generating interest from any legitimate coaching candidates when it comes to joining the Browns. The team’s reputation continues to find new lows, so the idea of selling big names on the Browns is going to be very difficult.
However, when you factor in the fact Farmer will likely be (or at the very least should be) fired, Haslam would essentially be searching for a GM and telling any candidate he would have to work with Pettine.
In every professional sports league, general managers want to have the power to select their own coach. Very rarely is a GM hired with a coach already in place. Ironically, the Browns did this when they hired Eric Mangini before a GM was selected back in 2009, and it didn’t work at all.
With this in mind, if Haslam is going to get rid of Farmer, keeping Pettine will only hurt his search for a replacement.
The only way I can see Pettine saving his job is if Cleveland truly shows significant progress in these final three weeks. The schedule – visiting the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs before hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers – is very difficult, so a couple wins would say a lot. Again, though, these would have to be momentous victories, ones which leave no doubt that cleaning house shouldn’t be considered.
Unfortunately for Pettine, that’s tough to see as realistic. Cleveland may have erased the feeling of misery for one week, but it probably won’t be enough to prevent another pressing of the reset button.