Browns Better Have a Plan if They’re Only Keeping Coach Mike Pettine

By Casey Drottar
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

It’s that special time of year in Cleveland, when the rumor mill is churning like never before. The Cleveland Browns are heading into their final week of the 2015 season, one which has been nothing short of an utter disaster. Therefore, with an ugly campaign comes whispers of a fire sale in the front office.

I honestly can’t remember the last time the Browns had a losing season which didn’t involve rumors of firings, and this year is no different. Coach Mike Pettine and GM Ray Farmer both face the potential of getting pink slips next Monday, even after owner Jimmy Haslam proclaimed in July he wouldn’t be blowing anything up.

Clearly, Haslam is still very new at this. If you dare the Browns to be bad, they’re going to be very bad. This is essentially what Cleveland’s owner did when he made such a questionable claim that the front office would stay intact this offseason regardless of how the team performed.

There have been a wide variety of rumors regarding what’s going to happen for the Browns at season’s end. However, the strongest comes from Jason Cole of Bleacher Report. Per Cole, word is Pettine is safe for at least one more year, while Farmer will take the blame for the team’s struggles and be shown the door.

Of all the rumors, I can honestly say this is the safest route to take. Not the smartest, mind you, but the safest. Part of this is due to the fact I want nothing to do with the likes of Doug Marrone. However, the players do seem to love playing for Pettine, and I doubt any of them want to go through yet another full scale regime change.

Of course, if this is indeed what Haslam wants to do, he better not be going about it blindly. Retaining Pettine and removing Farmer comes with significant risks, and if Cleveland’s owner doesn’t have a plan set up, this move would be yet another epic failure for a team which knows such a thing all too well.

The upside with this move would be maintaining some sense of consistency at the very least. Pettine has his downfalls, sure, but he’s also one of the better coaches the team has seen in some time (not saying a lot, obviously). In this scenario, somebody – Farmer – would be held responsible for this terrible season, but the team could still be somewhat consistent.

That said, this is no win-win scenario.

While there will be a good handful of candidates to replace Farmer, it’s difficult to believe all of them would be on board with going to a team where they have no say in who will be the coach. Forcing Farmer’s replacement into an arranged marriage is asking a lot, and it’s a strategy which has already backfired twice with the Browns in the past five years.

Mike Holmgren was hired in 2010 to be Cleveland’s “czar,” but the team already had a coach in Eric Mangini. Four years later, the Browns hired Pettine, then appointed Farmer as GM. Neither of these situations worked even a little bit.

So, if Haslam truly thinks keeping Pettine and opening a search for a new GM is the way to go, he needs to know there’ll at least be a couple credible candidates who would be on board with joining a team with a coach in place. He can’t simply fire Farmer and then start putting together a strategy. Just as the arranged marriages haven’t worked in Cleveland, neither has cleaning house without a blueprint on how to assemble a new staff.

Haslam has already fired two coaches in his tenure, and after each one, it was clear he didn’t take to the hunt for a replacement as wisely as he should. In 2013, he appeared to go all-in on Chip Kelly, only to be left hanging, forced to hire Rob Chudzinski despite the fact he was hardly sought after. One year later, he fired Chudzinski, again without a strategy, and ended up going with what appeared to be his sixth choice in Pettine.

As you can see, the need for a plan to be in place has never been more necessary for Haslam. The appeal of the Browns seems to find a new low every year, and it’ll be even lower if potential replacement GMs know joining the team means getting no say in the coaching staff.

Unless, of course, Haslam knows what he’d be doing if he kept Pettine and removed Farmer. Quite honestly, such a concept seems to be one heck of a reach considering who we’re talking about. However, one would hope Haslam has finally learned from his hiring mistakes.

If he hasn’t, expect another long and tenuous hiring process in Cleveland.

Casey Drottar is the Cleveland Beat Writer for Follow him on Twitter or “Like” him on Facebook

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