BEREA, Ohio — One of the questions to come out of the initial press conference with new Browns coach Mike Pettine was his philosophy of the quarterback. Pettine has cut his teeth in the NFL on the defensive side of the ball, spending the last past five years as a defensive coordinator.
He said the quarterback position was a topic of discussion in his interview with the Browns. Ironically, Pettine was an all-state quarterback and safety in high school. He played safety for two years at Virginia.
"It definitely came up and as we all know that as far as when you prioritize the positions of the National Football League, there’s the quarterback and then there’s about 10 open spots, and then you start talking about the next open position," Pettine said. "It would be foolish, even being a defensive guy, to ignore that issue. I’m not going to be that defensive coach that says, ‘Listen, we’re going to win it on defense and we’re going to run, and we don’t need to have a great quarterback.’"
"To win in this league you have to have a great quarterback and that’s something we’re going to put our full focus and attention on."
Joe Banner was asked if the Browns will be limited to getting a quarterback that fits into the new offensive coordinator’s system. Banner said that wasn’t the case.
"No, the right coach should be able to work with whichever quarterback we all think is the right guy whether he’s on the team or somebody we picked or traded for or signed in free agency."
Banner has talked about the importance of finding the franchise quarterback for the Browns in this upcoming draft. Reports have said the Browns have set their sights on acquiring Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Banner was asked if he was saying the Browns have not already made the decision to do whatever was necessary to acquire Manziel.
"Yes, I am saying that," Banner said laughing. "I’m not taking him off the board, but I’m definitely not saying it’s been decided."
Pettine said his philosophy is to build a system around the players he has, even at quarterback.
"I think you saw both sides of it in Championship weekend," Pettine said. "You can have the more classic style quarterback when you look at an Andrew Luck. Obviously, you have the old school guys in (Tom) Brady. There’s a lot of different ways to get it done and you have to have flexibility in your system and you have to build around what your quarterback can do. If he has some running ability you have to take advantage of that . . . In today’s NFL you are seeing more and more use of the mobile quarterback . . . but I think you can win both ways . . . We need to tailor our package based on (the quarterback’s) strengths."
Pettine said NFL defenses are getting better at defensing the read option, but he said when he was a defensive coordinator it took a lot of time to prepare for.
"I think it’s already started, but I think the threat of it still has to be there because it goes a long way to keeping defenses honest," he said. "Speaking from my perspective, we had to waste a lot of time in practice, we had to waste meeting time, we had to devote a lot of time in our walk throughs to handling the zone read. Those are things that take a lot of time to defend properly. I call it body punches where you will never know the effect it will have on a defense because you take away from their practice time. If a defense has to spend half the time preparing for 10 percent of the package then you have done something."
Pettine had to prepare for Brian Hoyer, which turned out to be his last game of the season as he suffered a torn ACL against the Bills. Pettine was impressed.
"I think he’s a winner," Pettine said. "I think the intangibles with Brian are off the charts. I think he’s a football junky and I think you can tell he loves the game. He came from a system where he learned from the best in the game and that showed on the field. A lot of people based on his background kind of fall asleep on him a little bit. I think he’s a winning quarterback in this league."
Pettine is aware of the talent that is on the Browns offense already as he studied and prepared to play against them this season.
"There’s talent and that’s evidenced by the number of Browns that are over in Hawaii, as we speak," he said. "Again, it will be a big job for our staff to evaluate that roster. The nice thing about it is there is some definite talent here, young talent here and we also have the ability to keep that talent here. That, to me, is one of the things that was most attractive about the job."
The Browns have four players from the offense that made the Pro Bowl in Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron, Joe Thomas and Alex Mack, while two from the defense in Joe Haden and T.J. Ward.
"There’s some solid talent, but there’s some holes and again that will be our first task," he said. "We’re going to watch every snap from the 2013 season and thoroughly grade those players and see where they fit in the system we are planning to run."
Pettine said he will reach out to Mack and Ward and hopes he can convince them to stay with the Browns.
"(They’re) both outstanding players," he said. "I think a big part of being successful in the NFL is to keep your own players, guy that you’ve had here that come up through the system. But again, you can’t overspend for those guys either just for the sake of having them. With Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore it was always right player, right price. A lot times you might have the right player and you get priced out of it you have the ability to say you’ve got to move on. But from a coaching standpoint you always like to keep your own and those two are special players and would absolutely love to keep them around."