Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine answers questions during news-conference Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Berea, Ohio. The Browns flew to Mobile, Ala., on Tuesday to interview Pettine for the second time at the Senior Bowl. The four-hour meeting came shortly after Gase, the first candidate the team contacted, called Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and withdrew from consideration.
Mike Pettine might turn out to be the next Vince Lombardi, but a year ago the Browns had a first year head coach in Rob Chudzinski promoted from the ranks of offensive coordinator. However, he had former head coach Norv Turner along side him as offensive coordinator and veteran defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
Fast forward 12 months and the top three in charge are Pettine, Jim O’Neil and Kyle Shanahan. Pettine is similar to Chudzinski in that he was a coordinator promoted to his first head coaching job. O’Neil was a position coach who has been promoted to coordinator for the first time. Shanahan has been a coordinator since 2008. O’Neil is 35 years old and Shanahan is 34.
Most Browns fans probably would’ve felt more comfortable with last year’s top three coaches compared to this year’s – at least on paper.
Thus far, Pettine has no former NFL head coach on his staff to help him as a rookie head coach. Chudzinski had Turner to lean on. However, having former NFL head coaches on the coaching staff doesn’t guarantee success. Obviously, the Browns were just 4-12 and Chudzinski was fired.
Just ask Pat Shurmur. He had three former NFL head coaches on his staff in Dick Jauron, Brad Childress and Ray Rhodes and the Browns were 5-11 in 2012.
It was shocking enough when the announcement was made that Chudzinski was going to be fired after one season, however, it was assumed Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner had someone already lined up if they were going to make a move that quickly.
If the Browns had someone lined up, they would’ve hired them immediately. Obviously, you can’t hire someone before their season is done, but there are enough back channels through agents and so forth that if they were planning on hiring Josh McDaniels, Dan Quinn or Adam Gase or whomever could’ve been already well into the process before Chudzinski was fired.
After the Super Bowl, Quinn admitted he was interested in the Browns job. Only time will tell if the Browns made the right move by hiring Pettine, who said he was considering withdrawing his name from consideration if the Browns decided to wait until after the Super Bowl.
"I think we felt that we knew (Quinn) well enough to make the comparison," Banner said the day Pettine was hired. "That was a tough decision frankly. He’s an outstanding guy, an outstanding coach. There’s no doubt in our mind that he’ll be an excellent head coach, so that was a tough call. But in the end we felt we knew him well enough and had the chance to spend time with Mike, went ahead and made the decision.
"That’s probably the toughest decision because there’s no doubt we were very impressed with (Quinn) in the interview," he said. "He’s going to be a head coach. He’s going to be an outstanding head coach. He’s got a lot of people around the league that think very highly of him but in the end we decided to move forward."
Regardless of what the front office said regarding Pettine, he would’ve been hired immediately after Chudzinski was fired if he was their top choice. Whether Pettine was on the Browns radar from the beginning or not, they decided to move on him before the Super Bowl and eliminate the opportunity to hire Quinn. Although the defense that Quinn oversaw with the Super Bowl-champion Seahawks was impressive, it cannot be overlooked that the Seahawks defense is filled with blue-chip players.
Personally, I would rather have a coach who does more with less talent and that’s where Pettine has the edge in my opinion, as there is no comparison between the defensive personnel on the Seahawks and the Bills. Pettine led the Bills defense to a top 10 ranking.
There’s no question the Browns have taken a hit nationally, in terms of their perception. When you finish 4-12 and fire your head coach 11 months after hiring him, you can probably expect to be the brunt of jokes on late night talk shows.
In his introductory press conference, Pettine said it’s all about winning for the Browns. He even said there’s nothing he can say to Browns fans that will ease their concern until the team starts to win.
"I don’t think that anything that I can say or do today, or for that matter up until the beginning of September, will matter," Pettine said. "This is a bottom-line business and it’s all about winning. I’m not into winning press conferences.
"I just want the Cleveland fans to know that we’re going to put a team out on the field that they can be proud of," he said. "But again, I don’t want to win press conferences. It’s going to come down to the fall and winning football games."