The search is finally over.
On Thursday, the Browns sent the white smoke out of the chimney and named Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as their new head coach.
Was Pettine a “hot” coordinator? No.
Was Pettine the first name on their wish list? No.
Should the front office be criticized for how they conducted the search process? Yes.
With all of those questions answered, those fans blasting the new hire because he wasn’t the Browns’ top choice and he wasn’t the coordinator for a playoff team are way off base.
We really don’t know what kind of head coach Pettine will be until the games start for real in September. That’s not a cop-out, it’s just he has to be judged by how prepared his team is to play, his adjustments within games, and whether or not he wins or loses. Any thoughts about how those issues will play out are strictly opinion.
And most of those ideas will be based on the critics’ thoughts about Jimmy Haslam, Joe Banner, and Michael Lombardi. And that’s simply not fair.
It has been written before how both Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh, two head coaches on rival teams in the AFC North, were in the same boat as Pettine when he was hired.
Tomlin was the defensive coordinator for one season in Minnesota (2006) when he got the gig in Pittsburgh, and the Vikings finished 6-10 that season. Harbaugh was the secondary coach for one season in Philadelphia after being the special teams coach when Ozzie Newsome hired him in Baltimore.
We all can agree they’ve been successful NFL head coaches.
This isn’t to say Pettine will win because he has a similar background to these men, but it is meant to emphasize no one know what kind of coach Pettine will be until games start.
The thing we will watch is how the new coach of the Browns bases his style of play on the personnel the team has. He talked about how important the quarterback position is in the NFL, which Banner and Lombardi have drummed into our consciousness since they arrived. And we all know those two want to draft a QB with the fourth pick in the draft.
But what if that player isn’t ready?
The Browns can’t afford to punt another season away. So, if Pettine were to coach like he doesn’t have an elite passer and decides the best way to put wins on the board is strong defense and a solid running game, that’s the kind of guy we want to see.
No more trying to put square pegs in a round hole. After all, that is the essence of coaching.
What Pettine and the front office should be thinking is that the name of the game is wins and losses, not style points or a certain way to play the game. Every Browns fans will tell you the team can be the most boring team in the league as long as they win on Sundays.
Pettine’s background with the Ravens and the Jets has him with teams who like to run the football. This is something the Browns didn’t emphasize all season, particularly after the front office traded Trent Richardson.
And with Rob Chudzinski’s firing after one year, Pettine has a little leverage. Here’s hoping he insists on getting quality replacements for injured players and to end the constant turning over of the bottom of the roster, which caused special teams’ gaffes.
Mike Pettine seems like a leader, at least in his press conference. Still, no one knows what kind of coach he is or he will be until the games start being played for real.
Fans cannot and should not judge him until then.