Mike Pettine has always had a good relationship with the fans of the Cleveland Browns. He has a tough, no-nonsense persona that is important for a football coach, particularly in this region.
It helps that the Browns got off to a good start last year in his first year at the helm, and even though the team slumped at the end of the season, Pettine’s team showed a three win improvement from the prior year, and Cleveland managed to avoid losing ten games for the first time since 2007.
This season’s bad start, not only by record (1-3 meaning the Browns have lost 8 of their last 9 contests), but also the way the team has looked, have fans questioning the head coach for the first time in his tenure.
That may not be fair just 20 games into his time as a head coach, but Pettine has a defensive background during his career in the NFL, and that is the unit that is currently faltering as the season has played so far.
In his press conference on Monday, Pettine didn’t help himself in gaining the fans confidence when he told them that no changes were coming on the defensive side of the ball, and the Browns just needed to play better.
While that may be true, and the film study showed that the schemes and play calls when San Diego had the ball were good and it was one player, albeit a different one each play, who was in the wrong position and caused the huge chunks of yardage being picked up by the Chargers, it still was the wrong thing to say.
What the head coach should have said was something like this:
“We are not satisfied by our performance yesterday, and the coaches and I will study the game film carefully and I promise we will fix what went wrong. We will do everything in our power to get this defense up to the level it needs to be to win football games in the National Football League”.
Is that so difficult?
Pettine might be too honest for his own good, and what is particularly confusing here is that he has been pretty good at saying the right thing at the right time since he became the head coach a year and a half ago.
Part of his job is public relations, whether he likes it or not. It’s his job to communicate to the fans through the media, and he should realize that nobody, particularly the coaching staff should be satisfied with what was transpired over the season’s first four games.
And we are sure he knows that. That’s why his comments were confusing.
He’s probably into protection mode with his defensive coordinator, Jim O’Neil, who has been with him since they were assistants together with the Jets.
He doesn’t want to throw his buddy under the bus, but he could say that O’Neil is a quality coordinator and defensive coach, and he is confident in his ability to correct the problems the defense has had.
That’s what was needed, but instead we heard stubbornness, the mortal enemy of unsuccessful head coaches.
If something is broken, it needs to be fixed.
Mike Pettine knows that, we are confident that he does. Why he chose to communicate poorly in this situation is a bit of a mystery.