Former Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints coach Bum Phillips once said that Don Shula could take his team and beat your team, and then he could take your team and beat his team.
Of course, Phillips said it a little more colorfully than that, but his point was clear. Shula adapted to the talent he had. He looked at his roster and got the most out of it.
This was illustrated by Shula’s Miami teams in the 1970’s, which featured a crushing ground game using Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, and Mercury Morris, winning two Super Bowls.
In the 80’s, the John Carroll grad had Dan Marino as his quarterback and threw the ball all over the yard.
Mike Pettine needs to be more like Shula if he wants to save his job, because right now he appears stuck in his own “scheme”, which clearly is not working.
We want to like Pettine, and we would also prefer to not start over with a new coach next year, who will want to change personnel and want to get players who fit the style of defense and offense that they play.
However, the way Pettine is handling things right now, it is getting hard to defend him.
Exhibit A is the run defense. This has been a problem since the coach’s first game as the head man with the Browns. Cleveland finished last in the league against the run a year ago, and they are in the same exact place this season.
So, we would have to assume either the issue has not been addressed or whatever measures have been taken to fix the problem haven’t worked.
That’s the coach’s job, to take care of the problems. Pettine and his staff have failed to take care of this issue.
The offensive line hasn’t done a solid job all season long, either in the running game and in protecting the passer. We understand the coach who handled this unit in the off-season and in training camp is no longer there, but it doesn’t appear to be any progress here either.
And there aren’t any injuries to this group that would explain a downgrade in this area.
After the Browns got hammered in the opener against the Jets, we wrote about the Steelers in 1989, who were smoked by both Cleveland (51-0) and Cincinnati in their first two games, but rallied to finish 9-7 to make the playoffs.
That team changed their style of play after those blowouts and put themselves in a position to start winning.
Unfortunately, we haven’t seen any evidence of that with Pettine and his staff.
That’s what makes it very difficult to defend him.
Look, we understand that coaches believe in certain things and they want to use those beliefs to create success. However, as Pettine reminds us all the time, the NFL is a pass/fail league.
Right now, he and his team are failing.
If the defensive players aren’t understanding the scheme, then it is incumbent on the coaching staff to make changes so it works. You can’t just make doing the same thing week after week and give up tons of points.
That’s the definition of both stubbornness and insanity.
If Pettine wants to keep his job past the end of this season, he simply has to change. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of intelligence.