I feel like a broken record after doing this just a little over a year ago with Rob Chudzinski, but here we go again, moving on with another head coach: welcome aboard, Mike Pettine.
For the second year in a row, Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner held a press conference to announce a new head coach. Haslam and Banner only spoke briefly, though, before letting Pettine take to the podium and answer questions from the media for about a half hour. Here is a reader's digest of what we can take away from the presser, as well as some interesting notes that were gathered by the media after the press conference concluded:
Change in Culture From Chud: Toughness & Accountability
- Last year, Jimmy Haslam cited innovation and the amount of touchdowns that Rob Chudzinski was able to accumulate in Carolina (compared to Cleveland during the same stretch) as a couple of the things that stood out to him. This year, there was a new word I was looking for from Haslam, and I found it: "toughness."
- Similarly, last year, Chudzinski preached from the get-go that he wanted to have an "attacking" offense and an "attacking" defense. For Pettine, his theme was more so on "accountability," saying that every player would be graded on every snap in practice and in games.
- When Chudzinski was fired, we heard rumors that Haslam was not happy about how the team seemed to quit at the end of the season, which can be perceived as a lack of toughness. There were also rumors that Chudzinski was criticized for how he handled players like Greg Little, Davone Bess, or Shawn Lauvao by not acting more swiftly in holding them accountable for poor play.
- Fixing both of those factors -- toughness and accountability -- seemed to subtly reign through during Thursday afternoon's presser.
The Coaching Search & Deciding on Pettine
- Joe Banner began with a self-deprecating joke -- a callback to a previous press conference -- when he said, "Since Mike Lombardi and I are Moe and and Larry, we set out to find Curly." Banner talked about the perception that was out there about the Browns' coaching search, but stressed that it was important to continue conducting a thorough search.
- After the press conference was over, Banner said, "the toughest decision of hiring process was bypassing Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn for Mike Pettine." He also said that he thought Quinn would make a great head coach some day.
- Why didn't the Browns just wait for Quinn? With several candidates like Josh McDaniels and Adam Gase already pulling out, Cleveland didn't want Pettine to do the same. Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer reported that Quinn might have told the Browns that he wanted his second interview to not be until after the Super Bowl, which was too long for the front office to wait, given what's happened.
After the press conference was over, Pettine told a Bills reporter that he was ready to pull out of the search himself if the process had dragged on much longer. "That was starting to wear on me these last couple of days. I talked to Doug and it was getting to the point where I'd say, 'Hey, if this goes on much longer I need to pull out because it's just not fair to the Bills.'"
- In total, Haslam said that the team met with 10 candidates in person, but talked with more over the phone. The media asked Haslam about the team's front office situation being "radioactive," to which Haslam responded, "That’s a perception that you all have generated. That’s not the perception among the candidates."
- Pettine agreed to a 5-year deal, compared to Chudzinski's 4-year deal. We don't know anything about the money involved. When he was asked about the concern over job security, he said that the one-year thing with Chudzinski didn't factor into his decision at all, and neither did the possibility that he wasn't the team's "first choice." He said a couple of times that he likes to "bet on himself" in terms of succeeding and building this team.
- Banner told the media after the conference that they pursued Pettine last offseason to be the team's defensive coordinator, but that the Bills got to him first. Remember that last year, the Browns wanted to hire Doug Marrone at one point, but lost out to Buffalo as well. This year, it's Buffalo who is crying over losing Pettine.
- One interesting thing of note: last year during Chudzinski's press conference, Haslam, Banner, and Chudzinski all sat on stage, allowing the media to ask questions to each of them. This year, the conference was held in the team's field house with a single podium set-up, which means that once the floor opened for questions, everything had to be directed at Pettine, not Banner or Haslam. That's a wise PR move, all things considered.
Pettine's Plan For Success
- Some of the things that Pettine touted that were enticing about the Browns' head coaching job sounded like they were ripped from Jimmy Haslam's standard memo to fans: the amount of Pro Bowlers on the team, the excessive cap space, and volume of picks in a deep draft class.
- The vision for Pettine? "My vision here in Cleveland, to compete in AFC North, you have to be willing to bloody your nose a little bit." As I mentioned earlier, he also stressed both physical and mental toughness.
- As one would expect from any head coach, Pettine said that he and his soon-to-be-assistants will spend time soon evaluating the roster up-and-down. He said he feels it is important to know what you have and then decide on what systems should be run on offense and defense, rather than letting an incoming system automatically dictate the personnel they'll need.
- Speaking of the assistant coaches, Pettine said that he did expect some of remaining staff would be retained. We've already heard rumors that special teams coordinator Chris Tabor might stay on board. Pettine was asked about Bills linebackers coach Jim O'Neil being his defensive coordinator, but he couldn't speak on that because O'Neil is still under contract with the Bills. Pettine added that he already has other assistants that he's had in mind, who he'll be reaching out to as soon as possible.
- A reporter asked if the quarterback position came up as a major topic in his interviews, and he said that it did. "I'm a defensive coach but I'm not the type who says 'we're going to run the ball and we don't need a great QB. To win in this league, you have to have a great QB.'" That obviously leaves things open for a quarterback in the draft, but after the conference, Pettine was singing the praises of Brian Hoyer: "I think he’s a winner. Intangibles are off the charts."
- Pettine acknowledged all of his former mentors/coaches who have led him to being in the position he's in today. Despite being affiliated with Rex Ryan in the past, though, he was adamant that he has the complete opposite personality to Ryan, and that he won't be the type of guy who comes out and predicts Super Bowls.
- Someone also brought up the tweet that his daughter made a couple of days ago, to which Pettine said that he talked with her after that and that she learned a valuable lesson about social media. He said his daughters grew up as Ravens fans, to try to paint a picture of where she were coming from.
- When asked about how he felt he would be perceived by the fans, Pettine probably said the best thing a guy in his position could say, without sugar-coating anything: "This is a bottom-line business. It's about winning. I don't want to win press conferences." The feeling from most of the fans and media after the conference? He won it anyway.
- After the conference, Pettine was asked about C Alex Mack and SS T.J. Ward, and Pettine said they are both special players that he would like to have back.
- Pettine's nickname? BFT, which stands for Blunt Force Trauma.
Watch the Press Conference Online
Click here to listen to the press conference on the official team site.