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Mike Pettine Interview at the Cleveland Auto Show

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Mike Pettine spoke on sports radio station 850 WKNR on free agency and the state of the team.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

On how far along he is into establishing a "Play like a Brown" culture with the Cleveland Browns:

"Uh, I think we've made tremendous progress, because it's something that -- a belief that Ray Farmer shares as well, the personnel department, we're very much on the same page on the type of players that we're looking for. That when you go through, whether it's the draft process, free agency, evaluating your own roster -- first and foremost you want to find guys that love football, they love to play. And sometimes that's hard to do because you're going to find guys that love what football does for them and they don't necessarily love the game. You gotta find -- it's okay to be both -- but there has to be that passion, the competitiveness, that type of pride because those are the guys that you win with."


On if last year's first round picks have made them reassess the way they evaluate that:

"Yeah, we're nowhere near going to write those guys off. The one thing we do know is that they both love football. And it's obvious from Johnny's background that he went through a period of time where it was clear he loved what football did for him, but when we went through the evaluation process -- I mean this is a competitive guy, very passionate about the game and that shows when he's out there on the field. So, obviously those guys had years they'd probably want to do over, but at the same time we still think the arrow is up on both of them and that we're looking forward to progress from both of them."


On if he can give an update about Johnny:

"No, I spoke on it at the combine. There's been interaction but to me it's a very personal, it's a very private thing. I'll say that he's doing well, but it's time to respect his privacy and let him go through what he has to go through. We touched base a handful of times and just looking forward to seeing him on the other side."


On if he expects to have Johnny for OTAs, minicamps, training camp:

"Yeah, I think that's too early to speak on, just because everybody's different. I don't really want to speak on the specifics of his program -- that getting him right personally comes first and then the professional part comes second. That was really the message when we talked to him, was: 'Hey, listen. Get your self right and the football will take care of itself.'"


On if Justin Gilbert had a hard time grasping the NFL:

"No, it certainly wasn't a playbook deal with him. I think it was just overall, just kind of getting accustomed to NFL life. You know, how do you handle yourself? We're very confident in Justin because he's already made a lot of progress this offseason. I know people've seen he's been down working out with Joe Haden. They've tweeted out and put out some of the things that they're doing together. So we know that he's very much, very well ahead of where he was a year ago and we're looking for big things."


On his reaction to verteran players being on the plane with Josh Gordon when he engaged in activity that got him suspended:

"Yeah, I mean just to look back on that it's disappointing. There's no issues with those other guys, they're all grown men and at some point you gotta take charge of yourself. So, I'm not a fan here of sitting back and looking back on these deals, but it's obviously a disappointing thing and we're looking to move forward."


On if there are things they are targetting early on in free agency:

"Very strict plan with how we want to do it. You don't want to get caught up, free agency can get very emotional. We go back to the mantra: it's gotta be the right player, first of all, but then just as important, it's gotta be the right price. So when you build a roster and you're working off a budgeted salary cap and you have long term plans on how you want to spend your money and allocate it towards younger guys on your roster, that you have certain parameters that you have to stick to. We're very selective in the players that we're looking at -- guys with the attributes that we just discussed earlier, that 'Play like a Brown' -- so we feel that we're doing what's best for the Browns, I feel really good about the plan, and we'll see how it shakes out."


On why Josh McCown is a better fit for the Browns than Brian Hoyer:

"...When we discussed the quarterback position, all the guys we knew would be available, we stacked them and I think a big part of it was the familiarity that John DeFilippo had with Josh. Having worked with him before, knowing the body of work, knowing -- you look back at the year he had in Tampa and kind of digging and kind of understanding why what happened there happened and why we're confident that things can be different in Cleveland."


On what are some of the extenuating circumstances he's talking about with Josh McCown's season in Tampa:

"It's more behind-the-scene stuff that I really don't care to discuss, but we feel very comfortable about Josh and of anybody that's ever worked with him, you're not going to find anybody that's going to say a bad word about him. He's a tremendous leader. He's great in the locker room. We're just not looking to bring in a guy that's a leader and a mentor, we want a guy that can play the game as well. Certainly demonstrated that in his last year in Chicago and that's something we're hoping we can replicate here in Cleveland."


On what priority they have on retaining Buster Skrine:

"Uh, to me it's you draft your own and you try to retain your own, but it goes back to what I just said: it's gotta be the right player but it also has to be the right price. So we're hopeful that Buster can be a Brown, but if it's something where it goes beyond our parameters then we're going to wish him well and be happy that he was able to go to the market and do that for himself."


On if he feels they're in the running for Buster Skrine:

"Yeah, I'm not going to get into specifics. The league was very strict today in a memo they sent out to the league just to make sure we're not discussing -- I don't know what the ramifications would be but I know we like our draft picks and we'd like to hold onto all of them, so I'll be very careful choosing my words discussing free agency negotiations."


On if they're close to a long term deal with Tashaun Gipson:

"It's being discussed. Sashi Brown and Ray are really at the point on the contractual stuff -- they'll update me here and there -- but my biggest focus at this point is football. We've evaluated the guys that are available and here are the guys on the roster, we ranked them compared to other guys around the league. So the coaching part of it is, really at this point, it's just guys that are coming free, guys that are likely cut, we'll pull a guy up and evaluate him, but for the most part, from a staff standpoint, offensively we're working on implementing a new system and getting a new staff together and on the same page. Defensively, those guys are full speed ahead: draft prospects, going back through last year's tape, looking at the cut-ups. Each defense cut-up into its own file and watching it, pluses, minuses, things we need to improve on."


On if the level of inexperience at the NFL level on the offensive coaching staff is a disadvantage:

"Yeah, it's not a disadvantage at all. Speaking on Kevin O'Connell: a guy that's mature beyond his years. I was fortunate to be on the coaching staff where he was a quarterback in New York in 2009. Knew right away -- John DeFilippo was also on that staff, was coaching Kevin -- knew right away that this was essentially a coach at that point, he just happened to still be playing. He's very knowledgeable in the game. Great with people, which is huge. You see so many coaches that are First Team All Whiteboard but they just can't explain it to their players, they can't put it in that language, where Kevin can speak at a graduate level and then go and put it in terms that the players understand. So, again, Kevin O'Connell would be the last guy I worry about whether he's in over his head coaching. I think we are extremely lucky to have him. There were some other teams that were interested and like I said, we're very fortunate to get him here and [he's a] tremendous asset for us."


On how much more acclimated he is in his second offseason with the Browns:

"Yeah, I think back to the auto show a year ago, where I was, and it just feels like a blur. No, just so much more settled in. I think that the great thing is with the continuity with the players. We have a lot of our core guys back. We're that much further ahead going into the spring. Offensively, we'll retain a lot of the same things, at least the terminology, do some different things in the pass game. The run game will stay similar because we're really built to continue to be that style. I look back on now, say 'How did I get through this year?' because the things I know now that I didn't know a year ago -- and again, I think the best thing looking back over the year was the buy-in we got from the players. That we came in here as relatively unknown as a head coach and as a coaching staff and asked them to do some different and unique things and to buy into what we were doing and they did. I think that's the reason for the success that we had. We certainly want to finish the year stronger, but we still feel like we've got the ship turned and headed in the right direction..."