The situation is looking grim for Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine.
According to multiple members of the media, Pettine held a meeting with staffers on Friday morning. Several of the staffers walked away with the sense that Pettine will not survive his second season.
Rand Getlin of NFL.com first reported the news.
In speaking with multiple sources, there's a sense within the #Browns org that Sunday will be the last time Mike Pettine coaches the team.— Rand Getlin (@Rand_Getlin) January 1, 2016
Other writers, such as Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot, corroborated the report. Cabot wrote:
The sources said Pettine talked to Browns owner Jimmy Haslam about the coaching staff and was told that a decision wouldn't be made until after the game and after a possible move in the personnel department on Monday.
Owner Jimmy Haslam is known for an itchy trigger finger, firing Pat Shurmur in 2012 and Rob Chudzinski in 2013 after just one season. Before the start of the season, however, Haslam vowed not to make any changes this offseason.
Pettine met with owner Haslam on Thursday, but Pettine said the two did not discuss the future. Pettine did tell the media he would like to remain in Cleveland in 2016.
Following an impressive 7-4 start last season, the Browns have spiraled into the abyss. Pettine's Browns have lost nine of the last 10, and 17 of the last 20. Pettine now owns an overall record of 10-21.
Today's story conflicts with a report floated by Jason Cole of Bleacher Report on Monday, holding that general manager Ray Farmer would be fired, while Pettine would survive. In this scenario, or any scenario for that matter, defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil would likely have to leave.
Until the team makes an official announcement Monday, speculating is pointless. Only Haslam knows the fate of Pettine and Farmer. Several clues do point to a change, however:
1. Haslam's history: Haslam fired Shurmur after 4-12 and 5-11 seasons and Chudzinski after one 4-12 season. If the Browns do the improbable and defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, the team will finish 4-12 for the sixth time since 1999. If the Browns lose, the 3-13 record will stand as the worst since 2000. Haslam has not tolerated losing in the past, leading us to believe he will not allow it now.
2. Pettine's problems with Manziel: By now, we all know the story of Haslam's infatuation with Manziel in 2014. Did Haslam pressure the front office to select Manziel? We will likely never know. But we do know Haslam has reportedly strong-armed Pettine into playing Manziel more. Pettine's inability to determine Manziel's value as an NFL quarterback, and his failure to control Manziel off the field, likely do not reflect well on Pettine in Haslam's eyes.
3. The regression on defense: The Browns' defense was supposedly the strength of the team heading into the 2015 season. As the 3-12 record proves, this hasn't been the case. The defense has struggled mightily, as Justin Gilbert and Danny Shelton have shown little improvement while Paul Kruger, Barkevious Mingo, and others have languished in improper roles. Consider these quotes from Kruger:
"You can't play the same play every game and expect to have the same result because offenses are different. They have key standout players at different positions. I think that's one thing. Other than that, we've been in good situations. It's just a matter of us going out and getting it done. It's hard to say overall without really sitting down and thinking about it.''
Asked if he has been used properly this season, Kruger said:
"Personally, I probably wouldn't say so,'' he said. "I don't have too much more to say about it but I don't think I was utilized in the best way.''
Not exactly glowing words from a team veteran.
Again, as I said above, take every report with a grain of salt these next two days. Until the team releases an official statement, we cannot say anything for certain. With each piece of information, consider the source and mull it over before reacting or calling it truth.
At the moment, Pettine's fate is not yet sealed. His seat appears to be quite hot, but Pettine and the Browns still have one more game to play.