When the Cleveland Browns announced the firing of head coach Rob Chudzinski last month after less than a year on the job, owner Jimmy Haslam said he wanted to hire a proven winner.
The Browns yesterday formally announced the hiring of Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as their seventh full-time head coach since returning to the league in 1999. And Haslam said Pettine IS a proven winner - at the high school level.
The 47-year-old spent one year with the Bills after four years as defensive coordinator with the New York Jets. Pettine emerged as the favorite after at least three of the ten other candidates declined to be interviewed or took their names out of consideration. The front office of Haslam, CEO Joe Banner, and General Manager Mike Lombardi have been roundly criticized in the NFL world and beyond. They have been described as "dysfunctional," "radioactive," and "toxic." Even Pettine’s 19-year-old daughter, Megan, had that perception. When she learned her father would be interviewing for a second time with the Browns, she Tweeted quote "it’s the browns, but … hey, still pretty cool" end quote. Pettine came to be regarded in some circles as the one candidate willing to accept all the strings attached to job, knowing the security of the position was suspect, and knowing Banner would be calling the shots on players, the draft, and free-agency. He dodged questions yesterday about the front office and why he would agree to be the newest shop foreman in the "Factory of Sadness" when he was not the team's first choice.
Pettine also dodged a question about whether the short tenure of Chudzinski was a deterrent to taking the job.
Pettine spoke of taking a no-nonsense, blue-collar approach and made no promises other than having players with toughness and accountability. Meanwhile the team says assistant general manager Ray Farmer is staying put after withdrawing from consideration to become general manager of the Miami Dolphins. Farmer was interviewed two weeks ago and recently turned down a second interview.