23 January 2014

Breaking down the Cleveland Browns' hire of Mike Pettine

So now the NFL coaching carousel has come to a conclusion as the Cleveland Browns have finally found their new head coach and it is Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Cleveland lasted on the carousel a week further than the prior team to fill their vacancy, the Minnesota Vikings. The Browns have certainly taken their time with making this hire, but did they make the right move?

I will say this, the Browns' coaching search has been a mess. I, like Don Banks, don't think it is necessarily a bad thing when teams want to take their time to find the right head coach. It's an important position, of course, and why rush it if you want to find the right guy, especially for a team like the Browns who have suffered such turnover since their return to the NFL in 1998. Plus, why not wait for coaches in the Super Bowl or deep in the playoffs?

But here's the problem. When Cleveland shockingly fired Rob Chudzinski after just one season, one would appear that the team would have a plan in place. After all, there was a reason why a reporter that asked Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam if the "Three Stooges" were running the franchise.

However, it appeared that whatever plans they had in place (keyword: plans), they fell apart quickly. First off, much of their targets were either snatched up or (in the case of their biggest targets, New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase) declined interest in the job. Haslam had to put out a seemingly desperate statement to their fanbase saying that they were on course and "strongly committed to finding the right person." And not has their waiting allowed other teams to snatch up quality prospects to fill their own head coaching gigs, it also leads to a smaller pool for the rest of the coaching staff.

That said, I do think the Browns ended up with a pretty solid new coach in Pettine, a guy that I like. Pettine is a veteran defensive coach that has done good work everywhere he has gone, especially as his years as a defensive coordinator with the Jets (where Rex Ryan was running the defense but Pettine was wrongly thought to be little more than a figurehead) and this past season with the Bills, where he helped their defense improve to 10th in total yards and 20th in points allowed from the previous year's 22nd and 26th rankings, respectively. Not to mention that his players love to play for him, and what he wants to do defensively fits with the players in place, and he may be able to get more out of a talented but underachieving group.

But even with finding a good coach in Pettine, should they have fired Chudzinski in the first place? And was the long search ultimately worth it? I still don't think Chudzinski should have been fired so I'm not sure on either account, so time will tell.

Cover photo via AP Photo

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