The Browns on Thursday hired Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as their new head coach "after 25 days, 10 candidates, a few phone interviews, a vacancy deemed 'radioactive' and at least two ribbings in Jay Leno's monologue," according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Pettine was given a five-year deal, following "his third meeting with the Browns." Browns CEO Joe Banner, referring to a prior press conference in which he, Owner Jimmy Haslam and GM Mike Lombardi were compared to the Three Stooges, said, "I don’t know if you had a chance to meet Mike, but since (GM) Mike Lombardi and I are Moe and Larry, we set out to find Curly -- and we succeeded. ... I know we were exhaustive to the point that we caused people to question and wonder. It wasn't fun, and it was also hard to not be in position to respond to it." Pettine acknowledged that the Browns "are already lagging behind their counterparts in many ways." Pettine: "That’s not a perception, that’s absolute reality. We are behind. As far as hiring, I think we’re in pretty good shape. A lot of things are in place or close to being in place. It’s definitely a work in progress, but that needs to be addressed immediately" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/24).
NOT THE FIRST CHOICE: ESPN.com's Pat McManamon reported Pettine "was not on the Browns' original list of candidates, but he emerged as others either took themselves out of consideration or were hired elsewhere." Haslam: "Mike is the epitome of what we want the Browns to be -- tough, aggressive and innovative -- with a blue-collar, team-first mentality." The Browns "have not won more than five games in any of the previous six seasons, and fan unrest and impatience with the team has been strong" (ESPN.com, 1/23). Pettine: "There’s only 32 of these jobs in the world, and these opportunities don’t come along often. People ask me, ‘Why didn’t you wait? There will be chances next year.’ I don’t know if I believe in that. I looked at the situation as when you put all of the factors together, this franchise is in position, given the right leadership, to win" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 1/24).
CAREFUL WHAT YOU TWEET: ESPN.com's McManamon noted Pettine's daughter, Megan, on Jan. 16 "tweeted excitedly" about her father getting a second interview with the Browns. But she added, "Its the browns.. But hey, still pretty cool!" The tweet "was later deleted, and the account deactivated," but the incident "didn't help the Browns' already battered image." Pettine "was expecting" to be asked about the tweet, so he "didn't balk" when the question came up during his introductory press conference (ESPN.com, 1/23).
IMAGE IS EVERYTHING: In Akron, Marla Ridenour in a front-page piece notes a reporter "didn’t get the word radioactive out of his mouth" at the press conference before Haslam "jumped down his throat." Haslam: "That’s a perception that you all have generated. That’s not the perception among the candidates. That’s not the perception among football people that I’ve talked to around the country. They talk about the birthplace of football, great fan base, great cap space, young roster, five Pro Bowlers, 10 draft picks, three of the first 35. This perception that’s been created out there is not reality." Ridenour: "Obviously Haslam doesn’t like his team’s reputation being dragged through the mud." Perhaps Pettine "can turn the Browns around despite a flawed front office structure and a lack of personnel authority that scared off other candidates" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 1/24). In Cleveland, Tom Reed writes the "environment Pettine enters might not be 'toxic' or 'radioactive' as some pundits have suggested, but keeping a hazmat suit handy is advisable." He "must also prove he’s his own man and not a puppet" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/24).
HERE WE GO AGAIN: In Akron, Mark Price writes "every couple of years, hope springs eternal in Berea." Fans "can expect to hear Browns officials bestow high praise on the new guy," and in turn, the new coach "will declare unwavering optimism for the team’s future." It "all sounds so familiar" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 1/24). In Cleveland, Terry Pluto in a front-page piece writes now that Pettine has been hired, the "real pressure" is on the Browns' front office. Pettine "has to do a good job handling the players and preparing for games," but the "key people in any NFL franchise are those who pick the players." The "only way" Pettine reverses the organization's fortunes "is if the front office has one of the best off-seasons in team history, both in the draft and with free agency" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/24). ESPN.com's McManamon wrote there is "much that Pettine has to prove," just as Banner and Haslam "have much to prove, starting with showing that this search was not a wayward effort that simply wound up crashing to earth in Buffalo." At this point, there is "so much uncertainty and negativity swirling about the Browns that nothing they do short of bringing back" late Browns coach Paul Brown "would be welcomed with open arms" (ESPN.com, 1/23).
FARMER STAYING PUT: The Browns said that team Assistant GM Ray Farmer "is staying with the team after withdrawing from consideration" for the job of Dolphins GM. Farmer "was interviewed by the Dolphins nearly two weeks ago and turned down their invitation for a second interview" (ESPN.com, 1/23).