The Cleveland Browns hired Mike Pettine to be the 15th head coach of the franchise. Once his name came up in the hiring process, he became a quick favorite and seemed to get stronger as the process continued. He is not the celebrity hire and he was found due to the Browns sticking to their guns with their mentality of going through a thorough search process. Overall, I like the hire, but that is based on a small amount of information that will only have a small bearing on the job he can do with the Browns.
Pettine is highly regarded when it comes to building and running a defense. Many are quick to try to dismiss his impact on the New York Jets, including Jason Whitlock who referred to Pettine as “Rex Ryan’s puppet” on Pardon the Interruption. It is difficult to buy into the idea that Pettine was simply a puppet given that his defense with the Buffalo Bills has been impressive in a short amount of time.
The Bills defensive line led the league in sacks, they were able to cause a high number of turnovers, and they boasted the defensive rookie of the year in Kiko Alonso. While it is not exactly clear what Pettine will do with the defense in Cleveland, he ran a hybrid defense with 3 and 4-man fronts, moving players around in an effort to change looks and create mismatches.
The Bills had players like Mario Williams, Marcel Dareus, Kyle Williams and Alan Branch up front. The Browns have an extremely big, athletic defensive end in Desmond Bryant, who was arguably the best player on the Browns defense this year, Phil Taylor to counter Dareus, Billy Winn to Williams and John Hughes that can do the same type of things Branch has done.
The questions facing Pettine and what he will do with this team are numerous. What type of offense does he want to run and who does he want to run it? How will the rest of the coaching staff look when this is done? What type of quarterback does he want? How much does his experience from being a head coach in high school combined with his experience as a coordinator in the NFL help him to be a head coach? These are questions it is difficult to know without being in there for interviews, so just about every opinion on this, including mine, is missing about 95% of the information to make a qualified assessment.
The parts of this that do not matter; the relative anonymity of Pettine. If the Bills had an offense, the Bills make the playoffs and people get a better understanding of who he is. The fans of the Bills are devastated to lose Pettine, which may or may not mean something. It at least makes me feel better about it.
Nevertheless, I would have been happy with Pettine or Dan Quinn. Short of getting Gus Malzahn, these two are about as good as I could have hoped for when combing through the candidates. The length of the search will not matter if Pettine can win. It will either reinforce their concept of a thorough search if he is successful or indicts them for waiting so long and supports the idea that no one wanted to work for them.