As the Cleveland Browns work their way through the off-season, it is becoming evident that head coach Mike Pettine is growing more comfortable in his role.
From the day he was hired, Pettine has come across as a confident, but not arrogant, head coach. He has a way of getting his point across without being condescending, and his lack of double-speak when explaining the team’s goals and process makes him the first Browns coach to really connect with the fanbase since the team returned in 1999.
His Joe Friday “just the facts” approach has been on display in the past couple of weeks as Pettine has begun preparing fans and media alike for the fact that Josh McCown is going to be the team’s starting quarterback this fall and the reality of what that means to the offense.
Pettine was at it again on Friday at the 16th annual Cleveland Browns Foundation Golf Tournament at Barrington Golf Club when, during a session with the media, he talked about how he is taking a greater interest in the offense in his second year in charge.
“Flip and I are very much on the same page with where this offense is headed. I’m real excited to be a part of it.” - Head coach Mike Pettine
“I’m with (offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) every step of the way as far as, ‘Here’s what we’re implementing today. Here’s what’s going in,’” Pettine said in published reports. “I sit in on the install meetings, and I carry a playbook around. I have flash cards to help me learn a lot of the formations. It was like being a rookie. Give me a book, and I’d learn it just like a first-year player would learn it.
“But it’s been great. I feel very rejuvenated as a coach.”
We’ve been waiting to see if or when Pettine would make the transition from focusing on the defensive side of the ball to being a head coach and working to help everyone with the big picture.
Last summer we read Collision Low Crossers, which goes into detail about the long relationship between Rex Ryan and Pettine. One of the topics covered in the book is how that relationship changed while the duo were working in New York with the Jets, with Pettine having an in-depth view as Ryan struggled to transition to the role of head coach.
As defensive coordinator in Baltimore, Ryan was active in creating the defensive game plan each week. But once he took over as head coach with the Jets, that responsibility fell on Pettine. Once Ryan was no longer involved in the day-to-day planning of the defensive, he struggled to make the transition to being the big-picture guy. He wanted to give input in the defensive meetings, but didn’t want to infringe on the autonomy he gave Pettine as coordinator. In addition, as a defensive-minded coach, Ryan wasn’t always comfortable inserting himself into the offensive meetings.
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With Pettine letting everyone in on the fact that he is taking a greater interest in the offense, while also keeping a hand in the defensive game plan, it sounds as if he’s determined to learn from Ryan’s struggles.
“I still will be involved with the defense. But I want to be a part of the (offense’s) game planning as well just to give the defensive perspective of who they’re going against,” Pettine said. “I have a good feel for NFL defenses having studied a lot of them or knowing the coaching trees — and there’s different styles and different rules within those — and I think that’s where I can be beneficial to (the offense).”
The Browns are planning to run the ball as much as possible this fall, no matter if it is McCown, Johnny Manziel or Connor Shaw at quarterback, so having input from the defensive-minded Pettine should help out. And, as head coach, it is a really good sign that he is willing to move out of his comfort zone to help the team improve. That attitude can have a positive impact on the locker room as the players will see Pettine’s drive to do whatever it takes, which hopefully will be contagious.
Pettine is raising his game in his second season in Berea as he becomes more comfortable in the head coach’s chair.
With any luck, the Browns will rise up with him.
How comfortable are you with Pettine being more involved with the offense?