Fire Mike Pettine! OK, then what?


Oct 25, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine reacts after a penalty flag during the second half against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams won 24-6. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns head to Cincinnati for a primetime game on Thursday night with the undefeated Bengals.

The Browns will enter the game losers of three consecutive games, five of their last six and 11 of their last 13.

If the Bengals roll over the Browns like many people are expecting, the Browns will have 10 days off to ponder the reality of a 2-7 record and seven games of playing out the string.

“When anger rises, think of the consequences.” – Confucius

That 10-day break will give the media and fans plenty of opportunities to call for head coach Mike Pettine to be fired.

Just as Emperors in ancient Rome would hold games at the Coliseum to distract the mob when things went south, owners of modern pro sports teams often turn to firing a coach to appease the torch and pitchfork crowd. (Or redesign the team uniforms.)

Related: The curious case of Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine

Let’s play along though, for a moment, and say owner Jimmy Haslam holds a press conference next Monday morning to announce that Pettine has been relieved of his duties and the Browns are “moving in a new direction.”

Then what happens?

While it would certainly be a novel approach, the Browns probably should not try and navigate the rest of the NFL season sans a head coach, meaning they would have to name someone to replace Pettine.

It is safe to say that defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil would not be on the list as the mob dislikes him as (if not more) than Pettine.

How about offensive coordinator John DeFilippo? Maybe, but taking over as head coach on the NFL level after you’ve only been an offensive coordinator for eight weeks at any level may be a stretch.

“We’re not going to blow things up, OK?” – Owner Jimmy Haslam

Wilbert Montgomery? Joker Phillips? Chris Tabor? Hmm, we may have hit our first glitch in the plan, especially once people realize that neither Bill Cowher nor Jon Gruden are walking through the door in Berea. (Nor should the Browns even consider the possibility).

Ready or not, welcome to the podium head coach DeFilippo!

Naming an interim coach is just as easy as firing the old coach, but is more likely than not to be a total failure.

As Bill Barnwell pointed out recently at Grantland, at best an interim coach will give a team a slight boost, but not enough of one to make a difference and certainly not enough to believe that the change was the catalyst behind the boost, correctly pointing out that:

"The truth, sadly, is that we don’t know much at all about whom NFL teams should hire as their head coaches. We don’t learn much about that during interim gigs; hell, we don’t learn much about it from coaches who get jobs for multiple years. Think of the league’s best coaches now; many of them were major question marks earlier in their careers. Bill Belichick was fired by the Browns and treated like a pariah. He took over in New England for Pete Carroll, who was too nice after Bill Parcells’s reign. Bruce Arians was run out of town by the Steelers because his offenses weren’t physical enough. The Bears chose not to renew Ron Rivera’s contract as defensive coordinator, in part because they didn’t want to give him a raise."

Just look no further than Miami, where the new penny shine fell off of Dan Campbell as soon as the Dolphins had to play a real NFL team. Forget about Miami, just look at the last two times the Browns fired a coach midseason:

  • Terry Robiskie went 1-4 after taking over for Butch Davis in 2004
  • Jim Shofner went 1-6 after taking over for Bud Carson in 1990.

Those moves certainly paid off, didn’t they?

Knowing that, what evidence is there that naming someone currently on the Browns coaching staff will change the team’s immediate fortunes? If O’Neil, DeFilippo or anyone else on the staff had some real solutions as to what is plaguing the Browns, don’t you think they would have already implemented them?

We get that “Pettine is stubborn” has taken its place right next to “Pettine won’t play rookies” among the talking points of some Browns fans but, again, Pettine knows things are not going well at the moment; would he really shut out his two hand-picked coordinators (or any other coach) if they had a viable answer?

Related: Browns questionable decisions peak in loss to Cardinals

Is someone else going to make Johnny Manziel mature overnight or shave 10 years off of Josh McCown‘s birth date? Or teach Robert Turbin how to hold onto the ball or remind Isaiah Crowell how to run?

Having a different coach standing in Pettine’s spot on Sundays is going suddenly transform the run defense from a laughingstock to a powerhouse? Or have players follow their assignments and learn how to tackle?

All this is going to happen … how exactly?

As Barnwell points out, no one really knows what it takes to be a successful head coach in the NFL. For all his success, Bill Belichick has never won anything without Tom Brady as his quarterback, the same way that Paul Brown never won a title without Otto Graham. That’s not to diminish anything they did as coaches, but you have to wonder how different things would have been if those coaches were paired with Brian Hoyer, Manziel and McCown.

More from Dawg Pound Daily

Pettine may not be the right coach for the job, but one thing we’re sure of is that 24 games is not enough time to make that determination – especially when you consider what a mess the franchise was when he came to town. It would be one thing, maybe, if the team had quit on him, but that is clearly not the case.

(Speaking of which, that is another narrative that needs to be retired. We remember the last days of Carson’s coaching tenure, now that was a team that quit on its coach. This Browns team has not done that.)

It won’t make the mob happy, but Haslam needs to let the season play out and then figure out just what is going on in Berea, because the problems may very well run deeper than just the head coach. If Haslam is serious about turning the franchise around, he needs to take a hard look at what is going not just on the field, but also within the walls of team headquarters.

Until he is willing to do that, changing the coach may make the mob happy, but it will just be another example of change for the sake of change.