Mike Pettine: It’s hard to be unified at this point


Dec 6, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine talks on his headset during the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns have plenty of problems right now and they are not limited to the performance on the field, according to head coach Mike Pettine.

Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine met with the media on Monday and for the first time publicly acknowledged that there are problems within team headquarters in Berea.

Namely, not everyone is pulling in the same direction when it comes to turning things around for the 2-10 club.

Related: Browns reportedly turning back to Johnny Manziel at quarterback

“It is hard to be (unified) at this point. I just think it is human nature when things don’t go well, I think, everyone has a tendency to bunker in and get into that mode when things aren’t going well,” Pettine said. “We all want what is best for the Cleveland Browns. I think we all have ideas on how to get it done, and we need to be collaborative and we need to make sure that we are picking the best ideas and pushing those agendas moving forward.

“I can’t sit here and say, ‘Absolutely, we are all on board 100 percent.’ No, that is not reality. When things don’t go well, everybody has their opinions and their reasons why. It is going to come down to a brutal self-assessment and to be able to have the strength to make tough decisions and trust them and move forward.”

“It is going to come down to a brutal self-assessment and to be able to have the strength to make tough decisions and trust them and move forward.” – Head coach Mike Pettine

The Browns were taken apart on Sunday by the Cincinnati Bengals, a loss that was Cleveland’s seventh in a row, ninth in their past 10 games, 15th in their past 17 games and 13th consecutive loss in the month of December.

The continued losing has helped to contribute to the growing tension within the Browns.

“When you have the record that we have, if there is not tension in the building, there is a problem. That is what losing does to you,” Pettine said. “When you are paid to be successful, when you are paid to win in a bottom line business and we are not, of course, there is going to be tension. When you have passionate, competitive people that want to get it done right and it is not, there’s going to be, and it is part of it.

“We have to make sure that we stay very clear headed with it. Like I said before, it goes back to an accurate assessment of what our problems are. I said it yesterday, if you have a problem with your heart, you don’t perform a lobotomy. We have to make sure we identify what the exact problems are and get them fixed.”

While Pettine did not go into specifics, it seems likely that the source of the division centers around (or at the very least includes) quarterback Johnny Manziel.

The coaching staff, which knows football, clearly has one opinion on what to do with Manziel, while the front office and/or business side, which is interested in moving as many No. 2 jerseys as possible, has another.

Earlier on Monday, the news broke that the Browns were planning to turn back to Manziel as the starting quarterback, but Pettine shot that down – at least for another day.

“The one thing, if you are going to be successful, your building has to be unified.” – Head coach Mike Pettine

“At this point, I’m not prepared to name a starting quarterback for Sunday yet. I know there are reports out there as early as last night that had a decision being made. That’s not the case,” Pettine said. “I can speak for offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) and for (quarterbacks coach) Kevin O’Connell and I that we’ve had preliminary talk and I have a couple meetings schedule right after this one, but I haven’t spoken to the quarterbacks yet. That’s where we are with it.

“We’re not going to wait until Wednesday. More than likely tomorrow at some point. The quarterbacks always come in the building on Tuesday. Like to get a chance to sit down with the guys individually and as a group. That’s how we’ve handled it before.”

Whether it is Manziel at quarterback or Austin Davis, there doesn’t seem to be much that the Browns can do to turn things around over the season’s final four games.

The team placed starting guard Joel Bitonio on injured reserve Monday, wide receiver Travis Benjamin may miss some time with a shoulder injury, and wide receivers Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins, and cornerbacks Joe Haden and Justin GIlbert all remain in the league-mandated concussion protocol.

In addition, they still have a defense that can’t stop the run and is currently on pace to give up 462 points – which would surpass the amount the team gave up in the expansion year of 1999.

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“It begins with a detailed evaluation of everything, of everything we do,” Pettine said of trying to turn things around. “I think the knee-jerk reaction when things don’t go well – I have said this before – is that everything is wrong. We have to figure out what are the exact problems first. It is hard to fix something when you haven’t pinpointed it exactly.

“How much of is coaching? How much of it is scheme? How much of it is the technique part of it? How much of it is personnel? Those are all things that get factored into it, but we have to be very accurate in identifying what we are doing well and what we are not doing well. We have to be brutally honest with ourselves and brutally honest not just looking into the mirror but to other parts of the building, as well.

“The one thing, if you are going to be successful, your building has to be unified. That is a big part of it. That is where the plan starts. That to me hopefully will drive what changes need to be made. Sometimes you fall into the trap of ‘Let’s just make change. Let’s change for the sake of change.’ Let’s make damn sure the changes we are making are the right ones that are going to get this ship turned and headed into the right direction.”

If Pettine and the coaches are serious about turning things around, they better get moving as there are only four games left in the season.

And once the final whistle blows on Jan. 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, they might all be out of time.