BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Nobody wants the job.
There isn’t a Brinks truck large enough with the ability to dump enough cash in front of someone to make them even think about going to Cleveland to coach the Browns.
The front office is dysfunctional and incompetent. The situation in Berea is radioactive and toxic.
That’s a small sampling of the venom and vitriol that’s filled the airwaves, internet and social media concerning the Cleveland Browns and their coaching search since the team fired Rob Chudzinski Dec. 29, 2013.
It’s not hard to understand why considering that a once storied franchise that left town in 1995 has been replaced with one that has been, quite frankly, a revolving chaotic mess on and off the field since returning in 1999.
Thursday afternoon, after introducing Mike Pettine as their new head coach, owner Jimmy Haslam responded to the beating the Browns have been taking over the last 25 days.
“I think that’s a perception that you all have generated,” Haslam said. “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, 5 (actually 6) Pro Bowlers, 10 draft picks, 3 of the first 35.
“This perception that’s been created out there is not reality.”
Unfortunately in the 17 months since Haslam announced he was buying the team, it appears not much has changed – but Thursday’s hiring of Pettine was about moving forward and not looking back for the Browns.
Pettine wasn’t fazed by the criticism of the franchise or the fact that his predecessor didn’t even last 12 months on the job because he had the ability to see it for what it is – a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“It’s not unnerving,” Pettine said. “I only know the circumstances that were put in front of me, and that’s a leadership group that’s committed to winning. When you look at the other attractive parts of the job, it was a young roster, plenty of cap space, a deep draft, plenty of picks.”
Haslam bristled at the notion that other candidates did not find coaching the Browns to be appealing which has helped fuel the anger of fans.
“We’ve had tremendous fan support,” Haslam said. “I think what’s important to understand is the fans up here have great passion and interest. The fact that they have opinions we take as a real asset to the organization. The fact that the process took a while, we candidly feel very good about.”
A local reporter made national headlines by asking Haslam on Dec. 30 if he hired ‘The Three Stooges’ to run the team. CEO Joe Banner channeled his inner comedian and opened Thursday’s presser with a self-deprecating jab following the search, which felt like an eternity to fans who watched 6 other teams fill their jobs with ease.
“Since Mike Lombardi and I are Moe and Larry, we went and set out to find Curly and we succeeded,” Banner said as he introduced Pettine. “That’s why it took so long; there aren’t a lot of Curlys running around the country.”
Even though he’s portrayed as uptight, Banner actually appreciates a good laugh. He didn’t even take being called a stooge personal.
“It never burned,” Banner said. “It didn’t feel justified. But there was humor in it and there’s still humor in it and there’s nothing wrong with being able to poke a little fun at yourself from time to time.”
A lot of fun has been poked at the Browns in the last month – even the late night comedy shows have chimed in using the team for a cheap punchline – but not many have been laughing in the offices of 76 Lou Groza Blvd.
“It’s not pleasurable, personally or for the organization,” Banner said. “It wasn’t fun, and it was also hard to not be in position to respond to it, but what you’ve got to do in the end is try to focus on what you’re trying to do which is find a coach you think can lead your team effectively for a long time and try to stay focused on that.”
And that’s what they did by sifting through over a dozen candidates for nearly 4 weeks before Pettine convinced them he is the one who can win.
But even Pettine’s teenage daughter fired a shot at the organization when she tweeted right after her father’s first interview on Jan. 16 that he had earned a second meeting with the team and finished the tweet with, “Its the browns.. But hey, still pretty cool!”
The truth is that Browns aren’t cool.
Quickly her account was deleted and Pettine described how awful she felt in a way that only a loving father could.
“The thing that I think that she’s more upset about is that the team colors don’t really match what a 19-year-old wants to wear,” Pettine said. “My 12-year-old daughter has already expressed that as well. Brown and orange; they weren’t really happy about that.
“We have a very special relationship. She sent me a text this morning that I think would have made most fathers cry.”
The good news for the Pettine girls is that the Browns will have new uniforms in 2015 and maybe the new modern threads won’t look so bad to them then.
But Browns fans are a pretty forgiving bunch and have a sense of humor too. She might have accidentally authored a new slogan for the Dawg Pound.
Because it’s the Browns…and if her dad can win, that would be pretty cool.
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