The goal of most — the vast majority? almost all? — coaches is to eventually be the head man, either at the major college or NFL level. One guy has lived that dream at the highest level — and wants no part of it ever again.
Mike Pettine was a Pennsylvania high school coach and jumped immediately to the NFL, landing as a coaching assistant for the Baltimore Ravens in 2002. He rose the ranks from there to assistant defensive line coach and then to outside linebackers coach. That led Pettine to defensive coordinator gigs with the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills, and then the holy grail: a head coaching job in the NFL.
Pettine inherited a Cleveland Browns team that went 4-12 in one season under Rob Chudzinski and went 7-9 in his 2014 debut. The Browns backslid to 3-13 and — the NFL being the NFL and Cleveland being Cleveland — he was out after posting a 10-22 record in two seasons. (For what it’s worth, Cleveland has gone 1-31 in the two seasons since Pettine’s firing.)
The 2016 season went on without him, and Pettine spent 2017 as a consultant for the Seattle Seahawks. He’s back coaching in the league now as the defensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers, and that’s where he’d like to stay — at the assistant level.
“When I was the head coach, I didn’t enjoy the lack of interaction with the actual football part of it,” Pettine said at his introductory press conference Wednesday, via ProFootballTalk. “I always made the comparison of going from being the teacher to now you’re the principal. As a coordinator [you’re] 90 percent football and 10 percent administrative stuff. That essentially flipped and I didn’t like it.”
Being the head coach left Pettine “beat up” on a physical and emotional level, saying it took almost a year “until I felt like I could smell smells and see colors.”
That’s not exactly an endorsement of the Browns’ organization, but it’s also a window into the grass-isn’t-always-greener reality of how little coaching the head coach truly does.