Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will be the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns, the team announced Thursday afternoon.
Pettine will be a first-time head coach in the NFL, rising from the level of a Pennsylvania high school head coach from 1995-2001, and every single first-time head coach arrives with a certain level of uncertainty. But it’s hard to imagine a first-time coaching hire as unanimously approved throughout the league as this one.
No way to know what kind of a coach Mike Pettine would be for #Browns. But have not talked to a coach who isn’t a huge fan of him. Great guy
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 23, 2014
Spoke to many former players and personnel people who worked with Mike Pettine. All had great things to say. He develops talent. #Browns
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 23, 2014
Sources within the league told us Pettine possesses “a great football mind in all phases. He’s a good motivator, takes advantage of players’ strengths and puts them in position to make plays.” Another added: “Pettine is a great evaluator of talent, free agents, draft prospects – the best I have been around.”
A high school coach as recently as 2001, Pettine generated a massive amount of respect from within the league for his race up the NFL coaching ladder. “He’s the most competitive person I know,” an NFL source told FootballScoop. “He belives in complete honesty with coaches and players. He tells people the truth, not what they want to hear.”
Pettine broke into the league as a low-level assistant with the Baltimore Ravens in 2002, then rose to assistant defensive line coach in 2004, and then was promoted to linebackers coach from 2005-08.
Upon landing the New York Jets head coaching job, Rex Ryan brought Pettine along with him, where he served as his defensive coordinator from 2009-12. The Jets ranked among the top quarter of the league in total defense each of those four seasons. In his one season in Buffalo, Pettine helped the Bills jump from 22nd to 10th in total defense.
A Virginia graduate, Pettine is just the 15th head coach in the Browns’ 68-year history, but becomes the eighth head coach since the franchise’s reboot in 1999. Of the previous seven, only two stayed on the job for longer than two seasons. The Browns have made the playoffs once in the past 20 seasons.
The previous paragraph could end up being a blessing for Pettine. The entire front office – from owner Jimmy Haslam to CEO Joe Banner to team president Alec Scheiner to general manager Michael Lombardi – is still new to the job, and you’d have to think the brain trust realizes patience is required to rebuild the once-proud franchise.
After an exhaustive, three-and-a-half week search, Mike Pettine is their guy. Clearly they checked his references.