The Cleveland Browns hired former Buffalo Bills Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine to be their new Head Coach. Several candidates withdrew their names including Broncos Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase, Arizona Cardinals Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles, and Patriots Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels.
The Bills were dominant on pass defense which is possibly due to successful schemes designed by Pettine. They gave up 204.4 yards per game, which was 6th best in the NFL. However, the Bills were shredded by the running game, finishing 23rd in the NFL, with opponents averaging 128.9 yards against them. This is not acceptable at all. Pettine will need to come up with a scheme to stifle the running game of the Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Baltimore Ravens. This will be particular difficult against the Bengals and Ravens. How will he handle stopping the running game which was a major weakness of his former team? This is a major concern considering the AFC North features plenty of running.
Buffalo usually gave up more than 18 points a game. They surrendered 23 points to the Patriots in their season opener, followed by 23 against Carolina despite winning that game, then 27 to the New York Jets in week 3. They had a better performance against the Ravens in week 4, giving up 20 points in a narrow win. However, the Bills continued to get steamrolled by opposing offenses, giving up 37 to the Browns in a critical Thursday Night Prime town Showdown on NFL Network. 6 of those points were via the punt return for a touchdown by Travis Benjamin so truthfully the defense was responsible for giving up 31 in that game.
The Bengals scored 27 points in week 6. This trend continued for almost the entire season. The only time the Bills defense had an outstanding game was in week 16 when they shut out the Miami Dolphins 19-0.
Pettine’s level of preparation is questionable at best. Pettine will need to adjust to his role very quickly. This will require getting to know his players both on a professional and personal level to achieve optimal success. He will likely have to handle difficult game situations and he will make the choices. He will have to make tough decisions in crunch time. How will he handle a difficult game situation?
Take this for example: The Browns are down in week 1 to their opponent 21-20 with 2:00 minutes left in the 4th quarter. They are starting their drive the 15 yard line. What plays will Pettine put together to make the comeback happen? This is a different situation being a Head Coach. He does not have any Head Coaching experience in the NFL. He was a High School Head Coach for William Tennent and North Penn.
Pettine started his NFL Coaching career as a Coaching and Video Assistant in Baltimore back in 2002. In 2004, he became the Ravens defensive assistant. From 2005-2008, he was the Outside Linebackers coach for the Ravens. From 2009-2012, he was the New York Jets Defensive Coordinator.
If Pettine can implement what he learned in Baltimore, the Browns might be able to turn things around. However, if last season was any indication, the Browns could give up a lot of points but disrupt the passing game. Losses could pile up early in the season. Hopefully, Pettine will be able to make the right calls to ensure the Browns are able to shut down opposing offenses and have chances for multiple wins.
Another concern about Pettine is how he will handle offensive play calling. He will likely have some role in that so it will be interesting to see how what happens. Also, he will have to make sure the team selects big time offensive playmakers via the draft and possibly free agency.
The 2014 NFL Draft
What impact will this have on the draft? Will Pettine prefer defensive players? Will he be more willing to make sure team needs are met, which means drafting offensive players in the first three rounds?
Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam’s take on the hire
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said, “We are thrilled to announce Mike Pettine as the new Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns.” “Mike is the epitome of what we want the Browns to be- tough, aggressive, and innovative, with a blue collar, team-first mentality. He knows what’s necessary to beat team in the AFC North.”
Pettine’s bright spots
Pettine helped develop the Bills into a dominant pass defense despite the team giving up 20 or more points on a consistent basis. He helped mentor top defensive players such as Cornerback Darrelle Revis and Defensive End Mario Williams.
Revis, along with defensive end Shaun Ellis and defensive Tackle Kris Jenkins went to the Pro Bowl, a testament to Pettine’s leadership.
Pettine is known for turning dismal defenses into tough, gritty, effective units. During Pettine’s tenure with the New York Jets, they ranked 1st in the NFL is opposing quarterback rating with 71.0.
The fact that Pettine does not have any experience as a NFL Head Coach could potentially hinder the team’s success. Browns fans likely preferred another candidate. Pettine will have to make a strong impression early in the season. It is likely the Browns will need to win at least 6 games this year in order for Pettine to gain job security. If the team does not show any progress in terms of the overall record, Pettine will likely share the same fate as Robert Chudzinski and Pat Shurmer.