The real test begins this week for Pettine
We’re discovering that Johnny Manziel’s powers extend beyond whatever interesting photos emerge from his weekend exploits.
Each time a story breaks about Manziel’s fun-loving lifestyle, it makes us forget about one of the biggest storylines of the 2014 NFL season in Cleveland. Can Mike Pettine break the string of disastrous head coaches?
From the moment Manziel was drafted by the Browns in the first round in May, all eyes and cameras have been trained on his every move – on and off the field. OTA practices gave the media a chance to gawk at Manziel and critique everything he does. On weekend getaways his celebrity status attracted constant attention, something he enhanced with some questionable choices in photo ops.
It all will change beginning Saturday when Pettine conducts his first practice in training camp. Finally, after a six-month period since his hiring, we’ll begin to see what type of coach he truly is and begin to form evaluations concerning his chances of being the first coach since Marty Schottenheimer to have long-term success.
The bar was set extremely low by the previous six coaches who held the post since the expansion season of 1999. Some never had a chance for success because of poor personnel decisions by general managers. Others simply weren’t cut to be head coaches, which became painfully obvious early in their tenures.
First impressions of Pettine are favorable across the media board. All agree that Pettine is the most straightforward of all previous expansion-era coaches, speaking in coherent sentences that make for easy-to-compose quotes.
Pettine’s honesty is refreshing when considering the litany of coach-speak that’s been forced down our throats by previous coaches. He’ll undoubtedly be cautious when speaking about injuries, but that can be accepted if it’s balanced by honest player evaluations.
How Pettine handles the Manziel-Brian Hoyer competition at quarterback will speak volumes about the way he deals with critical decisions. If an untrained eye can see that Hoyer is having the better camp but Pettine continues to say it’s a close race, it might be the first sign that he’s bowing to pressure from owner Jimmy Haslam, who’s been a Manziel fan for a long time.
It’s only a guess, but it appears as if the Browns may have finally found the right man for the job in Pettine. It would be a complete shock if Pettine is one-and-done like his predecessor – Rob Chudzinski.
Pettine doesn’t have much to prove to show he can be better than each of the men that preceded him – Chris Palmer (1999-2000), Butch Davis (2001-04), Romeo Crennel (2005-08), Eric Mangini (2009-10), Pat Shurmur (2011-12) and Chudzinski.
Palmer never had a chance to succeed. He was saddled with an inept personnel man in Dwight Clark, who squandered most of the multiple draft picks the NFL awarded the Browns in their first two years back in the NFL. Palmer, however, wasn’t meant to be a head coach. He was too concerned about media perception and had a quick temper that was rarely seen.
Davis seemed to have all the proper credentials. He had NFL experience as a defensive coordinator in Dallas and head-coaching experience in college at Miami (Fla.). Davis proved more of a scatter-brain than anything else. He assumed too much of the dual coach-GM role, which exploded in his face. At least he made it enjoyable for the media with quotes that often defied logic.
Crennel was as nice as they come. That may have been his problem. He was a player’s coach, which usually means a lack of discipline and ultimately a house divided. It became clear that Crennel, like Charlie Weis, were fortunate recipients of working for Bill Belichick in New England. Neither is a head coach.
Mangini might be second on the list of worst coaches. He was power hungry and believed he could strong arm people in a Belichick-Bill Parcells way. You have to have a cache of playoff wins to pull that off, and Mangini didn’t. He also directed the 2009 draft, which included three wasted second-round picks in receivers Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie, along with linebacker David Veikune.
Shurmur tops my worst list. I’ve never seen a coach so ill-prepared for the head post. He seemed a step behind in his thought process during games, occasionally resulting in embarrassing moments. Remember when tight end Alex Smith was handed the ball on a fourth-and-one play on what might have been his first carry ever. He fumbled, of course, but Joshua Cribbs recovered. Shurmur worried too much about media criticism and had those he liked and disliked. You can’t be sensitive to criticism and be a NFL coach.
Chudzinski was as exciting in press conferences as Schottenheimer, which means he put you to sleep. He didn’t deserve to be fired after one year, especially with a revolving door at quarterback and no true number one running back after Trent Richardson was traded, but something was lacking.
Enter Pettine, who so far looks and sounds the part. Cleveland, however, has a way of destroying coaches simply by the dysfunction of the entire front office.
All anyone can say to Pettine at this time is “good luck, and don’t look behind you.”