By Adam Bennett, @HFSCleveland
So I decided to use the bye week to decompress from one of the most depressing Browns seasons in recent memory. I was going to cool down, enjoy the fact that we can’t lose this weekend, and take a break.
The “decompression period” lasted for a few days, before I stumbled upon the Mike Pettine Coach’s Show on WEWS. I figured I’d give Pettine a chance, now that everyone’s mind is clear, to hear what he has to say away from the immediate emotion of a loss.
I really tried to give Pettine every benefit of the doubt, but the more I listened to what he had to say, the more I realized that he’s lost. This team has serious problems, and he doesn’t know how to fix them. Here are some examples:
When asked by Browns in-house host Nathan Zegura what positives Pettine takes out of the start of the season (nice question, Nathan), the coach says the following:
PETTINE: “There’s a lot to be proud of, despite the record.”
Reality: We’re dead last in the National Football League and this is a fan base that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2002. You can’t change the culture by telling your guys to be proud of ANYTHING when you’re 2-8.
PETTINE: “We have some young guys that have stepped up and are playing some good football.”
Reality: Remember this answer in just a second.
PETTINE: “If you look at where we’ve overachieved, we’ve done a great job in the pass game.”
Reality: The Browns are allowing more sacks than anyone (for real, they’re worst in the league with 36 sacks allowed), and nearly half of their passing yardage comes when the team is down double digits, and opponents are either playing backup or have dramatically softened their coverage.
PETTINE: “We’ve done some really good things on special teams.”
Reality: Well, we have that going for us!
Zegura asks what improvements can be made following the bye week. Pettine gives the following answers:
Pettine: “I tell our players, we could make a cut-up of our film where we’ve played against everybody in this league that we’ve gone against at a high level.”
Reality: This may be true, but how many series is this cut up? One per game?
Pettine: “Our biggest issue has been consistency and finish. You can’t do well for 50 plays and then have two our three bad ones. It’s going to cost you.”
Reality: Is there anyone out there that watches us and says: “Damn, I wish we had just two our three plays back this game.”? Because typically we’re giving up about 20-30 astoundingly bad plays a game. This is a terrible mentality for Pettine to have.
Pettine: “We’ve got to keep battling.”
Reality: He consulted with Pat Shurmur before making that statement.
Pettine: “We’ve tried a lot of different things scheme wise.”
Reality: This is an answer that tries to take advantage of the football knowledge of Cleveland fans. Anyone with two eyes and an understanding of the game knows that Pettine and Jim O’Neil have run the same defense game in and game out regardless of the opponent, or our own personnel. Saying otherwise is just flat out false.
Pettine: “We’ve got to be able to take what we do on the practice field and translate it to our games.”
Reality: When you’ve got guys like Johnson Bademosi in one-on-one coverage against guys like Antonio Brown, it doesn’t matter how good Bademosi looks on the practice field against Dwayne Bowe. It’s not gonna work out well during the game.
Pettine: “I think we have inexperienced guys that get out there and get caught in the moment.”
Reality: This is where I asked you to remember his “hey, we’ve got young guys playing well!” answer from above. You can’t use the “young guys are playing well” argument and then two minutes turn around and say, “listen, we’re losing because we’ve got young guys that aren’t playing well.” Doesn’t work like that here in the real world.
Zegura offered one more chance for Pettine to address how he was going to fix things, and he gave the same answer that he gave three weeks ago, and then two weeks ago after the Cincinnati game:
“PETTINE: I’ve challenged our guys to be introspective. To look at things they can do better, and that includes me.”
The problem is, of course, no one knows the answers to what they can do better. Coaches are telling players to just continue doing exactly what they’ve been doing, which ultimately tells us that they, in turn, don’t know what they’re doing.
In the end, Pettine is proving he’s a system coach that’s far overmatched for the task of evaluating his own talent, and creating a system that works for that talent. Because of that, he’s not the long-term answer for this franchise.