I don’t want this to come across the wrong way, but I am starting to have a man-crush on Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine. And with this being what the kiddos like to call “Man Crush Monday,” I thought I would talk about mine.
When Pettine became the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, I had no reaction to it. I didn’t know him, and we’ve seen so many coaches come and go that who even bothers to care anymore? I have mentioned in the past that I have developed a Show Me attitude about the Browns organization, and the same went for the new head coach.
I wasn’t disappointed in the hiring. Browns fans had this delusional idea that Vince Lombardi was going to crawl out of the grave and lead this team to Super Bowl glory, but I knew better. As long as this team is dysfunctional, nobody with any credibility is going to come here and risk ruining their reputation. Not Jon Gruden. Not Bill Cowher. Not Nick Saban. We hired yet another rookie coordinator coach? No surprise to me.
The first thing I heard after the hiring was this “Play like a Brown” slogan. Oh boy. Please, do anything BUT play like a Brown. Playing like a Brown meant throwing underhanded passes that get picked off and punting and losing a lot of games. I knew that bitter fans were just salivating for the team to do bad so they could say, “They’re playing like a Brown.”
I didn’t follow the offseason nor camp, and I didn’t watch a snap of the first two preseason games. “Show me.”
Then I got this gig at the greatest Cleveland sports website in the history of the internet (that may or may not be hyperbole, but we seem to live in the age of it, so don’t you dare question it!), and so I started paying attention. The team was playing a horrible preseason and I just figured 2014 would be like 2013, 2012, 2011….okay, let’s stop right there. You get the point.
The first half of that Pittsburgh Steelers game ended and I have to admit that I was a little ticked off. What did I expect? And yet, I just couldn’t get my head around why this team had to be so awful every single season with so many pieces being changed. Can’t SOMEBODY get it right?!
Well, no reason to recap that game. Browns come all the way back, look like an offensive juggernaut, but lose on a last-second field goal over ISIS. I mean, the Steelers. I have to admit that I enjoyed the comeback. No, I wasn’t about to talk about moral victories, but at least it was entertaining! I’ve always asked of the Browns, “Even if you’re going to lose, at least be entertaining!” But they rarely ever were.
It was what happened after the game and the next day that started making me notice our new head coach: He refused to play up the comeback.
“There’s a phrase for almost winning. It’s called ‘losing’.” Okay, “losing” is a word and not a phrase, but the guy scored some major points with me right there. (He did correct himself the following Monday, for the record.)
He stayed even about the loss, though, not overreacting. No Dennis Green “they were who we thought they were” rants. Just “this is a win/lose league and we lost” attitude. But also no Butch Davis “they fought their guts out” blubbering, either. I really liked it.
When they won the next week against the New Orleans Saints, he came out and again was pretty even about the win, despite it being a big upset. Again, I liked it. The guy seems all business. He’s not a Romeo Crennel softy and not an Eric Mangini hard-ass.
He addressed the media very matter-of-factly. When, in game four, Travis Benjamin fumbled a fair catch, yet went on to catch two touchdowns including the game-winner, Pettine acknowledged to the media that Benjamin “obviously” had some confidence issues with punt returns, and then praised him for being able to not let it affect him as a wide receiver. Candid. Honest. Both were deserved.
Every time the guy speaks, I wonder two things: 1) “Are you sure he’s a rookie?” and 2) “Where can I get a helmet because I want to play for him?”
Am I saying he’s the reincarnation of Bill Walsh? Of course not. They’ve barely played a quarter of a season. The Show Me attitude didn’t dissipate because they have climbed over the .500 mark. Am I saying he’s the second coming of Pat Shurmur? I have to answer, “Obviously not.”
I mentioned in my post game article on Sunday that it gave me a lot of confidence when he was asked about the big halftime lead and he said (paraphrasing) we saw a big lead in the first match-up and we saw a big comeback. We can’t let up.
After the game, when asked about Terrance West not being activated for the Steelers game, a head-scratcher to those of us who love the way the guy runs the football, Pettine responded that while West runs well, he doesn’t do other things well and that it comes down to practice and that they are men of their word when they say that those who practice well will get a chance to play.
And so it is Mike Pettine’s ability, honesty, candor, attitude, intelligence and coolness that makes him my Man Crush Monday.