Pettine needs reality check
Browns coach Mike Pettine is starting to dance the dance of coaches who are beginning to run out of things to say.
His football team is playing bad football. Fans are angry and frustrated. And the correct answers to his problems have not yet arrived.
Sounding more delusional that realistic at times, he addressed the grim situation with the Cleveland media last Monday.
“As I have said before, this is a pass-fail league,” he said, “and we’ve failed a heck of a lot more times than we have passed and that’s the bottom line.” So far, so good.
And then he comes in with this: “My mind-set hasn’t changed and I have addressed this before. If you start coaching to save your job, then you’re not doing your job. I don’t operate like that. I don’t think that you can work that way or else it just becomes self-fulfilling.”
All coaches, no matter the sport, constantly coach to save their jobs whether they realize it or not. They are tethered to their success rate. They are judged on any number of levels, the win-loss record obviously the ultimate bottom line. Win and you get to stick around. Lose and it’s adios.
Pettine said he and his staff will take the time during the bye week to more closely examine why his team has lost five straight games and how it can be fixed. He got off to good start by admitting “we’re not playing good enough football, playing complete games.
“We’re not playing well enough. We’re not coaching well enough and that has to be improved. . . . We own the fact that our record (2-8) is what it is.”
And then he spoiled it. “We can put together a lot of clips – a lot of clips – of us playing at a high level,” he said. “We’re capable of winning a lot of football games. But we haven’t found a way to finish.”
That is so easy to say. Any coach can break down film or tape of games and pick and choose to show only one side of a game story. The negative layers are all too often ignored.
What Pettine did not say was he can also put together a lot of clips – significantly more than the previous group of clips – that show just why the Browns again are scraping the bottom of the AFC North Division.
At least he is correct when obliquely states his team lacks the talent to finish games. That’s one of the big differences between winning and losing. The line between winning and losing often times is razor thin for average teams.
The only consistency the Browns have displayed this season is their inconsistency. You never know what to expect from this underachieving group almost from possession to possession.
And then the coach made a mistake with regards to the way his team plays on game day.
“We get some young guys who fall back into some old habits on game day – things they execute well in practice well – foot work, getting hands on guys and that type of stuff,” he said. “Unfortunately, you get guys in the game and they kind of lose their minds a little bit.”
So that’s it. It’s the players’ fault, not the coaches’.
At no time did Pettine acknowledge that his team can’t run the ball, can’t stop the run and pass, has trouble protecting the quarterback and has a meek pass rush.
He did admit, however, that he has been disappointed with the offensive line and secondary. “We thought (those two groups) were going to be the anchors and both have underperformed for a variety of reasons,” he said.
Underperformed is putting it mildly. Those units have been awful, but Pettine can’t say that. Why not? For the secondary, it’s probably the injury absence of Joe Haden and Donte Whitner. But all teams have injuries, so no tears shed there.
There are no such reasons for the offensive line, although there has been a large degree of consistency with those five grunts. They have been bad from almost the first snap of the season. They are the main reason this offense has been hit and miss all season.
There is no question the Browns play hard. No quarrel there. But playing hard is not translating into victories. Why not? Lack of talent. And that is not the fault of the coach.