The Browns took a public relations beating during their 25-day head-coaching search partly because two of the 10 candidates they interviewed in person withdrew from consideration and another eliminated himself before a meeting ever took place.
Well, it turns out the guy who took the job Thursday was close to dropping out of the running, too.
New Browns coach Mike Pettine told the Buffalo Bills’ flagship radio station that he almost removed himself from contention out of consideration for the Bills and coach Doug Marrone. Pettine served as the Bills’ defensive coordinator during the 2013 regular season.
“That was starting to wear on me these last couple of days,” Pettine said Thursday during an interview with WGR-AM 550. “I talked to Doug and it was getting to the point where I'd say, 'Hey, if this goes on much longer, I need to pull out, because it's just not fair to the Bills.’”
Pettine interviewed with the Browns three times – Jan. 16, Tuesday and then Thursday for one hour before finalizing his five-year contract as the franchise’s 15th full-time head coach and the seventh since 1999.
Pettine said he didn’t feel any pressure from the Bills to eliminate himself as a candidate. Actually, he said Marrone, who interviewed with the Browns last year before they hired Rob Chudzinski, helped him prep for his meetings with owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner.
With Pettine becoming anxious, the Browns chose not to interview Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn a second time. Quinn will coach against the Denver Broncos Feb. 2 in Super Bowl XLVIII. NFL rules would’ve permitted him to interview with the Browns no later than Sunday, though they wouldn’t have been allowed to strike a deal to hire him until after the title game.
Banner conceded it was difficult to move on from Quinn and the decision not to wait for a second interview with him wasn’t made until Thursday. Banner spoke as if Quinn was the other finalist for the job.
“I think we felt that we knew [Quinn] well enough to make the comparison,” Banner said. “That was a tough decision frankly. He’s an outstanding guy, an outstanding coach. There’s no doubt in our mind that he’ll be an excellent head coach, so that was a tough call. But in the end, we felt we knew him well enough and had the chance to spend time with Mike, went ahead and made the decision. That’s probably the toughest decision because there’s no doubt we were very impressed with [Quinn] in the interview. He’s going to be a head coach. He’s going to be an outstanding head coach. He’s got a lot of people around the league that think very highly of him, but in the end, we decided to move forward.”
Banner said if the Browns believed Quinn would have been “likely to be prevail, we would not like to have taken 10 more days of the pummeling, but we would’ve waited.”
On Thursday, Quinn told Seattle reporters he had good interviews with the Browns and Minnesota Vikings, who also decided not to wait for him and hired Mike Zimmer. Advancing to the Super Bowl might have hurt his chances to become a head coach this year, but Quinn insisted he didn’t have any frustration about the way it all panned out.
“None. No, certainly not,” Quinn said. “I couldn’t be more fired up to be a part of this and moving forward here keeping the focus on our team, which it is. So none at all.”
If Pettine would've taken himself out of the coaching search, he would've joined New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. McDaniels and Bowles dropped out after interviewing with the Browns, though McDaniels eventually circled back and talked to the team again this week. Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase crossed his name off the Browns' wish list without interviewing.