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Browns coach Mike Pettine adjusts to unexpected shake-up in front office

By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer

BEREA: Less than a month after he became coach of the Browns, Mike Pettine is facing the reality that his new job isn’t exactly what he thought it would be.

Instead of reporting directly to CEO Joe Banner, Pettine will report to owner Jimmy Haslam. Instead of working with Banner and General Manager Mike Lombardi on personnel decisions, Pettine will collaborate with new General Manager Ray Farmer.

Those are the primary ways Pettine will be affected by Haslam’s decision to oust Banner and Lombardi and to promote Farmer from his previous post as assistant GM.

When Pettine was hired Jan. 23, he had no idea the stunning moves would be carried out Tuesday morning. Now it’s time to adjust and move on.

“It was nothing that was talked about obviously during the interview process,” Pettine said Thursday during a PLAY 60 football festival in which the Browns hosted about 700 Special Olympics athletes and coaches from Cleveland schools in the team’s field house. “But it was a clear message from the owner of his commitment to bringing stability to the franchise looking forward.

“He realized there were some issues, and he wanted to make things right. As controversial as it was and as shocking as it was, I think that he’s a believer, and he wasn’t going to let things stay the way they were. It was a move he decided to make, and we’re full speed ahead.”

Pettine said he’s “very comfortable” with the revamped organizational structure, even though he also complimented Banner and Lombardi.

“It was bittersweet to not work with those guys because I think we had bonded very quickly through the interview process and the time that we were here,” Pettine said.

Pettine has never previously worked with Farmer, who now has control of football operations and the 53-man roster. And Farmer was not included in the franchise’s contingent that interviewed Pettine three times before finalizing his hire.

Still, Pettine insisted he’s not worried about how he’ll mesh with Farmer or about the fact that both of them are rookies in their new roles.

“I can already tell we’re going to have a tremendous relationship,” said Pettine, who’ll have control of the game-day roster. “From the moment that I met him, I think it was very natural.

“The fact that he wasn’t in on the interview process I think was a little bit overblown. I know he was involved from afar. But from the moment I met him, we’ve clicked, and I’m looking forward to a long and successful relationship with Ray.”

During his introductory news conference Tuesday, Farmer emphasized his job “is to ensure the success” of Pettine. Farmer also vowed to acquire players who fit the schemes of Pettine, new defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil and new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

Pettine said he has already had meetings with Farmer to develop a strategy for this offseason. The Browns are projected to have about $45 million in salary-cap space heading into free agency, which begins March 11, and they own 10 picks, including two in the first round (Nos. 4 and 26 overall), in the draft, which runs May 8-10.

“I think we have very similar philosophies on how things should be done,” Pettine said. “Whether it be the draft, draft strategy, free agency, practice, building a roster, how do you handle the bottom of the roster, all those things that could come up, I think it’s a very similar philosophy.”

The coaching staff has given Farmer a crash course on what it wants from players at specific positions.

“The individual sides of the ball have already gone down in the draft room [and have been] presented to Ray and his staff,” Pettine said. “[The coaches have said], ‘These are the position attributes we’re looking for. This is what a SAM linebacker should look like in our system. This is what a center should look like in our system now, a Y tight end, a Z receiver.’ So we gave the attributes. It’s a little more complicated than some other sports. This isn’t baseball where we’re all looking for a right-handed hitting shortstop. It’s all very scheme specific.

“We’re going to have some flexibility. If we have an outstanding player, we can match what we do to take advantage of that. But in an ideal world, these are what our players look like. We kind of gave them some prototypes around the league, who on the roster looks like them and then went ahead and prioritized the needs from there. I think we’re ahead of the game as far as sharing information to the personnel staff. I think if they have a very clear idea of what we’re looking for as a coaching staff, that only makes us better because they’re not out there wasting time on players and presenting them to us that we feel are not a fit for what we do.”

Pettine did not attempt to downplay the importance of his relationship with Farmer panning out.

“I think that you have to have people skills, and you have to be able to interact and get along in order to get things done,” Pettine said. “I think the GM-coach relationship has to be the best in the building because if they’re not on the same page, then not much is going to get done. I think we’ve already gotten a great start to it.”

Nate Ulrich can be reached at Read the Browns blog at Follow him on Twitter at and on Facebook


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