Mike Pettine’s story will become more and more reported and discussed over time. In general, he impressed at the Cleveland Browns' news conference.
Of course he said he’s not interested in winning a news conference, which is good. A new coach generally wins the news conference by default. Pettine did a good job, but the news conference reflected the feelings about the team -- it was the most subdued new hire introduction in memory.
Pettine still expressed himself well. Here are four things to like:
Blunt honesty. It’s good to hear a coach say he’s not interested in winning a news conference. And that he feels uncomfortable in a suit. Pettine wants to win on the field, and he said more than once he wanted to get in his office and start calling people to fill out a staff. He answers questions by looking a person in the eye, and he doesn’t hide from a question. At one point, the notion was brought up to him that there is a perception the Browns are behind the eight ball in assembling a staff. “That’s not a perception,” he said. “That’s absolute reality.” He then said building his staff is priority one. “We’re behind building a staff,” he said. “And we’re behind the rest of the league in terms of our preparation for free agency and our preparation for the draft.”
His approach to his daughter’s tweet. It was awkward to ask Pettine about it. Family issues at times can be touchy, and probably should be private. But much was made of it because it reinforced the notion that the Browns' job is not a good one, and Pettine did not hide from it. He talked about how much it upset Megan, 19, how the two had a long talk about the risks in social media, and how special their relationship is. He concluded by saying she sent him a text Thursday morning that would make a father cry. Pettine’s a tough guy, but that was a touching moment. Any parent understood, and appreciated his approach.
Defensive continuity. Pettine ran a 3-4 base, multiple-front attacking defense in Buffalo and in New York with Rex Ryan. That is basically the same defense Ray Horton ran last season. So the players are in place to play it, they're used to playing it and the system won’t have a complete overhaul. There will be new terminology and new wrinkles (football word), but Pettine does not figure to completely start fresh with the defense. For folks like Joe Haden and Jabaal Sheard and Phil Taylor, that is a good thing.
Not forcing the system. Pettine wouldn’t even specify the offensive or defensive systems, not because of some ridiculous code of secrecy, but because he said he wanted first to evaluate the roster -- and he and his staff will watch every play from last season. Pettine will bring the defensive system he ran in Buffalo and New York. But on offense, he wants to see what he has before deciding. “I’ve always been of the mindset that you never fit your players to your system; you fit your system to your players,” Pettine said. That can be a good thing. Although a lot of teams have succeeded running the same system for years, the Browns have not done anything for years but lose. At this point in the team’s history, it needs to win, and finding the best way to win might require more adjustments from the coach than the players.