The Browns have taken a lot of punishing body blows in the past three or four weeks. The team is probably weary of them -- Joe Banner said many were unjustified -- but it’s hard to think a good amount of them were not self-inflicted.
The decision to fire Rob Chudzinski after one season put fans over the edge. And, it seems, media as well. That doesn’t mean Jimmy Haslam is right when he says it’s the media that created the negative perception of the team, but it does mean that the team’s constant and never-ending cycle of change may have hit a boiling point for those who follow the team.
Clearly, the new management team cannot be held responsible for the follies of the previous seasons, but it also can’t separate itself from it either.
The Browns seem to want to embrace the good things about the team. Its fan base, its tradition, its proximity to the Hall of Fame. But when it comes to the struggles of the past years, the team wants to divorce itself.
It’s a nice idea, but it’s not reality. When you take over the team, you take over the entire team, good and bad.
Fans cannot divorce themselves from anything. The cumulative experience since 1999 has been negative, and perhaps it’s tough for a new group to completely understand how negative it has been until it experiences the intensity of the feelings.
To fire a coach after one season falls into the same trap of the past. The Browns have had five coaches since 2008. Every other AFC North team has had one.
To pretend this move with Chudzinski was not unfair or did not feed into the same perceptions and negativity that the team has fostered for years is unrealistic. It may be justifiable, it may be arguable, but it is not something that can be separated from the past.
What’s interesting is that the hire of a new coach has done little to quell the negativity. Usually a new coach gains some honeymoon time for the team. That hasn’t happened.
Eventually the sniping will fade, but it hasn’t and the perceptions of the team remain in, shall we say, a bad spot.
This is nothing against Mike Pettine, who was impressive and more than cordial in his first day with the media. He deserves a fair shot and a fair chance. From everyone.
But when the coach hired a year ago didn’t get a fair shot, it makes it tough for happy-happy-joy-joy moments.
Let’s take a look at what folks have been writing.
Jeff Darcy of the Plain Dealer’s editorial board continues to not be shy about expressing his opinions. He has a litany of contradictions that he feels came from the Browns -- including the word that Josh McDaniels was not the team’s first choice yet the team communicated with McDaniels after New England was knocked out of the playoffs to make sure he wasn’t reconsidering. Writes Darcy: The length of the time the team took to hire a coach “doesn't bother me as much as the self-serving spin that came from 'league sources' and the Browns front office ... which you get the feeling, sometimes, was one in the same.”
Tom Reed of the Northeast Ohio Media Group has a nice profile of Pettine, showing how his decision to leave high school coaching job to take an entry level job with the Ravens was a huge risk, but one that led to his standing at the podium as the Browns' 15th head coach.
The Plain Dealer’s Bud Shaw has produced some very strong columns on the hire, including two since Thursday’s news conference. On Friday, he admitted that many are numb to what the Browns do these days, writing: “Who knows? Offense is king one year. Defense is good enough the next. Two coaching searches. Approximately 20 coaches met and dissected. The result: two first-time head coaches who weren’t near the top of the list when the process began. That speaks to a self-limiting organizational structure.” On Sunday, he wrote about the importance of finding the right offensive coordinator for a coach whose NFL career has been walking the defensive sideline.
Finally, Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland WKNR admits that the Browns have taken a beating, but says the hiring of a coach could change things. “[T]he healing of the battered franchise began on Thursday with the introduction of Mike Pettine, 47, as their new coach.”