It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for ’em

FROM MY RECLINER, NJ – The Browns have finally gotten their guy. The team announced they have hired Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine, to be their next head coach. They are the last team to fill the vacancy, and they filled it with a guy they weren’t even looking at a couple weeks ago.

Josh McDaniels, Todd Bowles, and Adam Gase all turned down the opportunity to be the head guy for the Cleveland franchise. There are only 32 possible head coaching jobs. Two of those guys have never been a head coach and one has been an assistant for almost 20 years, but they didn’t want the job. Makes you wonder what the Browns were thinking when they fired Rob Chudzinski in the first place. Granted plenty of people were doing that the day it happened.

The Browns have always made questionable moves for head coaches. You’d be hard pressed to find people who liked the hiring of Pat Shurmur or Eric Mangini when they happened. Mangini was even hired the same offseason he was fired by the Jets.

I’m ok with a move like that if the coach has proven success as a head coach (think John Fox and Andy Reid), but Mangini never proved to be a success as a head coach. His best season, by far, came in his first year. The result? A wildcard berth and a first round playoff exit.

It’s easy to say the Browns are cursed, but more often than not their bad luck comes from bad decision-making. They are one of the few franchises that manage to consistently make decisions the rest of the league (hell even the blogosphere) know are bad from the get-go.

Last year the Chudzinski hiring didn’t seem stupid. Chudzinski wasn’t a big name, but he was bringing great coordinators with him. Norv Turner was brought in as the offensive coordinator and Ray Horton as defensive coordinator. Those ARE impressive names.

***I’m a big believer in the benefits of a good coordinator. I strongly believe the 2010 Chiefs outplayed their talent level because of the work of Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel as offensive and defensive coordinator, respectively. Just remember Matt Cassel was the quarterback and Todd Haley was the head coach of that team. Also remember that the offense fell apart when Weis left to Florida, and they fell off a cliff when Crennel became the head coach (essentially causing the Chiefs to lose Crennel as a coordinator and *gulp* add him as a head coach)***

Of course only a season later the Browns fired Chudzinski. Their reason? He went 4-12. Umm wasn’t this the same team that traded Trent Richardson after two games in the interest of future seasons?

***I know that trade worked out for the Browns. They got a first-round pick for a player that had what I will nicely call a subpar year. But I refuse to believe the Browns knew how well they were going to come out of that one. Let’s also remember the Browns were shopping Josh Gordon…a guy WHO LED THE NFL IN RECEIVING YARDS THIS YEAR! So excuse me if I’m not betting on the Browns scouting ability***

In the end Chudzinski had a bad offensive line, Willis McGahee from off the street, and a quarterback carousel that wouldn’t stop spinning. During the season all the focus seemed to be on future seasons. When the season ended 4-12 wasn’t seen as good enough. A bit of a disconnect, huh?

Well now the Browns have lost Horton and Turner. They’ve also lost what little respect they had in the league. The front office has been painted as a group without a plan, and this coaching search doesn’t do much to change that.

When the news came out I refused to believe they fired Chudzinsky because of the 4-12 results. It was such a universally hated move and such a shock, there just had to be a more legitimate reason. Maybe they found out he is a Neo-Nazi?

But nothing has come out. In fact, players have come out in support of Chudzinsky.

So to recap, a team that always makes dumb decisions finally seemed to make the right one. And then a season later they made a move that no one understood at the time, and just seems worse and worse every day that passes. Or basically, they are back to being the Browns. Talk about a punch to the gut.

There have even been reports that the Browns were considering Greg Schiano. Yep, they were thinking about hiring ANOTHER head coach the same offseason he was fired. Schiano is arguably less excusable than Mangini.

So they ended with Pettine. Outside of beating out Schiano for the job no one else wanted, what are his credentials?

Well no head coaching experience (unless you count high school). He has been a defensive coordinator for five seasons. Four of those are more like “glorified defensive assistant” since Rex Ryan was running the defense for the Jets.

This season he was the Bills defensive coordinator. Buffalo had a pretty good defense. Granted they ranked near the bottom in run defense (28th in the league), and lost a home game to the “underachieving” 4-12 Browns with Brandon Weeden playing the majority of the snaps at quarterback.

Even knowing that, I don’t have a problem with him as a defensive coordinator. He seemed like he’d continue to grow into the role. But the Browns didn’t hire him to be the defensive coordinator. They hired him to be head coach. A completely different role.

What’s worse is the Browns still don’t have an answer at quarterback. It’s something they’ll have to figure out this offseason. Pettine has no experience developing quarterbacks, and most of his experience comes on the defensive side of the ball. It seems a lot will depend on who they bring in as offensive coordinator, and let’s not forget how late the Browns were to hire a head coach. Not exactly a move that puts them at an advantage when it comes to hiring assistants (Norv Turner has already left to Minnesota).

For all I know this move works out. In fact, I hope it works out. I really do. It’s hard not to root for a team that always seems to find itself in the cellar. But there is nothing about this move that seems well thought out. Instead this seems like another poor decision for the Browns franchise. A tough blow for a team that seemed like it was finally turning a corner.

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