Don’t blame Mike Pettine for being loyal to his players
Disappointing. Frustrating. Exasperating. Frustrating. Take your pick – they all work.
Even though the loss probably put an end to the Browns hopes of making the playoffs, that doesn’t mean that head coach Mike Pettine was wrong to stick with Brian Hoyer as the starting quarterback for the game.
Hoyer received a lot – OK, probably all – the blame from many quarters for the loss, but we still understand Pettine’s reasons for keeping Hoyer in the starting spot. They made sense, regardless of the outcome, and reveal why we believe that no matter how strange the coaching search was last winter, the Browns walked away with a coach who gets it.
Pettine has had a steady hand as he’s worked through his first season as a head coach. He and the coaching staff have come across as always having a solid reason behind their decisions, have done a good job explaining those reasons, and seem to have a good handle on working with the players.
He’s also done a nice job with the media in dealing with a season-long series of asinine questions – most revolving around Johnny Manziel. Through it all, Pettine has answered questions honestly and in a way that didn’t make the questioner feel moronic (no matter how much they probably deserved it.)
Pettine and the coaching staff have stuck true to the philosophy of using the players that give the Browns the best chance to win – see undrafted rookie K’Waun Williams playing over first-round draft pick Justin Gilbert – and in the case of Sunday’s game against the Colts that was clearly Hoyer.
Hoyer wasn’t able to reward that loyalty, of course, but that falls more on him that Pettine. Something is clearly up with Hoyer as his confidence is shot – or maybe he’s finally hit his ceiling as a starting quarterback – but Pettine clearly saw something during the week that made him believe that Hoyer gave the Browns the best chance against the Colts.
While Sundays are the showcase, so much more goes into an NFL game than just the three-plus hours that fans see. No one outside the team really knows how players are reacting during meetings, film study or practices during the week. Hoyer had to have shown the coaches that there was still enough of a glimmer of the quarterback that led the Browns to a 7-4 record and big wins against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati to give him one last chance.
Having said that, the game against the Colts should have been just that – Hoyer’s last shot as the starting quarterback. There is a fine line between being loyal and being stubborn, and if Pettine were to name Hoyer the starter for the final three games of the season he would definitely being crossing that line.
Judging by all the stories coming out of Berea today from unnamed sources, it sounds as if Pettine realizes he’s come as close to the line as he possibly can and will name Johnny Manziel as the starter for Sunday’s home finale against Cincinnati. (And is there truly any better source than an unnamed one? It’s the best way to ensure you will never be wrong if you use them as writer.)
While no official word has come from the Browns on the quarterback change, it sure sounded as if Pettine was ready to make a move during his Monday press conference.
“When you look at (Brian’s) last couple of weeks, he could have elevated the play. There were some throws I know he made mistakes on and some where it was a mutual thing,” Pettine said. “I think there are very few quarterbacks in this league that fall into that category of making the guys around them better or that can overcome any circumstance whether it’s an offensive line, whether it’s the receiving corps, whether it’s the run game. There are very few. The guy we just played against (Andrew Luck), I would put on that list, but there are very few.
“We’re in a results business. We’ve lost two in a row and we all know what the numbers have been in the pass game and for us to be successful they need to improve.”
There’s no way of knowing if Manziel will make a difference or not. Maybe having Manziel on the field will convince Josh Gordon to not give up on his routes. Maybe having Manziel on the field will help Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West hold onto the ball and gain more than 16 yards in the second half this Sunday against the Bengals. Maybe Manziel can make Billy Cundiff actually make a field goal.
Or maybe none of it will matter because Manziel will make the same kind of mistakes that Hoyer has made over the past five weeks. There’s no way of knowing, of course, until the Browns put Manziel on the field and let everyone see what he can actually do over the course of a 60-minute game – as opposed to one drive late in a game the Browns were losing by 17 points.
There is plenty of blame to go around as the Browns have fallen from first place in the AFC North division to the brink of playoff elimination.
Blaming Pettine for being loyal to his players shouldn’t be part of the discussion, however.
Big talk from a mediocre coach
He may have apologized for it today, but we were still surprised that Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis would refer to Johnny Manziel as a “midget” during a radio interview on Monday.
Lewis was responding to a question about the possibility of facing Manziel rather than Brian Hoyer on Sunday.
“You’ll get a little bit more movement if Manziel is the quarterback, same thing they did against Buffalo,” Lewis said. “But other than that, no, that doesn’t impact you at all. You gotta go defend the offense, you don’t defend the player. Particularly a midget.”
That’s nice, particularly coming from someone who in 12 years as a head coach has a career record that is all of nine games over .500 and who is 0-5 in the playoffs.
Stay classy, Cincinnati.
A sad anniversary
We meant to mention this yesterday, which was the 34th anniversary of the senseless murder of John Lennon in New York City.
While Lennon’s death may not be on par with that of a head of state, it still was a “remember where you were” moment for a generation.
(Photo courtesy of USA Today)