Just a quick scoot south on Route 237 from my home sits Berea, Ohio. This is the home of the Cleveland Bills… err… I mean… The Cleveland Browns. Sorry about that. Give me a chance to talk about this for a few minutes and I think you will understand why I was confused.
On Thursday, January 23, the Cleveland Browns hired Mike Pettine, the Bills’ former defensive coordinator, as their new head coach. If you read my post I just linked to, you’ll see that I really liked Mike Pettine as a person. As a coach, I’m, as yet, undecided. He’s gotta coach some football games for the Browns before I will pass my judgement.
On Monday, January 27th, I read a couple of reports stating that the Browns are hiring Chuck Driesbach, the man who was the Inside Linebackers coach for the Bills this past season. According to Driesbach, he was let go by the Bills on January 13th for apparently no reason.
Reports also came out this week that the Browns have been granted permission to interview the Bills’ current Outside Linebackers coach Jim O’Neil for their vacant Defensive Coordinator position. And according to a tweet by Mike Rodak, Doug Marrone said “to the best of my knowledge” Jim O’Neil will be leaving the Bills to become the Browns’ Defensive Coordinator. This is great! You know why? Because O’Neil played for Pettine’s father, Mike Sr. (the greater Pettine), in high school. So he is probably able to give Mike Pettine a few pointers here and there which he picked up from playing under Mike’s father, which I’m sure Jimmy Haslam is really excited about!
Brian Fleury, the Bills’ Defensive Quality Control man (whatever that is), and Jeff Hafley, a Defensive Assistant for the Bills (hired by the Bills only a couple of weeks ago), have also been reported as coming over from the Bills to join the Browns.
What the heck is going on? Now, I know it’s pretty common for coaches to retain their trusted colleagues and bring them from team to team with them, as long as they have the power to do so. And Pettine bringing O’Neil was pretty much expected since they’ve coached together for the past 5 years with the Jets and Bills. But it feels like the entire defensive staff is coming over from the Bills. My friend Clayton, a Buffalo transplant and Bills fan who is currently living in Cleveland, e-mailed me and asked me that same question: What the heck is going on?
My thought process really doesn’t lean toward evaluating these men’s qualifications… it leans more towards asking a couple of questions:
- Do I really want my team to become the Bills?
- Hasn’t this kind of thing already happened here in Cleveland?
Do I really want my team to become the Bills?
Well, besides the 4 consecutive Super Bowl appearances (and consecutive losses), the Bills and Browns have pretty much been the same team for a while now. So I ask myself… what’s the difference, really? But, in reality, there is a difference… at least there was this year when it comes to the defenses. This coaching staff that Pettine is bringing in coached a defense that put up some really good numbers with, arguably, less talent than the Browns’ defense. Here is a small comparison:
Bills – 57 for 395 Yards Lost
Browns – 40 for 185 Yards Lost
Bills – 23
Browns – 14
Bills – 12
Browns – 9
Now, I don’t know how much of this is just raw talent and athleticism, but this coaching staff also brought up a guy who did this to the Browns:
I remember watching the acrobatic, super athletic, jumping over a 6′ 4″ center, ridiculous play from my seat at Cleveland Browns Sta… I mean, Pilot/Flying J… no… Oh yeah, First Energy Stadium (which is sorely lacking of energy, by the way). I looked at my buddy Quinn and said “who the heck is that???” Yeah, that’s when I first realized that, as much as I initially (and still do) liked the Browns’ pick of Barkevious Mingo, I wished the Browns had picked Alonso.
The bottom line is, the Bills had a solid defense last year and, naturally talented or not, coached up a stud in Kiko Alonso.
So, do I want my team to become the Bills? Kinda… yeah. Will these guys make great coaches and have the same or similar success in their newly promoted positions? I have no clue… but I really hope so!
Hasn’t this kind of thing already happened here in Cleveland?
When I read that Pettine was bringing in all of his homies from his dad’s high school football team, the Jets, and the Bills (even though one was only with him for a week or so), I couldn’t help but think of “Mike Holmgren’s” hirings. In fact, the past few big-guys-in-Berea’s hirings have been done in the same fashion. It makes my stomach hurt just thinking about it. It makes it hard not to think “same old Browns.”
I’m always skeptical whenever someone hires their bros. I initially feel like they’re just giving their buddies jobs.
But then I think about it from this perspective, and I hope this is the case with Pettine… maybe, just maybe they’re bringing in their “bros” because those guys are actually quality people that they want around. Based on the fact that Pettine was quoted as saying: “I’m not looking for someone to go to lunch with. It’s going to be all about winning.” I’m hoping it’s the latter.
Plus, if the Browns can re-sign TJ Ward this off-season, the new coaching staff has a heck of a decent defense to work with and help improve. We also get to see if they can turn KeKe (Mingo) into Kiko and become more than just a one down player.
So, in conclusion: Yes, I would like it if the Browns turned into the Bills… at least on defense. And, yes, we’ve seen guys hiring their friends on a number of occasions since 1999. Does that mean we’ll have the same result this time? Maybe, but I hope not.
Now if you’ll excuse me, my teeth need a solid brushing.