BEREA — Mike Pettine had to feel the earth shift under his feet. He had been coach of the Browns for less than three weeks when CEO Joe Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi — two of the people most involved in his hiring — were fired Tuesday by owner Jimmy Haslam.
But Pettine has too much to do to be distracted or dwell on the abruptness of the change. He’s met several times with new GM Ray Farmer and has embraced the critical relationship.
“It was nothing that was talked about obviously during the interview process,” Pettine said Thursday of the front office overhaul. “But it was a clear message from the owner of his commitment to bringing stability to the franchise looking forward.
“I think it shows a commitment by the owner that he realized there were some issues and he wanted to make things right. As controversial as it was and as shocking as it was, I think that he’s a believer and he wasn’t going to let things stay the way they were. It was a move he decided to make, and we’re full speed ahead.”
Pettine said he’s been working 16 to 18 hours a day, but took a short break Thursday to walk downstairs to the team’s field house and attend a PLAY 60 event for Special Olympics kids from the Cleveland Metropolitan school district. During a quick interview with reporters, he stressed the importance of his relationship with Farmer and their instant connection.
“I can already tell we’re going to have a tremendous relationship. From the moment that I met him, I think it was very natural, our conversations, our philosophy about football, the draft, free agency, how to build a team,” Pettine said. “He and I are going to be — and he’s used the term — in lockstep from here on out. The fact that he wasn’t in on the interview process I think was a little bit overblown. I know he was involved from afar.”
Farmer and Pettine have had several meetings in the last few days. The first-time GM and first-time coach must be of the same mind when it comes to building a roster.
“I think the GM-coach relationship has to be the best in the building, because if they’re not on the same page, then not much is going to get done,” Pettine said. “I think we’ve already gotten a great start to it. We have very similar philosophies on how things should be done.”
The offensive and defensive coaches met with Farmer and the personnel department to describe exactly the type of players they want to fit their systems at each position.
“We kind of gave them some prototypes around the league, who on the roster looks like them and then went ahead and prioritized the needs from there,” Pettine said. “I think we’re ahead of the game as far as sharing information to the personnel staff.”
The organization restructuring leaves Pettine reporting directly to Haslam. Farmer and president Alec Scheiner, who will run the business side, also report to Haslam. In the old setup, everyone reported to Banner.
“I’m very comfortable with (the new structure),” Pettine said. “But I’d be remiss if I didn’t say anything about Joe. I’m very thankful to Joe. I don’t know if I’d be here without him. In just that short period of time, I learned a lot about how to handle business in the National Football League and a lot of his thoughts and philosophies. Mike Lombardi as well. Tremendous evaluator of talent.
“It was bittersweet to not work with those guys because I think we had bonded very quickly through the interview process and the time that we were here, but it was a move that was made that Mr. Haslam felt was in the best interest of the franchise, and that’s where we are.”