October 1, 2014

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Combine Notes: Former bosses Rex Ryan, Doug Marrone give Mike Pettine strong endorsements

Rex Ryan

Rex Ryan

INDIANAPOLIS — Rex Ryan took Mike Pettine under his wing and oversaw his rise through the coaching ranks. So Ryan, the Jets’ coach, was asked Thursday at the scouting combine what the Browns are getting in Pettine, who was hired as head coach Jan. 23.

“Not much,” he said, looking, like usual, for a laugh.

“He’s not a very handsome kid,” Ryan continued. “I’ll start right there, that’s pretty obvious. But he’s a football junkie. He’s a smart guy. And I think he’ll want to be great, I don’t think there’s any doubt about it.

“I feel fortunate that I had Mike with me for as many years as I did, and hopefully he learned a few things — what to do, maybe what not to do — from me. But I’m sure he’s going to be very successful.”

Pettine left a job as a high school coach and teacher to be a video assistant with the Ravens in 2002. Ryan was defensive line coach, later promoted to coordinator, then hired as Jets coach. He saw something early in Pettine, and Ryan eventually hired him as coordinator with the Jets in 2009.

“We had conversations and it was clear that this guy grew up very similar to the way I did, in a football home,” Ryan said, referring to the fact both of their fathers are coaches. “Smart, so I was drawn to him that way. Did a tremendous job. You talk about a guy working from the ground floor up, that’s him.

“That’s why I think he’s going to be an excellent coach. He’s got the work ethic, he’s got the passion, the drive and the background he’s had I think will help also. Growing up the son of a legendary coaching father I think helps.”

Pettine left Ryan and the Jets after 2012. He spent 2013 as coordinator for the Bills under first-year coach Doug Marrone.

“Mike is very knowledgeable, very smart, has a great work ethic and we wish him the best of luck,” Marrone said.

Marrone was asked if he’d describe Pettine as hard-nosed.

“I just respect him. I don’t look to characterize people by labeling them,” he said. “I just think he’s a very hard worker, he’s very demanding, knows exactly what he wants and does a good job communicating that with the players.”

WEEDEN ON WAY OUT?
Quarterback Brandon Weeden, the No. 22 pick in 2012, isn’t expected to return to the Browns for a third season, and new general manager Ray Farmer said nothing to change that speculation.

“Do I think he can be a winning quarterback in the NFL? Let me say this,” Farmer started. “Once you’re in the National Football League, you’re graded upon your performance and what you were able to achieve at that moment. We have a grade on Brandon. In time, his agent and he will both know where we stand with Brandon and he will be able to release that information.”

Farmer wouldn’t answer when asked if the team will part ways with Weeden, who’s 5-15 as a starter with a 71.8 rating.

“We’re only going to talk to Brandon directly and his agent,” Farmer said. “If they decide to tell everyone else where they’re at and what decisions have been made, then that’s truly in their court.”

BACK TOGETHER
The last time Bill Belichick and Michael Lombardi worked together was with the Browns from 1991-95. They’ve reunited with the Patriots.

Lombardi, who was fired as Browns general manager last week after a year on the job, was hired as an assistant to the coaching staff.

“Mike’s got a lot of experience,” Belichick said. “He’s done a lot of things in his career in the NFL. He’ll certainly be doing many of those things for us. We’ll see how it goes.”

After working for other teams following his first stint in Cleveland, Lombardi spent five years as an analyst for the NFL Network, so Belichick was asked why he didn’t hire him during that window.

“We do what we always do — what we think is best for our football team,” he said.

** Another former Browns employee got a new job Thursday. Eric Mangini, who was Browns coach in 2009-10, was named tight ends coach by the 49ers. Mangini spent last season as an offensive consultant for San Francisco.

NOT A RAVE REVIEW
Ken Whisenhunt interviewed with the Browns during their coaching search last offseason, but Rob Chudzinski was hired. Whisenhunt interviewed again this offseason but was hired by the Titans.

Whisenhunt was asked if outgoing CEO Joe Banner’s presence had anything to do with him not taking the job.

“I can’t comment on that because there’s a lot of things that go on,” he said. “It’s just one of the things that was going on. There’s nothing to really say about it.”

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King reported that during the latest interview Whisenhunt asked why he wasn’t hired in 2013 and Banner said the staff he was assembling wasn’t championship-caliber.

“Who are you to tell me what makes up a championship coaching staff?” Whisenhunt said, with an edge in his voice, according to King’s report.

Whisenhunt was asked Thursday if the quote was accurate.

“I don’t recall exactly what was said in those meetings,” he said. “There was a lot going on at that time. As an exact quote, there was not an exact quote from me that was in that article.

“I’m honored to be considered to work with the Browns. I have a lot of respect for Mr. Haslam and that organization.”

SECOND THOUGHTS?
During last year’s draft, the Browns and Steelers made their first trade since 1968. Banner gave up a fourth-round pick in 2013 in exchange for a third-rounder this year.

The Steelers selected Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas with the 111th pick. Cleveland’s pick in May will be No. 83.

Thomas (5-foot-9, 217 pounds) was bothered by an ankle injury, started two of 14 games and totaled 29 tackles. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, who called the upcoming draft the deepest in his 30 years, was asked how he’d grade the trade.

“Shamarko Thomas (was) a safety that we felt was worth a third-round pick. We’d do it again today,” Colbert said. “But the result was the 8-8 (record), and we’ll see whether Shamarko can help change that. If he does, it was a good deal. If he doesn’t, it wasn’t.”

In 1968, the Browns got the better of the Steelers — Cleveland received quarterback Bill Nelsen for quarterback Dick Shiner.

EXTRA POINTS
Farmer confirmed Bill Kuharich was hired as a personnel consultant. He was Farmer’s boss in Kansas City, and served as vice president of player personnel and director of pro personnel. He previously worked for the Saints for 14 years, including as general manager.

** Farmer said he and Pettine have come up with a hierarchy of positions to address, along with the order and way they’ll be addressed.

** Farmer wouldn’t say if he’s looking for players for a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive scheme. The Browns ran a 3-4 base last year under coordinator Ray Horton.

“Mike has demonstrated that he’s a versatile defensive coach,” Farmer said. “We’re going to look for the best football players.”

** Farmer gave a shout-out to Linell Brookins, a season ticket holder since 1999. The Mentor resident recognized Farmer at a restaurant in Indianapolis and they had coffee.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @scottpetrak.