“I’m just happy to have a coach,” he said.
The Browns flew to Mobile, Ala., on Tuesday to interview Pettine for the second time at the Senior Bowl. The four-hour meeting came shortly after Gase, the first candidate the team contacted, called Haslam and withdrew from consideration.
The team had been expected to give Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn a second interview, but if he was their pick, the Browns would have had to wait until after the Super Bowl to finalize a deal. Banner said the decision to hire Pettine before speaking with Quinn a second time was “tough.”
As six other teams filled their head-coaching vacancies, the Browns kept looking. The lengthy delay led to a national perception the team didn’t have a clear plan.
Aware of the criticism, Haslam sent a letter to Cleveland fans last week explaining why the team was being “methodical” in finding Chudzinski’s replacement.
Haslam argued the view of the Browns was media driven.
“That’s a perception that you all have generated,” he said to reporters. “That’s not the perception among candidates or football people that I’ve talked to around the country.”
Browns CEO Joe Banner took a playful jab at Cleveland’s front office, which was characterized locally as “The Three Stooges” when the search began.
“I don’t know if you had a chance to meet Mike, but since (GM) Mike Lombardi and I are Moe and Larry, we went and set out to find Curly and we succeeded,” he said. “That’s why it took so long; there aren’t a lot of Curlys running around the country.”
Now that he’s in place, Pettine is ready to roll up his sleeves and fix the Browns. Football is in his blood.
He learned the game from his father, Mike Pettine Sr., who won four Pennsylvania state championships and retired as the winningest coach in state history.
Not long after getting the job, Pettine phoned his dad.
“It was special,” he said. “It didn’t last very long because he knew I had a lot of stuff to get done. My poor mom answered the phone and he said “Is that Michael?” He ripped it out of her hands. They were both excited and knew how much work it went into this.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org