Pittsburgh and Cleveland are pretty close as far as the map is concerned with only about 135 miles separating the two cities.
As far as the NFL is concerned, however, the two couldn’t be further apart. In fact, the Steelers have always been the antithesis of the Browns, as an organization whose very foundation is built on continuity.
Since 1969, Pittsburgh’s professional football team has had a total of three head coaches — Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin — and all three of them have taken the organization to a Super Bowl title. Conversely, the Browns have had 17 different coaches, including three interim bosses, over that same span.
And remember Art Modell moved the original Browns to Baltimore so the franchise took a break from 1996 to ’98 before rebooting in ’99. Since then, Chris Palmer, Butch Davis, Terry Robiskie, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmur, Rod Chudzinski and current mentor Mike Pettine have taken turns trying to lead this team from the abyss.
Of that nondescript group the best of the bunch was Davis, who finished his 58-game tenure 10 games under .500 and led Cleveland to its only playoff appearance since its reincarnation.
With a month left in the latest disappointing season, Pettine seems destined to be the latest footnote in the search for relevance after an embarrassing 37-3 defeat to Cincinnati on Sunday dropped the Browns to 2-10 on the campaign.
It was also Pettine’s 15th setback in 17 games dating back to last season, so the only real questions left for owner Jimmy Haslem at this point are whether he will let his latest coach finish what he started this season and whether general manager Ray Farmer will join Pettine on the unemployment line.
“We haven’t had those discussions,” Pettine said when asked about his job security. “Jimmy and I had good conversations. We talk every week. Frankly, there’s a lot of football left to be played. We’re evaluated every day, whether we’re evaluating ourselves or whether it is coming from him.
“We’re just going to fall back on what we know how to do. We’re going to come in every day, prepare relentlessly like we do, we’re going to coach our players hard and we will see what happens.”
It appears Pettine and Farmer clearly don’t like each other and most of the acrimony stems from the 2014 draft when Farmer destroyed his own resume by taking Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel with the two first-round picks that could have fueled the franchise’s rebuilding efforts.
You can bet Haslam is currently being lobbied from both sides right now, with Farmer spinning the raw talent of his two busts and claiming they can be saved with sound and patient coaching. The Pettine camp, meanwhile, is surely lamenting the fact it was saddled with two, immature kids not ready for prime time and pointing toward the due diligence of Farmer and his staff.
The reality here is each side failed.
Gilbert has all the measurables you need to play corner in this league but should have been nowhere near the top 10 of the draft with plenty of scouts calling him a boom-or-bust type because of the questionable work ethic that has indeed surfaced in Cleveland. Manziel’s issues were quite evident leading into the draft, but others not named Jerry Jones were wise enough to see his sense of entitlement and hard-partying lifestyle.
That said, Pettine has hardly been helpful in trying to unlock the potential of each and by all accounts he wanted nothing to do with Manziel before he ever took an NFL snap. To be blunt, that’s not leadership.
Sunday’s loss was the Browns’ worst ever to Cincinnati and instead of closing the gap with the haves in he AFC North, it’s only widening.
“It’s frustrating,” Pettine admitted. “We talked about it throughout the week, we talked about it at the team meeting last night – you find out who you are. You find out who you are. It’s a healthy dose of adversity and guys respond to it in different ways. You find out real quick.”
And we’ve found out all we need to know about Pettine and Farmer.
Continuity is important to NFL success but only when the stability surrounds accomplished people who understand how to do their job and perform at a high level.
The Browns just haven’t found that yet and until they do, the churning will not only continue, it should.
— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.
Also check @JFMcMullen on Twitter for John’s upcoming appearances on YAHOO! Sports Radio, FOX Sports Radio, YAHOO! Sports Radio Indiana, Omaha’s The Zone, Mobile’s WNSP, Baltimore’s 105.7 The Fan, 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, 92.9 The Game in Atlanta, The Score 1260 in Syracuse, Sirius’ Mad Dog Sports Radio, ESPN 1530 in Cincinnati, TSN 1290 in Winnipeg, TSN 690 in Montreal and WNSR in Nashville.