We greatly appreciate Ray and Mike’s dedication and hard work while with the Cleveland Browns. We’ve made this decision because we don’t believe our football team is positioned well for the future. We are all disappointed with where we are and I take full responsibility. We will approach the search for our next football coach and executives to lead our football operations with a clear vision regarding what we need to do to build a successful organization. We will be methodical in looking for strong, smart leaders with high character who are relentlessly driven to improve our football team, willing to look at every resource possible to improve, and who embrace collaboration to ultimately make the best decisions for the Cleveland Browns. We are fully committed to bringing our fans the winning organization they so clearly deserve.
Pettine addressed his tenure in Cleveland in a statement released on Monday:
I would like to thank Dee and Jimmy Haslam for the opportunity they granted me to lead the Cleveland Browns as head coach for the past two seasons. Although I wish I could have brought more wins to the franchise for the passionate fans of this great city, I will have many fond memories to cherish from my time in Cleveland. I also want to thank all the players that I’ve been able to coach in my time here. I’m grateful for the effort they put forth, their willingness to take coaching and their overall dedication to the foundation we built. Additionally, it is very important for me to thank the coaching staff for all their hard work. I appreciate all the sacrifices that were made by their families while their husbands and fathers were enduring the long hours that are the norm for NFL coaches. Lastly and just as importantly, I want to thank the fans of the Cleveland Browns. I appreciated all the support, you deserve a winner and I wish that for you in the near future.
Chip Kelly was the #Browns' top & only choice for coach before Rob Chudzinski was picked as a panic replacement in 2013.— Vic Carucci (@viccarucci) December 30, 2015
Bleacher Report's Jason Cole reported that the Tennessee Titans might be in pole position for Kelly, but that the Browns are a possibility as well:
It wouldn't be entirely correct to say the Browns have been a disappointment in 2015, because that would imply Cleveland entered the season with any sort of positive expectations. For a variety of reasons, few pegged the Browns as playoff contenders.
No problem was more glaring than the offense. The Browns didn't address the wide receiver position until the fourth round of the 2015 draft and opted for Johnny Manziel and Josh McCown as their top two quarterbacks. The addition of Robert Turbin also did little to remedy the running game.
Paul Brown himself would've had a hard time posting a winning season with the players Pettine had at his disposal.
Much of the team's problems stem from the person atop the organization pyramid—a problem that admittedly precedes Jimmy Haslam. Since the Browns came back in 1999, they've had seven different permanent head coaches—Terry Robiskie served as interim head coach in 2004. Among those seven, five have left after two or fewer seasons:
Adam Schefter of ESPN further outlined the increased rate of turnover on the sidelines in Cleveland:
Last time a non-Browns HC was fired in the AFC North was Brian Billick on Dec. 31, 2007. Since then, Browns have fired 5 HCs, incl Pettine.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 4, 2016
Not coincidentally, Cleveland has just two winning seasons and one playoff appearance since '99. Few franchises have been more perpetually doomed than the Browns.
As a result, it's difficult envisioning who might be a contender to succeed Pettine. The team had a difficult time finding a coach before ultimately settling on Pettine, and the fact that the team axed him after only two years doesn't make the position any more enticing.
In addition, Haslam has built the reputation of being a serial meddler.
CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora shed a little light on what's going on behind the scenes with the Browns, and here's how one source characterized Haslam's stewardship:
Jimmy is way too hands on. He's like Jerry Jones, only without the football knowledge. There's tension between (team president Alec Scheiner) and Pettine. Everybody sees that. Alec is involved in everything; it's too much for him. There are no divisions. The guys on the business side want to run football operations. The GM wants to coach the team and have input on play calling. Jimmy calls the shots, and everyone is afraid of him with that quick trigger finger. If you stand up to Jimmy, he's done with you. Jimmy's own worst enemy is Jimmy. It's a mess. Everyone is trying to do everyone else's job. It's crazy.
According to La Canfora, Haslam was also the biggest reason the Browns drafted Johnny Manziel in the 2014 draft instead of Derek Carr or Teddy Bridgewater, which has proved to be a disastrous decision. Either Carr or Bridgewater could've been the franchise quarterback of which Cleveland has been deprived for well over a decade.
As long as Haslam is the owner, any coach is bound to wonder how much autonomy he truly has.
Much like the last go-round, the Browns' head coaching search could reveal how positively or negatively they're viewed throughout the rest of the league.
Pettine, meanwhile, will likely land on his feet with another team looking for a defensive-minded assistant coach. His work with the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills should ensure his NFL coaching career doesn't end in Cleveland.