Losing has a way of bringing out the worst in organizations—and the Browns are Exhibit One in that department.
When the Browns were sailing along on top of the AFC North at 6–3 and even at 7–4 there was a lot to be happy with in BrownsTown.
However, as the season spiraled down the drain the setting inside the Cleveland Browns offices and training facility heading into the later portion of the 2014 season had become stressful, not only for a locker room fighting for their playoff lives, but within decision making areas.
The shotgun marriage arranged by Jimmy Haslam of coach Mike Pettine and GM Ray Farmer begin to show some signs of friction between the coaching staff and the front office.
For weeks the ‘Fast Lane’ had been hearing tidbits that a member of the front office was taking offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Pettine to task over the Browns offensive failures. Gaining a piece of the puzzle here and there, the picture started coming into focus when the texting issue arose.
When information starting trickling out that a member(s) of the Browns front office had been sending text messages during games to those on the coaching staff, the dots started to become connected.
Speculation for a handful of weeks pointed toward Farmer and Pettine having more than a couple of spirited differences of opinion on the offense – centering on the offense and quarterback position. Pettine had been steadfast in his backing of starter Brian Hoyer and the believed the veteran provided the Browns the best opportunity to win.
A disappointing loss to Indianapolis had left the Browns playoff hopes in a rough spot. With the Browns trailing every legitimate playoff contender in the tie-breaking process, Pettine had a difficult decision to make – one in which he was being pressed on by the front office.
Pettine was at a loss following the Indianapolis game and knew the offense needed something that quarterback Brian Hoyer and Shanahan weren’t providing – a spark, an emotional uplift.
Still reluctant, but knowing he had to do something Pettine, decided to make the move to backup quarterback Johnny Manziel. Pettine met with his coaching staff and Farmer the Tuesday following the loss. Not everyone in the process believed the switch to Manziel would cure what ailed the Browns.
While Pettine stated he made the decision to bench Hoyer and insert Manziel as the starter, the continued pressure and influence within the organization had come to a head – with the offense heading backward and the importance of winning becoming critical, Pettine relented to the wishes of the front office.
Pettine’s comments prior to the Colts’ game to stick with Hoyer seemed to validate his thought process.
“After thorough evaluation and talking to the staff, we feel Brian gives us the best opportunity to win (against the Colts),” Pettine said in a statement. “This is a football decision and those are always going to be based on what we think is best for our team. Brian has led our team to a 7–5 record.”
After the loss to the Colts, when Manziel was named the starter, Pettine’s answer was different when asked if he thought Manziel gave the team the best chance to win against the Bengals.
“We all know the circumstances with Brian (Hoyer),” Pettine said. “It gives us a chance, one, to win a football game this week - that’s our focus - but at the same time, to get a peek at potentially whether it’s a long-term solution.”
A man that generally does not second-guess himself, Pettine hoped his assessment on the young quarterback would prove to be incorrect.
(Fred Greetham, OBR Senior Reporter contributed to this story)
(Next up: Ray Farmer, Mike Pettine and Kyle Shanahan’s departure)