BEREA— As Mike Pettine sat at the podium in Berea on Monday afternoon, the even-keeled coach was no longer willing to accept the status quo.
“Continuing to do what we've done would be foolish,” Pettine said. “It has gotten us these results so far.”
After another loss on Sunday to the Rams, the results that Pettine mentioned include a 2-5 record after seven games, the league’s worst run defense and a running game that has been relatively unproductive.
The changes that Pettine wants to see in those results, however, start with minimal changes on a smaller scale.
“We're not going to do anything radically different,” Pettine said. “It has to be incremental.”
Change, according to Pettine, starts at the individual level, as opposed to the team level, which is why he addressed each player and coach in an effort to turn this season in the right direction.
“The challenge to each man in the room, coaches and players was, ‘what am I going to do different? What am I going to do extra? Is it the weight room? Is it in the meeting room? Is it on the practice field?’” Pettine said. “Everyone was challenged to take a personal inventory, where they are, what are they doing well and what are they not doing well and how do we change it?”
The first domino of change for the Browns might involving tweaking the league's worst run defense, which faltered again on Sunday, as Rams running back Todd Gurley gashed the Browns for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
Most of that damage came in the second half, which gave the Browns some hope and something to learn from going forward.
I thought the first half we played probably as good a half as we played all year, but that's only part of it. You've got to play a complete game and we weren't good enough in the second half,” Pettine said. “There were times in the game where our effort was good and we were able to contain Gurley for a good part of it, but they were still able to hit us with a couple big runs. It was disappointing.”
Another aspect of the Browns that may need change is the offensive line.
As one of the purported strengths of the Browns before the season, the offensive line hasn’t done much to allow the Browns to run the football, nor have they protected quarterback Josh McCown very well.
In Sunday’s game, McCown was sacked four times and the Browns rushed for just 82 total yards— an effort that left guard Joel Bitonio felt was unacceptable.
“It was pretty ugly for us,” Bitonio said. “They beat us up front. It wasn’t good enough to win, and we know we got Josh hit too much.”
Because McCown was hit so often, the final change for the Browns— at least in the short term— may be one that is forced upon them.
After leaving Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury and being replaced by Johnny Manziel at the game’s end, McCown wasn’t willing to talk much about his injury or how he was feeling.
"I'm not going to comment on whether I can play or my physical status,” McCown said. “I’m just going to worry about where I’m at right now and move forward from there.”
Though Pettine referred to him as “day-to-day,” McCown’s status is still up in the air for Sunday, which means that Johnny Manziel could get the start against the Arizona Cardinals.
If Manziel does have to play, McCown said he’ll be more than prepared to do so.
“Just watching the tape just then I was proud of the way he came in and played. He looked poised and looked like a guy who was prepared and had a plan,” McCown said. “It’s obviously what we want out of any young player, is to see those guys getting better. I think he does a great job with his preparation every week.”
Pettine too believes that Manziel has prepared well, even after being passed over as the starter when McCown returned from his concussion.
"There was maybe a day where he was a competitive guy, wanted to be the guy and was bummed out, but that feeling didn't last long,” Pettine said. “I never saw a drop-off from him as far as attitude on the practice field, wanting to perfect his craft, the time that gets put in in the quarterback room, how much we ask of him during the week like we do with all of our players, we test them during the week on the opponent and on the game plan, and there wasn't a drop-off.”
Though it remains to be seen if there will be any change at all for the Browns— be it the quarterback, the run defense production, the run game or even the penalty issues that have persisted— Pettine feels that with change on every level, things for the team will get better."
“This is for me, this is for the coaches, it isn't just for the players,” Pettine said. “We always preach 'As individuals get better, the team gets better.'"
For all of your Browns news and updates from Berea, follow Hayden Grove on Twitter: @H_Grove.