CLEVELAND— Mike Pettine has said repeatedly, between Thursday night and Friday morning, that he and the Browns will “push the reset button” over the coming days and weeks, as the team has only a single game in the next 25 days.
Though he continually rehashes the metaphor, he knows too that the Browns can’t “reset” their record over the first nine games of this season.
“The brutal facts are that we are a 2-7 football team,” Pettine said. “That is not acceptable from our standpoint.”
It may not be acceptable to Pettine, but there is no scenario in which the franchise can do anything but “accept” what they’ve done over the first portion of the season.
In review, the Browns have allowed offensive opponents to render their defense the worst in the league.
They’ve cost themselves the opportunity to win games with bone-headed plays and bad penalties.
They’ve found success with 36-year old quarterback, Josh McCown, only to get him battered and on the bench halfway through the year.
Above all, they’ve lost seven of their nine games and essentially eliminated themselves from playoff contention just after Halloween.
Though they can’t change the realities of their past, the Browns do have an opportunity, as Pettine prefaced, to assess the current state of their organization over the coming days to ensure that the future is better.
“These couple days off should give us all the opportunity to focus on what we need to do to correct the mistakes we have been making,” Pettine said. “We know we can be better. I am very confident in the staff. I am very confident in the team that we can show improvement in our performances moving forward.”
That improvement, according to Pettine, starts with getting away from the game, if only for this weekend, in an effort to come back with a refreshed look at the team and how it should be shaped for the future.
Part of that refreshed view will include a look the Browns' quarterback situation, which remains in limbo after Johnny Manziel’s Thursday night performance against Cincinnati.
“We will talk about that early next week,” Pettine said, when asked when the decision will be made as to whether McCown or Manziel will start against Pittsburgh in two weeks. “We’ll make the decision each week based on, as I’ve said all along, who gives us the best opportunity to win.”
The thought around the NFL entering Thursday night’s contest was that Manziel had an opportunity to lock down the job for the rest of the season, with McCown benched by his likely-broken ribs.
After finishing off a 15-33 performance in which he tossed a touchdown, but didn’t turn the ball over, Manziel impressed Pettine at times, but seemingly didn't do enough to convince his coach that he is "the guy" for the rest of the season.
“His last 15 snaps, when the game kind of got away from us, he did not play very well, but in the beginning he was solid and graded out pretty high,” Pettine said. “I thought he did some good things getting out of the pocket in the first half, but there were a couple plays where the read was there early. Those are the plays we want him to make when they are there.”
In addition to criticizing some of his reads, Pettine said that Manziel has to be better in the pocket, if he wants to earn the starting job in Cleveland or to be successful anywhere around the league.
“We wanted him to stay in the pocket. When there are plays to be made early with the first read, let’s make them,” Pettine said. “I think part of being successful in the NFL is being able to operate from the pocket… It is an area of his game we want to develop and have it being complemented by his ability outside the pocket.”
Pettine was critical of Manziel’s in-pocket performance, but was even harder on those around Manziel on Thursday.
“As I said last night, we didn’t play well enough around the quarterback to have much success on offense,” Pettine said. “It is hard for a quarterback to be successful. He is one of 11. It is hard for him to be successful when we put ourselves in those situations.”
While the quarterback conundrum may be the most pressing issue for the Browns as they move forward this season, there are other young players amonsgst the other 10 positions who may warrant playing time, if for no other reason than to see what the team has in them.
Pettine said after the team's loss to Arizona last Sunday that the time had not come to insert young guys into the fold for the future, but that time may be coming, depending upon the result of the pressing of the aforementioned reset button.
“I think a lot of our young guys have been playing, it just happened naturally. You saw (OL) Cam Erving get in the game some last night. (DB Ibraheim) Campbell’s been playing he’s done a nice job, (LB Nate) Orchard, (DL Danny) Shelton,” Pettine said. “Again, there’ll be mixed opinions on that as to whether or not you want to force that.”
Those mixed opinions, if there are mixed opinions, will make themselves known when the team reconvenes early next week in preparation to face the Pittsburgh Steelers.
They’ll know too the status of injured players such as Joe Haden (concussion), Donte Whitner (concussion), Andrew Hawkins (concussion), Brian Hartline (concussion) and others.
Until the team meets again, however, as he’s said over and over, Pettine wants to press pause on the poor 2015-2016 thus far in Berea.
“We’re just at the point now when we’re going to hit the reset button or hit pause and just assess where we are,” Pettine said. “With only the one game here in the next couple 20 something days or so that we have the opportunity to do a lot of assessment.”
For all of your Browns news and updates from Berea, follow Hayden Grove on Twitter: @H_Grove.