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Cleveland Browns Head Coach Mike Pettine has clear vision to build team into winners

Posted Apr 10, 2014

Coach Mike Pettine lays out the definition of what it means to “Play Like a Brown.”


You’ve probably heard the phrase Play like a Brown from Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine.

And let me notify you up front: it’s not some bogus, coach-speak, cliché motto plastered on the walls in Berea. It’s a well thought out master plan I had the liberty of exploring with Pettine during a sit-down conversation in his office.

The first part of Play Like a Brown has virtually nothing to with football. It’s a shift in mentality.

“People from the outside want to characterize us as the same old Browns, and let them do so,” said Pettine. “I tell our team, ‘We are breaking off the rearview mirror.’ Acknowledge the history is there, but that’s not us.”

Pettine knows that altering the players’ mindset is little more than cheap talk if he doesn’t act on it. So he plans on running some of the most competitive practices in the NFL. The Browns will operate the two-minute drill, third-and-short, and other do-or-die situations the very moment the team is able to strap on their helmets.  

“We want our guys with two minutes left in the game to say, ‘This is our wheelhouse,’” said Pettine. “The other team hung a curveball and we’re hitting it out of the park.”

The real change in mentality, you ask? There will be documented winners and losers in these practice competitions. The victors will find themselves eating lunch first or picking the weight room music. Losers will be relegated to push-ups and other chores that are still being finalized by the coaching staff. While not overdoing the prideful contests, the goal, Pettine says, is to breed a culture of winning.

“We want to get guys that hate to lose so much that it almost makes them borderline physically ill,” Pettine said, half-seriously.


Head Coach Mike Pettine

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Part two of Play Like a Brown, still is not about how much weight a player can lift, or how fast he can run the 40-yard dash. It’s about showing relentless mental toughness on a day-in and day-out approach.

The new head coach in Cleveland recognizes that there is noticeable excitement inside the walls of the franchise. But it’s April. Every NFL team has a clean slate.

Pettine experienced a similar refrain to “same-old-Browns” from New York media pundits, who talked about the “same old Jets” when he was hired as Rex Ryan’s defensive coordinator in 2009. But he and Ryan advanced to back-to-back AFC title games by becoming unrelenting.

The Jets developed into attackers who prided themselves on burying opponents with the most miniscule details. A tipped pass by a defensive lineman, a bone-crushing block on special teams, a linebacker sniffing out a trick play at the line of scrimmage: Preparing and executing for these situations will encompass what Play Like a Brown is all about.

“Football is a game of a million little things,” said Pettine. “The teams that can master as many of those as possible are the ones that are going to be successful.

“I think that’s what happens in programs that haven’t had success is that they start hoping other people will make plays. The defense starts hoping the offense will score late in the game, because they don’t [want the pressure] of being on the field. The best teams are more assertive and confident.”

The final phase of Play Like a Brown is the hardest part: figuring out who wants to actually play like a Brown.

“I told our players, ‘There are guys in this room that are good enough to play in the NFL. They just might not be a fit for us,’” Pettine said. “That to me is critical. You have guys that are talented enough but just don’t fit the way our program is going.”

General Manager Ray Farmer helped address the situation to a ‘T,’ and according to Pettine the organization, “is thrilled with our batting average in free agency.”

Bringing in Karlos Dansby, Donte Whitner and Nate Burleson isn’t solely because they all have distinguished NFL careers. It’s also because of their leadership and ability to reinforce the Play Like a Brown message.