Football has always been a part of Mike Pettine’s life.
At first, it was just a passion, but then, Pettine, the new coach of the Cleveland Browns, found a way to turn it into his profession when he followed in his father, Mike Pettine, Sr.’s footsteps as a high-school coach in Pennsylvania.
Now, more than a decade after he last coached the North Penn Knights, Pettine stood at a podium inside the Casey Coleman Fieldhouse and thanked his father for instilling in him at a young age a love for football.
“The biggest reason I’m here, my biggest influence was my dad,” Pettine said. “I’ve worked for some great coaches, played for some great coaches, but I think all of my roots, all of my foundation goes back to my dad.
“He was a guy, to me, that just understood football from A to Z. He wasn’t an offensive specialist. He wasn’t a defensive specialist. He was just pure football through-and-through.”
It was during the time Pettine played football for his father that he learned an important lesson, and that was to ‘Only worry about things you have control over.’
“When I was a junior, there was a teacher’s strike,” Pettine recalled. “I was his quarterback and we didn’t have any preseason practice. I ended up the starter, and there were some people that didn’t think I should be the starter. They thought it was pure nepotism and thought that I was only out there because of him.
“There was a petition being circulated that I wasn’t the starter. To me, that was a lot for a teenaged kid to handle and it bothered me. It started to affect me on the field, and that’s when he grabbed me and said, ‘You have no control over that, so don’t waste another second thinking about it or stressing about it. The things that you have control over, focus on them and be full speed ahead.’”
Along his journey from high-school football player to NFL head coach, Pettine acknowledged that playing for his father was an important part in him developing a love of the game.
“I really wanted to get away from him after I was done playing for him, but after a while, I ended up circling back and just fell in love with the game,” Pettine said. “That’s what I’m most passionate about, and it’s something. He gave me the advice I think a lot of good parents give: ‘Find a job that you love and you never work a day in your life,’ and I’ve been fortunate to pair my passion with my profession.”
And is that kind of passion for football that led Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, chief executive officer Joe Banner, president Alec Scheiner and general manager Michael Lombardi to sign the veteran NFL assistant coach to a five-year contract.
“Mike brings exactly what we think we need for our organization,” Haslam said. “He’s smart. He’s innovative. He’s demanding. He’s tough. He brings what we consider to be a blue-collar work ethic to the Cleveland Browns organization. I think he’ll be a perfect fit for our team and our fans. I think we’ll make very good progress under Mike’s leadership and I can’t tell you how excited we are to have Mike be the 15th head coach of the Cleveland Browns.”
Banner added, “We’re very attracted by his intelligence, his aggressiveness, his toughness and the type of discipline he’s going to bring to the team. We’re very conscious of where the team is at now, it’s evolution, it’s weaknesses and it’s character. We think he’s an outstanding fit.”