*Mike Pettine says Brian Hoyer is a "winner" and his intangibles "are off the charts" *
When the Browns' head-coaching search began nearly a month ago, it was widely presumed that the choice would be someone with offensive expertise.
Just as it was with their previous head coach, Rob Chudzinski.
Just as it was with Chudzinski's predecessor, Pat Shurmur.
The conventional wisdom was that, with the Browns poised to use a high draft pick on a quarterback in the pass-driven NFL, they needed an offensive-minded coach to guide him along.
But the fact the man they hired, Mike Pettine, is the first former defensive coordinator to serve as the Browns' head coach since Eric Mangini held the position in 2009 and 2010 (after a head-coaching stint with the New York Jets) shouldn't be viewed as any sort of shift in philosophy.
In fact, it is exactly the opposite.
Pettine has a firm grasp on the idea that the Browns need to get far better on that side of the ball if he has any chance of leading the turnaround that a long line of the team's former head coaches have failed to do.
When Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and chief executive officer Joe Banner began the process of finding a new head coach, they put together a list of qualities they were seeking. Among them was the ability to see the big picture.
It could be argued that, for all of the perceived strength the Browns had on defense last season, the lack of attention paid to that side of the ball (beyond what it received from former defensive coordinator Ray Horton) contributed to the repeated defensive collapses through the second half of the schedule.
Regardless of their particular football acumen, the NFL's best coaches know how to manage success on offense and defense.
New England's Bill Belichick, arguably the greatest coach in league history, was a former defensive coordinator. But is there any doubt about his offensive knowledge? Both Super Bowl coaches, Denver's John Fox and Seattle's Pete Carroll, are former defensive coordinators, yet does anyone question their sense of what it takes to move the ball and score points?
Of course, not.
A quality head coach is able to recognize what his team needs to excel in all phases rather than just those in which he has guided as an assistant.
Pettine gets that.
He has spent countless hours studying all facets of quarterback play in the NFL. He has paid close attention to the trends of quarterbacks recently emerging from the college ranks with the ability to run as well as throw. He has analyzed the pros and cons of employing the read option and running plays from pistol formation.
As a defensive coordinator, Pettine needed to be familiar with the enemy in order to figure out how to stop it.
As a head coach, he needs to know what will best work against other defensive coordinators.
And Pettine already has a great appreciation for at least one of the quarterbacks he is inheriting, Brian Hoyer, whom Pettine thoroughly analyzed before leading his Buffalo Bills defense against the Browns on Oct. 3. Although Hoyer left the game with a season-ending knee injury, Pettine got a good feel for what he was all about.
And in his new capacity, he has made a point of getting to know Hoyer even better because there is a reasonable chance that he will be his starting quarterback in 2014.
"I think he's a winner," Pettine said. "I think the intangibles are off the charts with Brian. He's a football junkie."
The assessment is spot on.
For all that Pettine figures to be able to do to make the Browns' defense better, he will hardly be a bystander when it comes to the enormous task of improving their offense.
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