BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine was on the job less than three weeks when two of the people involved in his hiring were fired in a restructuring of the organization.
Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine walks into the NFL team's Play 60 football festival at their practice facility in Berea, Ohio Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. The Browns hosted over 700 Special Oympians from the Cleveland school district. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Pettine said Thursday the shake-up was never discussed during the interview process and described the moves as "controversial and shocking." Still, he has little choice but to embrace the changes and the opportunity to work with new general manager Ray Farmer.
"It was a clear message from the owner of his commitment to bringing stability to the franchise looking forward," Pettine said. "I think it shows a commitment by the owner that he realized there were some issues and he wanted to make things right. As controversial as it was and as shocking as it was, I think that he's a believer and he wasn't going to let things stay the way they were."
On Tuesday, owner Jimmy Haslam announced that CEO Joe Banner will leave after helping with the transition, general manager Michael Lombardi was out immediately and Farmer was promoted from assistant GM. Banner and Haslam fired first-year coach Rob Chudzinski after a 4-12 season, the team's sixth straight with at least 11 losses.
Pettine is a first-time head coach, and Farmer a first-time GM. Farmer arrived in Cleveland in March, and Pettine on Jan. 23 after a 25-day coaching search. Pettine stressed the importance of their relationship and the instant connection they shared.
"I think the GM-coach relationship has to be the best in the building, because if they're not on the same page, then not much is going to get done," Pettine said. "I think we've already gotten a great start to it. "I can already tell we're going to have a tremendous relationship. From the moment that I met him, I think it was very natural, our conversations, our philosophy about football, the draft, free agency, how to build a team."
The restructuring of the organization leaves Pettine reporting directly to Haslam. Farmer and President Alec Scheiner, who will run the business side, also report to Haslam. Previously, everyone reported to Banner.
"I'm very comfortable with (the new structure)," Pettine said. "But I'd be remiss if I didn't say anything about Joe. I'm very thankful to Joe. I don't know if I'd be here without him. In just that short period of time, I learned a lot about how to handle business in the National Football League and a lot of his thoughts and philosophies. Mike Lombardi as well. Tremendous evaluator of talent."
Quarterback Brian Hoyer also expressed regret that Lombardi is no longer around. He was instrumental in signing Hoyer, who went 3-0 as a starter last year before injuring his right knee.
"Mike Lombardi was a big reason I came here," Hoyer said. "He had a lot of faith in me and I'll always appreciate what he did for me to a point where not a lot of people believed in me. And I'll always look to prove him right. And in the same sense I've gotten a chance to get to know Ray over the year I've been here so I'm excited."
Hoyer said his rehabilitation is going well and he's running, lifting weights and throwing. He expects to be able to participate when team workouts being in April.
Despite the injury and the likelihood the Browns will take a quarterback high in the draft, Hoyer remains confident he'll be the starter next season.
"That's what I'm working hard every day to get back towards," he said.