CLEVELAND — The Browns changed uniforms to start the season and their coach and general manager to end it.
Hours after a 28-12 loss to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers in the season finale, owner Jimmy Haslam fired coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer following their second straight losing season in charge.
It’s almost a tradition.
Pettine went 10-22 in two years, dropping 18 of his final 21 games after a promising 7-4 start in 2014. Pettine’s job security had been in doubt for months, and not even Haslam’s vow at the start of training camp not to “blow things up” could stop another regime change in Cleveland.
Pettine was the team’s seventh full-time coach since 1999, and the team has changed coaches and GMs five times since 2008.
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“We greatly appreciate Ray’s and Mike’s dedication and hard work while with the Cleveland Browns,” said Haslam, who owns the team along with his wife, Dee. “We’ve made this decision because we don’t believe our football team was positioned well for the future. We are all disappointed with where we are and we take full responsibility. We will approach the search for our next football coach and executives to lead our football operations with a clear vision regarding what we need to do to build a successful organization.
“We will be methodical in looking for strong, smart leaders with high character who are relentlessly driven to improve our football team, willing to look at every resource possible to improve, and who embrace collaboration to ultimately make the best decisions for the Cleveland Browns. We are fully committed to bringing our fans the winning organization they so clearly deserve.”
A former defensive coordinator, Pettine’s ouster can be partly linked to the performance of his defense, which ranked at or near the bottom in the league in nearly every statistical category.
Pettine is the fifth Cleveland coach in eight years to lose his job following a season-ending loss to the Steelers.
Following Sunday’s game, the 50-year-old Pettine said he understood change was looming — and inevitable.
“It should be a topic of speculation, given what our results have been,” Pettine told reporters. “It is a bottom-line business and you guys don’t have a column in the newspaper for moral victories. Our record is that we have won three of our last 21 games. That is just not good enough.”
It hasn’t helped that the Browns lacked talent, especially offensive playmakers and that was Farmer’s fault.
The Browns have whiffed on high draft picks, wasted money on a defense that showed little improvement, and remain at the bottom of one of the NFL’s toughest divisions.
Farmer, too, was suspended for the first four games this season for texting to the sideline during 2014 games.
One of his biggest mistakes over the past two years appears to be the decision to draft quarterback Johnny Manziel. The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner hasn’t lived up to expectations on the field and continues to be a headache off it.
He spent 73 days in a rehab facility during the offseason, got benched by Pettine for two games during the year for misbehavior and missed Sunday’s game with a concussion. While his teammates finished the season, Manziel was reportedly in Las Vegas.