Packers Head Coach Candidate: Mike Pettine


When the Packers made the difficult decision to move on from defensive coordinator Dom Capers last season, the hiring of Mike Pettine was met with near universal praise across the league.

The longtime assistant under Rex Ryan’s punishing defenses in Baltimore and New York, Pettine led his own successful defenses under Ryan in New York and Buffalo. After a dismal turn as head coach in Cleveland, Pettine re-entered the coaching ranks with the Packers.

Pettine was passed over for interim head coach in favor of Joe Philbin when Mike McCarthy was fired midseason, but will the Packers consider him for the post this offseason?

The details on Mike Pettine

Most recent job: Defensive Coordinator, Green Bay Packers
Record as a head coach: 10-22
First job: Graduate Assistant, University of Pittsburgh (1993)
Packers connection: Current Defensive Coordinator for the Packers. Coached Tramon Williams in Cleveland and Muhammad Wilkerson in New York.

The background on Mike Pettine

Pettine’s father was one of the most successful high school football coaches in Pennsylvania, and Mike played and coached under his father. Mike made the difficult decision to take the head coaching post at his father’s rival school, and was 0-5 in head-to-head matchups against his dad.

He made the leap from high school straight to the NFL in 2002, when he joined the Baltimore Ravens video operations staff. Seven years later, he was the Jets defensive coordinator under head coach Rex Ryan. The Jets were overachievers under Ryan, and the pair turned their defense into a juggernaut. Pettine was hired in 2014 to be the Browns head coach.

Being Cleveland’s head coach recently has been a thankless job, but the Browns did Pettine no favors. Months after being hired, they traded up to draft Johnny Manziel instead of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s preferred prospects Jimmy Garoppolo or Derek Carr. A day later, star receiver Josh Gordon was suspended for the 2014 season. Shanahan was so disenfranchised after one season he requested to be released from his contract.

The Browns started 7-4 in Pettine’s first season despite the turmoil, but the season unravelled after Manziel took the starting reigns and Cleveland lost five straight to finish 7-9. After his 7-4 start, Pettine lost 18 of 21 before he was fired after the 2015 season. Things didn’t end well for him in Cleveland.

Mike Pettine’s biggest moment

The Browns have had few highlights over the past two decades, and trying to find even one from Pettine’s tenure there is difficult. Since 2000, the Pittsburgh Steelers are 33-5-1 against Cleveland, losing just two matchups in the last nine years.

Pettine’s 2014 Browns beat the Steelers 31-10 – the largest margin of victory for Cleveland since they reappeared in 1999. This October 12, 2014 game marked just the second Cleveland win in ten years against Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger starting.

In Mike Pettine’s own words

Mike Pettine took a 50 percent pay cut, dipped into his retirement savings and gave up a comfortable job as a high school teacher and varsity football coach to work in the Baltimore Ravens’ video operations department.

Seven years later, Pettine was an NFL defensive coordinator. Perhaps no coach in professional football has bet on himself quite like he has, and it’s part of what motivates him.

“I coached, especially early on, with a bit of a chip on my shoulder,” Pettine said in January 2014 when he was named Browns head coach. “Whether it was real or not, in my mind (I) was thinking that people saw me as just a high-school coach. Here’s a guy trying to make it in the NFL, but he’s just a high-school coach in the NFL. That drove me.”

What are the chances Mike Pettine is the next Packers head coach?

Jon’s Rating: 1/5

I think Mike Pettine would be just about a perfect head coach in Green Bay, but I think there’s close to no chance it happens. Pettine has been very clear about one thing this season: he has no desire to be a head coach in the NFL. I would imagine that’s what a stint as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns would do to a guy.

But still, Pettine is a thoughtful, well-spoken teacher of the game, which sounds like head coaching material to me. Moreover, he’s shown that he’s capable of recruiting capable coaches to fill in where he’s weak, specifically on the offensive side of the ball. That’s what great coaches do, and Pettine has had success with that approach twice.

Pettine may be my dream candidate, but since he doesn’t appear to have any desire to get back to being a head coach, I think the dream is likely to stay just that.

Gary’s Rating: 2/5

I don’t put much value in Pettine’s recent comments about not wanting to be a head coach again. Some coaches are better head coaches, and some are better coordinators. Pettine started his first season in Cleveland 7-4 before the talent pool tried up, thanks to the front office drafting colossal first-round busts Johnny Manziel and Justin Gilbert.

The anecdotal evidence we’ve heard from the locker room suggests Pettine is a good fit in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers has even spoken positively of him. If the Packers are looking for a disciplinarian head coach to get Rodgers in line, a coach with Pettine’s strengths is likely the only way the Packers hire a defensive-minded head coach.

Because he’s already in the building and has experience as a head coach before, it’s a near certainty he’s made his true feelings about the job known to Murphy and Gutekunst. We’ll find out in the coming weeks if his public comments matched what he told the front office.