I’m not defending Banner and Lombardi. I saw nothing from them that suggested the capability to lead the Browns back to respectability — much less contention for that elusive spot in a Super Bowl. In fact, I saw nothing from them that suggested basic competence. I can’t imagine that Farmer could possibly be any more inept than Banner and Lombardi were, and the fact that two failures have been pitched from the front office can’t hurt. But this latest housecleaning just reaffirms the prevailing view that the Browns are the worst managed, most bumbling franchise in the NFL — which is not exactly the reputation you want when you are looking to recruit free agents, encourage fans to shell our their hard-earned dollars for season tickets, and retain the handful of truly talented players that are currently on the Browns roster.
I’ll always be a Browns fan; it’s my cross to bear, one that also is borne by Browns Backers around the globe. I’m not expecting a winner. I just wish this once-proud, well-run team would stop being a laughingstock.
Today the Cleveland Browns announced that they were hiring Mike Pettine to be their new head coach. He’ll be their third head coach in three years, and his resume sounds a lot like the resumes of their last two coaches. He’s a guy who has had decent experience as an NFL assistant coach but has never been the head guy — just like Pat Shurmur and Rob Chudzinski. Shurmur was overwhelmed by the job and got fired after two uninspired seasons and Chud got the boot, unfairly, in my view, after only one season at the helm.
Who’s Pettine? He’s been an assistant coach with the Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, and the Buffalo Bills. These aren’t exactly the elite franchises in the NFL — Buffalo won just six games this past season. Pettine is a defensive guy, which could be a good fit because the Browns have some defensive talent. But who knows? He’s got a limited track record and limited experience.
I listened to some of the press conference for Pettine today and had to laugh when Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said the Browns were “thrilled” to have Pettine, who would be “tough, aggressive and innovative” and bring “a blue-collar, team-first mentality.” Who does Haslam think he’s kidding? Cleveland Browns fans may be ridiculously devoted, but we’re not blithering idiots. The Browns clearly hired Pettine because their coaching search had become an embarrassment. Cleveland was jilted and rebuffed by all of the hot coaches, who no doubt wanted to avoid a franchise that looks more like a clown show with each passing season. The Browns’ decision to can Chudzinski after only one season in which the Browns played without an NFL-caliber quarterback obviously limited the pool of people who would even consider a job.
I don’t wish Pettine ill. I hope that, against all odds and notwithstanding the obvious incompetence of the Browns organization, they found a diamond in the rough who succeeds famously. But the Browns have no credibility with me any more. Their front office is like a collective Theodoric of York, the medieval barber played by Steve Martin on Saturday Night Live in the ’70s. After Theodoric would kill or maim his patients with his quackery, Jane Curtin would confront him and say: “Why don’t you just admit it! You don’t know what you’re doing!” At the Browns’ press conference today, I was hoping Jane would make an appearance.
One of my favorite continuing Saturday Night Live skits of the 1970s occurred when Steve Martin was host. It was called Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber. Martin played Theodoric, a know-it-all medieval barber who treated all manner of ailments with the prevailing medical wisdom of the time. Bill Murray had too much mead at the May Festival and broke his leg after getting run over with an oxcart? Cover him with leeches and hang him upside down from the gibbet. Lorraine Newman is listless? Clearly caused by an imbalance of bodily humours, to be remedied by constant bleedings. When his patients inevitably died after suffering terribly, Jane Curtin would rip into him, closing with “Why don’t you just admit it? You don’t know what you’re doing.” Her speech would cause Theodoric to have a dimly perceived epiphany. He would then launch into a speech about “What if we followed a scientific method, where we formed hypotheses, and then tested them in controlled environments, to determine what actually works?” but then dismiss that radical notion with a “Nah!”
One of the funny things about Theodoric of York was the silliness of the remedies. How could the backward peasants of the Middle Ages believe that bleeding or leeches would cure anything?
I thought of Theodoric recently when I went in for my third colonoscopy. 500 years from now, humans no doubt will howl at the idea that people willingly went to doctors and had a long flexible tube with a camera at the end shoved up their keisters in hopes of detecting cancer. In fact, we’re not so different from our medieval ancestors. The reality is that people who hope for good health will endure all manner of indignities visited upon them by practitioners — be they barbers or doctors or faith healers — who promise to have the cure for what ails us.