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Pettine: All options on table with Browns’ troubled trio

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BEREA, Ohio — For the first time since buying the Cleveland Browns in 2012, team owner Jimmy Haslam will not spend January looking for a new head coach.

A promising 6-3 start in Mike Pettine’s first year as head coach ended with a five-game losing streak when the Browns were beaten, 20-10, by the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. Cleveland lost six of its final seven games and nearly matched the seven-game losing streak that helped end Rob Chudzinski’s coaching stint after one season. Yet despite another season-ending collapse, Haslam made it clear the jobs of Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer are safe.

“Absolutely, absolutely,” Haslam said. “I think they’ve done a good job. We’re all disappointed. We were 7-4. We didn’t think we’d be 7-9, but … the guys played hard, so we’re happy with what Mike and Ray did. I know they’re like I am. They want to get better next year.”

Injuries partially explain the attrition. Three different quarterbacks started for the Browns in December – Brian Hoyer (one game), Johnny Manziel (two games) and undrafted rookie Connor Shaw started against the Ravens. The Browns led Baltimore, 10-3, in the fourth quarter but couldn’t hang on.

Now that they know they have their boss’ support, Farmer and Pettine can get on with the business of what must be done to end a streak of seven consecutive losing seasons. Right at the top of that list is resolving their quarterback issue.

“Quarterback is very much a question mark,” Pettine said on Monday. “It’s muddy at best.”

Hoyer will be an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins in March. Manziel threw only 35 passes and completed 18 while playing seven quarters over three games.

“We’re going to discuss all the options,” Pettine said when asked if the team needs a proven veteran at the position next season. “Obviously common sense would tell you that, but at the same time, we have plenty of time to get that figured out. Opening day, what I said before – I’ve bored you guys to death with it – we want to put the quarterback out there that gives us our best chance to win.”

The coaches and management have to wonder how dedicated Manziel is. He was placed on injured reserve last week and was supposed to report to team headquarters in Berea at a designated time to receive treatment on his injured hamstring Saturday. When he did not show, the Browns sent a security team out to locate him.

It was reported Manziel threw a party the night before he ended up arriving for his treatment late, but he denies that. On Monday, he said he was out with three friends from Texas.

“I brought this on myself,” Manziel said on Monday as players were clearing out their lockers.” I brought these cameras and all these people that are in this locker room right now and I don’t think it’s fair to myself, I don’t think it’s fair to anybody in this locker room the distractions I’ve brought at points in time.

“So I’m sorry to these guys that are veterans in this locker room and know what it takes, that I’m having to learn the hard way. At the same time, I’m either going to learn or I’m going to be finding something else to do.”

Wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended for the Baltimore game because he missed the Saturday walkthrough. Rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert was made inactive for violating unspecified team rules.

Last week strong safety Donte Whitner said Gilbert has to “grow up and stop being a kid.”

Gilbert addressed the criticism before being made inactive.

“I can assure everyone here that I will work a lot harder, in the offseason and during the season,” Gilbert said. “That’s one promise I can make. I’m not mad at anyone about it, I brought it upon myself and I can take that and roll with it. I messed up, but I can promise my teammates I’m going to make it right.”

Pettine was asked Monday how he can get his young players on board with the “Play Like a Brown” mantra he continually refers to.

“A variety of ways, tough love being one of them,” he said. “I think the staff can only go so far in getting players to do it the right way. I think our veteran leaders have stepped in and understood that we have some talented guys that need to be kind of herded in the right direction. I think you have to understand what motivated each player and push those buttons to get them going.

“I told the team today that the guys that do it the right way we’re thankful for, and the guys that aren’t that if they want to take it as a warning we’re going to encourage them and coach them hard to do it the right way. If we exhaust all opportunities, all options and can’t then they won’t be here.”

That naturally raised questions about whether Gordon, Manziel and Gilbert remain in the team’s long-term plans. Pettine said he wants all three players in the fold – as long as they get with the program.

“I’m not going to open up each player’s personal file here and get into details,” Pettine said. “We’re going to take our time here. We’re going to step away from the emotion of it all, get some time off, come back. We’ll have all the players written up and evaluated, and in a much less emotional, evaluate the roster, talk about each position, talk about what changes need to be made.

“That’s something that, I’m sure at all positions, will be discussed. How do the players on our roster, given where they are now, should they be here or should they not be here?”


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