BEREA, Ohio — Mike Pettine knows he might not have been Cleveland’s first choice or even the Browns’ second pick.
All that matters to the son of a high-school coaching legend is that he’s the one they selected.
“It’s been my lifelong dream to be an NFL head coach,” Pettine said Thursday, “and however that opportunity presents itself, it’s fine with me.”
After nearly a month of twists, turns and talk, the Browns found their man.
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Buffalo’s defensive coordinator, who didn’t seem to be on Cleveland’s radar when the team began a coaching search last month, signed a five-year contract and was named the Browns’ seventh full-time coach since 1999. Pettine replaces Rob Chudzinski, fired on Dec. 29 after just one season.
The Browns interviewed 10 candidates before deciding on the 47-year-old Pettine, who has built a solid reputation with a no-nonsense approach with his players.
“I have been nicknamed BFT — Blunt Force Trauma,” he said. “The days are too short to dance around subjects sometimes, and I think guys appreciate that.”
His straightforward style attracted Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, who set out to find a “strong winner” and feels the Pettine can lead Cleveland’s resurgence.
Pettine spent one year with the Bills after four as Rex Ryan’s defensive coordinator with the New York Jets. Before that, Pettine was an assistant coach in Baltimore, giving him some familiarity with Cleveland’s division.
Pettine understands there are challenges in turning around the Browns, who have lost at least 11 games in each of the past six seasons and made the playoffs once in their expansion era. Pettine believes the Browns have talent — they have six Pro Bowlers — and wants to be the one to return them to glory.
“There’s only 32 of these jobs, and they don’t come along often,” Pettine said. “People ask me, ‘Why didn’t you wait? There will be chances next year.’ I don’t know if I believe in that. When you put all the factors together, this franchise is in position, given the right leadership, to win.”
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