Reputation is everything in life. Just ask the Cleveland Browns.
A franchise long known for losing and ineptitude, the Browns have only made the playoffs once since being placed back into the NFL in 1999. Since that time, the team has gone through coaches and quarterbacks as though it were a competition to see which organization could have the most turnover.
After a disappointing 4-12 season in 2013, the Browns once again made news by firing first-year head coach Rob Chudzinski. Predictably, the move enraged the fan base and confused players. How can a front office led by general manager Mike Lombardi and president Joe Banner, in its first season with the team, make such a drastic move?
The firing showed Browns fans that the team was perhaps once again rudderless, spearheaded by weak-minded men. Men hired by owner Jimmy Haslam, a lifelong Steelers fan, who seek to blame Chudzinski for the woeful record and not the roster they created.
Of the free agents brought in by Lombardi, Paul Kruger was the biggest name and the outside linebacker disappointed with only 4.5 sacks. The draft class was better, led by Barkevious Mingo, who showed promise with five sacks.
Cleveland had five All-Pros, but it also had a massive need at quarterback, running back, receiver and other various spots. It's up to Lombardi and his minions to earn enough credibility within the league to make coming to the Browns an attractive option instead of a toxic one.
When the dust settled from around the league following Black Monday, seven head coaching vacancies were available including Cleveland. Some of the others were attractive (Houston, Tampa Bay) and others were terrifying (Washington: see Snyder, Daniel).
Yet, all of the other six were filled almost immediately while the Browns were turned down like a kid with braces, bad body odor and a lisp asking for a prom date. Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase loudly said he was not interested in the job, while Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles also withdrew his name from consideration.
It was thought Josh McDaniels was going to take the job after multiple meetings, but then he decided against it. Think of that moment for a second. McDaniels, who was an absolute disaster in Denver, actually said "Thanks, but no thanks" to Cleveland.
Ultimately, the Browns ended up settling on Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Pettine might end up being another train wreck or a fine choice, it remains to be seen. That said, his tenure didn't get off to a great start with this tweet from his daughter, per FOX Sports.
Even Pettine himself almost pulled out of the race, via Dawgs By Nature.
After the press conference was over, Pettine told a Bills reporter that he was ready to pull out of the search himself if the process had dragged on much longer. "That was starting to wear on me these last couple of days. I talked to Doug and it was getting to the point where I'd say, 'Hey, if this goes on much longer I need to pull out because it's just not fair to the Bills.'"
Now, the franchise must move forward into an offseason that is critical beyond words. The team has two first-round picks at No.4 and 26 overall. Last time Cleveland had two selections in the first round, it took Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden.
Luckily, Lombardi found an insane man in Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay to trade Richardson to, getting back what turned into the No. 26 pick. With one of those selections, the Browns have to swing for the fences and take a quarterback. The other can go in a multitude of directions.
With a talented roster but key spots filled with question marks, Cleveland once again hopes it has found the answer for a long-suffering city, one without a professional sports title since 1964.