<
>

Mike Pettine not talking like this season will be his last with Browns

The general public may believe that Mike Pettine will not be back as the Cleveland Browns coach, but he's certainly not acting that way.

Pettine has talked confidently of his future for the past week or two, and made several references to 2016 as he assessed Sunday's loss to Kansas City.

"We were down 17-3 [and] given our circumstances [we] very easily could have packed it in and just sleepwalked through the second half and gone to the buses," Pettine said. "That’s not who we are.

"That’s why as a staff, I told [the players] just how proud we were of the effort, how we finished that game, competitive, the mental toughness, dealing with adversity, no quit, caring, all those things."

Pettine then turned the discussion forward.

"I talked earlier this week about planting seeds for moving forward and I think that second half was an indication," he said.

This does not sound like a man who believes he will lose his job.

In reality, all the speculation about the future remains just that: speculation. Owner Jimmy Haslam has made no public comment about what he may or may not do, and when asked to address his team recently he has declined to do interviews.

Haslam said in training camp he would not "blow it up" if the Browns struggled, and he has stood by general manager Ray Farmer through a four-game suspension to start the season and by Pettine after last season's 7-4 start disintegrated into a 7-9 finish.

Every rumor possible has circulated about the Browns, though.

Some chatter has Farmer being let go with Pettine staying. Others have Pettine going and Farmer staying. Others have the status quo remaining in place. And others have a "football president" being hired above Farmer and Pettine.

Whether Haslam can do the latter may depend on the wording in Farmer's contract, and whether it gives him full control of the roster. Adding someone above Farmer might prompt a change in that wording.

The speculation about possible changes is merited based on the Browns' 3-12 record. Pettine has admitted it goes with the job description.

But he has been supported by several players, including safety Donte Whitner and quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Manziel has improved as the season has gone on, and the Browns are playing hard despite having so few wins. Pettine was correct that a team with little to play for easily could have folded its tent against a team fighting for a playoff spot. The Browns didn't.

Haslam has a lot to be concerned about, including selling tickets and suites to a fan base disenchanted by another edition of the Browns staggering to the finish, a team that has lost at least 11 games in seven of the last eight seasons.

But Haslam also has to decide who will lead the team next season.

The owner who fired a coach and GM after one season has to decide if he is going to repeat those actions after two seasons.