BY Steve Rudman 06:30AM 12/19/2015

Pettine flip-flops on Wilson; beware of Browns

The Seahawks are two-touchdown picks over the 3-10 Cleveland Browns, but several opponents with abysmal records have knocked off Seattle at home.

Mike Pettine backed off his statement that Russell Wilson is not a top-tier quarterback. /

Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine created a stir earlier this week when he said Russell Wilson is not among the NFL’s top-tier quarterbacks. This, mind you, came from a guy who enters Sunday’s game against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field with a 3-10 record, is 10-19 over the past two seasons, and presides over the most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL. But Pettine is entitled to his opinion, which was:

“Would you put (Wilson) in there with the guys that can transcend their supporting cast? Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, the ones that you would consider the two, three, four elite guys? No. But he’s certainly played himself into that next tier.”

Pettine is correct that Wilson doesn’t yet belong among the top four in the NFL, although he has clearly outplayed the best over the past month — with one caveat: The teams he has destroyed with 16 touchdown passes and no interceptions (San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Baltimore) are not among the league’s best defensive teams, ranking 19th, 11th, 9th and 23rd in scoring defense.

Pettine took predictable guff for his Wilson remarks Wednesday and — no surprise — was in full retreat by Thursday, deciding that Wilson is, upon further review, a top-tier quarterback after all. In his revised rankings, Pettine also decided that every quarterback who has ever played is also in the top tier.

“If anyone is interested, I have updated my QB rankings,” Pettine said. “Every quarterback that’s ever played is tied for No. 1.

“It’s not my job to rank quarterbacks, and I know the bottom line for those guys and he (Wilson) said it best, it’s to win football games. He’s one of the best at that. He’s very productive and is the perfect quarterback for what (the Seahawks) are trying to do. They’ve also built it around him.”

Give Pettine credit for a sense of humor. Clearly, he needs one. His Browns are trying to determine if they can build around frat-boy QB Johnny Manziel and will use Sunday’s game as another audition. If Manziel, who threw for 274 yards with a TD and a pick last week against San Francisco (89.2 QB rating), doesn’t work out, Cleveland will again be without a quarterback after wasting a first-round pick on “Johnny Football” two years ago.

Imagine how beleaguered Browns fans must feel after so many years of ineptitude. Since the franchise was re-born in 1999, after the original Browns vamoosed to Baltimore, Cleveland endured 14 seasons, including this one, of 10 or more defeats, most in the NFL over that span (the Seahawks have had three):

Team Div. No. Skinny
Cleveland AFC North 14 Last playoff season: 2002 (lost wild card game)
Oakland AFC West 10 Nine head coaches since last playoff year (2002)
Detroit NFC North 10 Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1991
Arizona NFC West 9 Cardinals have rebounded, will win NFC West
Buffalo AFC East 8 No playoff since losing wild card game in 1999
Washington NFC East 8 If playoffs started today, Seahawks would face ‘Skins
Jacksonville AFC South 8 Jags have lost 10 or more in 4 of past 5 years

Oddsmakers predict an easy win for the Seahawks Sunday. They opened a two-touchdown favorite and that hasn’t changed. But the lopsided forecast is reminiscent of another “rout-about-to-happen” against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two years ago, also at CenturyLink Field.

You may recall: The Seahawks entered that Nov. 3, 2013 game with a 7-1 record and were a double-digit pick over the 0-7 Buccaneers. But Tampa Bay, behind QB Mike Glennon, took a 21-7 lead. The Seahawks were forced to make up a 21-point deficit, 10 in the fourth quarter, to force overtime. Steven Hauschka finally put it in the win column with a 27-yard field goal.

Worse: On Dec. 20, 2009, when Jim Mora Jr. was coaching his way out of the NFL, another Tampa Bay team arrived at CenturyLink Field sporting a 1-12 record. Oddsmakers made those Buccaneers a 15-point underdogs. They did not foresee that Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck would gift the Bucs five turnovers. Tampa Bay won 24-7 with maybe 500 irate Seahawks fans hanging around at the end. Mora didn’t last another month.

Can’t say the Browns will pull off a similar shocker Sunday, but the Seahawks have sustained a number of defeats to teams they should have shellacked — all prior to coach Pete Carroll’s arrival. Seattle’s losses to teams with 10 or more defeats entering the game (the record in the chart is the opponent’s standing at kickoff) with the Browns listed for comparison purposes:

Year Date Opp. Rec. Result Skinny
2006 Jan. 1 at GB 3-12 L 23-18 Seneca Wallace QB’d loss at Lambeau
2007 Dec. 30 at Atl 3-12 L 44-41 Atl QB Chris Redman threw 4 TDs
2009 Dec. 20 vs. TB 1-12 L 24-7 Matt Hasselbeck threw 4 picks
1987 Dec. 27 at KC 3-11 L 40-21 Bill Kenney 320 yards, 3 TDs
1976 Dec. 12 at Phil 3-10 L 27-10 Philly featured 2 100-yard rushers
1980 Dec. 7 vs. NYG 3-10 L 27-21 Billy Taylor winning TD 4th quarter
2015 Dec. 20 vs Clev 3-10 TBD Browns have lost 7 of their past 8

Cleveland might be 3-10, but last week the Browns recorded nine sacks against the San Francisco 49ers, a clear indication they have not hoisted a white flag.

“They had a great day in all aspects of their game,” Carroll said this week. “Everything was working. They were running it, they were throwing the ball down the field, they were rushing them. They just had a great football game and I think once they got them (the 49ers) out of their rhythm and forced them into the throwing game, they just took advantage of it.”


  • bugzapper

    Beating up on the 49ers this year isn’t “a clear indication” of anything.

    I’ll be amused if Johnny One-Half doesn’t turn into the next Ryan Leaf.

  • jafabian

    I think Pettine is setting up Manziel to fail. It’s well documented that he doesn’t like him. And he’s probably well aware he and the Browns GM will be fired at seasons end. I feel for Browns fan. Gotta hurt to see the Ravens win two Super Bowls.

  • John M

    If the O-line can continue to function at the level they did last week the Browns will be road kill, whether or not there is an adequate running game. What will be interesting is watching the D deal with Manziel . . .

  • ll9956

    The chances of a Hawks’ loss are pretty remote, but . . . there’s always the possibility that “on any Sunday . . .”. The risk is that the Hawks will be overconfident and complacent. PC will sermonize vigorously to prevent this. Hopefully he will succeed.

  • Warchild_70

    With the possibility of a loss by overconfidence lurking in their minds look for and focused and fearsome D and a QB going wild. The running back situation is a little concerning however with at least three that are dialed in we should have a game that would look like a scrimmage from Hell for the Browns. The 12’s in full roar Mr. football will need a few aspirins by half time and the rest of the bottle at final whistle. GO HAWKS!!

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