Tonawanda News — On Wednesday night, reports of a "mystery" candidate sent some Browns into a social-media frenzy, jamming Twitter timelines with all types of theories.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said the team spoke with 10 candidates in person and spoke "many more" on the phone before zeroing in on Pettine, whom Cleveland considered for its defensive coordinator opening last year.
Haslam believes Pettine is the right fit for the Browns.
"He's perfect," Haslam said. "He's tough. He's hard-nosed. He comes to work every day with that lunch-pail mentality. But let's face it, at the end of the day, it's about winning games. He gets that. I get that. Everybody in the organization gets that."
The Browns flew to Mobile, Ala., on Tuesday to interview Pettine for the second time at the Senior Bowl. The four-hour meeting came shortly after Gase, the first candidate the team contacted, called Haslam and withdrew from consideration.
Gase wasn't the only coach to reportedly bow out. New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels — another early front-runner — also told the Browns thanks, but no thanks.
The team had been expected to give Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn a second interview, but if he was their pick, the Browns would have had to wait until after the Super Bowl to finalize a deal.
As other teams filled their head-coaching vacancies, the Browns kept looking. The lengthy delay led to a national perception the team didn't have a clear plan. Aware of the criticism, Haslam sent a letter to Cleveland fans last week explaining why the team was being "methodical" in finding Chudzinski's replacement.
And, in the end, Pettine, who had his first interview on Jan. 16, was Cleveland's choice — even though he may not have been the team's first one.