Lou Holtz, with cartoonish delivery and over-the-top hyperbole, set an important example for all football coaches: Always heap praise on the upcoming opponent. Browns coach Mike Pettine opted not to follow that well-worn path on Wednesday.
Asked if quarterback Russell Wilson, who plays for the Seahawks team that Cleveland will face on Sunday, is a “top-10 quarterback,” Pettine said this: “He has ascended. He plays at a high level. He is very productive and they win. A lot of that I think is a function, too, of him being the perfect quarterback for what they do. To me, it goes both ways. They have also built it around him. Would you put him up there with the guys that can transcend their supporting cast – the Bradys, Aaron Rodgers, Brees, Roethlisberger, the ones that you would consider the two, three, four elite guys? But, no, he’s certainly played himself into that next tier.”
(Curiously, the typed version of Pettine’s comments, as generated by the Browns, doesn’t include the word “no”; the actual video of the media session does. The ESPN.com version of the comments erroneously puts the word “no” in a spot that makes it even more conspicuous.)
It was a strange, curious, and gratuitous slight from Pettine. He was asked whether Wilson is a top-10 quarterback, not whether Wilson is among the top two, three, or four quarterbacks. The safe, easy, and accurate answer would have been, “Absolutely. The guy has thrown 16 touchdown passes and no interceptions in his last four games, and he hasn’t had Marshawn Lynch for any of them and Jimmy Graham for more than half of them.”
Indeed, Wilson has played so well over the last month that, even though the Seahawks are 8-5, Wilson has begun to generate serious MVP talk — despite Cam Newton’s candidacy with the 13-0 Panthers.
Later in the day, Wilson was asked about Pettine’s comments. As usual, Wilson took the high road. [Editor’s note: The high road is boring.]
“I don’t worry about all of that,” Wilson said. “I think it comes down to winning games. Winning a lot of football games, I think that’s the ultimate measure of a quarterback so that’s the only thing I care about.”
Even at 8-5, the Seahawks have won nearly as many games as the Browns have won in the last two seasons combined. Since 2012, Wilson and the Seahawks have won 50 total games. That’s exactly the same number the Browns have won . . . since 2006.