Despite existing on the outside of mainstream media, there are times when inside sources have important material they want to see published, but it is far too sensitive for the traditional means. It was for such purpose that a secret WFNY Google drop box was created for items such as the Cleveland Indians lineup card, a transcript of Mike Pettine railing on Johnny Manziel, and notes to break the lid on why Corey Kluber never smiles.1
The notification popped up last Friday to show there was a new item sitting in this location with the title “Fowler doesn’t even know the half of it.” Not only would this source reveal the infamous former Cleveland Browns coach dinner at Rock Bottom in Indianapolis did indeed happen during the NFL Combine, but a partial transcript and notes on the proceeding were included as well.
For those who were unaware, Jeremy Fowler and Adam Schefter of ESPN reported out the initial details. What follows is a much more detailed account of what happened there.2
Best story I heard from NFL combine: A small group of former Browns coaches held a fired Browns coaches party at a local restaurant in Indianapolis.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 7, 2018
Former Cleveland HC Mike Pettine, and some of his former assistants, were amongst the crew of former Browns’ coaches gathered together Friday night…at Rock Bottom. https://t.co/aB8d2bKncR
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 7, 2018
The old basement of Rock Bottom in Indianapolis had been rented out to house the numbers that came with the gathering. During the week, the damp room was utilized as the underground Mah Jongg gambling house for the leaders of the black market hoosier meat industry. Smoke filled the room though neither a cigarette nor cigar was to be seen. The lights flickered, most of the waitstaff refused to even consider trekking down the creaking wooden staircase, and the pungent odor of bleach wafted through the air though no one dared ask why. Mike Pettine knew it was the perfect setting for the former Cleveland Browns coach support group.
“Thank you for all making it today. As the most recently fired head coach, yes, I will be picking up the tab.” Mike Pettine began and then motioned for quiet as applause filled the dreary accomodations. “Hey, consider it Jimmy Haslam paying for the meal as I’m still on his payroll like a good number of you here. It is important that we continue to meet and ensure that we are there to support each other. We have all survived the trauma of coaching for the Cleveland Browns.
“Some of us have even been able to continue on in our careers and slowly rebuild the reputation and respect we had annihilated during our tenures on the North coast of Ohio. Some of us are still in that process.” Pettine said as he made the sign of the cross and thanked the Lord that Mike McCarthy had hired him in Green Bay this offseason. “Oh, almost forgot… I’m Mike Pettine and I used to coach the Cleveland Browns.”
Before Pettine could even sit, one individual hopped out of his seat with the giddy anticipation of a child racing to check on school closings upon seeing two feet of freshly fallen snow on the ground. “Hey guys! I’m Pat Shurmur and I used to coach the Cleveland Browns. Did it suck? Yes. Did I get laughed at by the rest of the profession for years? Of course. However, I’m here to tell you there’s a definitive positive to our experiences as well for blessed are the men who have persevered under trial. Just a few weeks ago, after my agent begged them to give me a courtesy interview, I was hired as head coach of the New York football Giants!” Shurmur was beaming as he gloated. “John Mara asked me how I could convince the fan base for two more seasons of Eli Manning despite his utter failings as quarterback as he aged. I burst out laughing as I could hardly control myself. I had to sell Colt McCoy, Seneca Wallace, Brandon Weeden, and Thaddeus Lewis as legitimate NFL quarterbacks. Pretending Manning was still capable of playing? Easy.”
A kind, older gentleman cleared his throat and raised his hand as he needed to make sure he would be the next to speak. There was a glow going about the room at this point as never had one of these meetings started off with back-to-back positive messaging. Everyone felt assured it would continue as the next speaker was a favorite of many. “Hello. My name is Romeo Crennel and I used to coach the Cleveland Browns.” Crennel smiled and nodded at the several who shouted back Rome-E-Oh. Then, he turned to Shurmur. “This offseason, you may feel a slight sting. That’s pride messing with you. Screw pride. Pride only hurts. It never helps. You fight through it. This business is filled to the brim with unrealistic idealists. Idealists who think their career will age like wine. If you mean it turns to vinegar… it does. If you mean it gets better with age… it don’t. Tonight, you probably think I’m speaking nonsense, but you will be asked if you want your former quarterback, Brandon Weeden, as your backup quarterback. You hang up that phone, you slap that man if he’s in the room, and you walk out that door. You had your chance to mold Brady Quinn into a NFL starting quarterback and he didn’t have it. Don’t you dare make that same mistake again in Kansas City and elevate him to starter and let you ruin your shot at being a head coach twice. Don’t you do it. He’s already been there once.”
Rob Chudzinski attempts to embrace Crennel to console him but is rebuked. As the scene is playing out, a bright light blinds several and the hum of electronics amps up. “Kyle! Do you really think NOW is the appropriate time for a Powerpoint presentation? Turn off that projector!” Pettine screams as he attempts to regain control before the affair goes completely off track. “And, guys. Please no one respond to that group text from Ray Farmer asking where we are. This meeting is for coaches only. And, no. Calling plays from the owner’s box during games doesn’t count. Thanks.”
From the back, a laugh turns into a cackle. The room goes silent. Slowly, an older gentleman walks to the head table and stares down the assembly. “I came within a Dennis Northcutt drop from beating the Steelers in the playoffs, you goons.” and with that, Bruce Arians departs.
Chris Palmer, Butch Davis, Terry Robiskie, and Ray Horton Jr. all stand up and attempt to talk over each other to command the floor. None are able to assert their position of leadership as the room divulges into chaos. Several arguments break out. The worst injury break between Gary Baxter, LeCharles Bentley, Orlando Brown, and Kellen Winslow is a heated discussion. The worst quarterback debate almost leads to blows between Brad Childress, arguing for Thaddeus Lewis, and an incredulous Tony Sparano, arguing for Spergon Wynn.
Just as hope appeared to be lost of regaining any semblance of order, all eyes trained on a man falling down the stairs as the crashing brought everyone to attention. Initial fears of injury appeared unwarranted as Chris Tabor popped immediately to his feet. “Hey, sorry. I had some trouble finding the place and then was entranced by the beautiful goldfish at the entrance. I’ve always sort of felt connected to goldfish, though I’m not really sure why. What was that, Mike? Oh yeah. That’s how I traverse a staircase. Seems to get the job done, right?”
Smiles crept across the faces of more than half the men in the room as they had employed Tabor as their special teams coach specifically to take the focus off of the rest of the team. Always the jester, that one.
“OK, let’s pray this out and start eating.” Pettine says before anyone can return to their fighting. All join in as they say “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, and accepting hardships as the pathway to peace. Amen.”
“And to Hue Jackson paying for this meal next year!” Jim O’Neill shouted out.
“Amen.” Pettine chuckled.