Yesterday the Cleveland Browns hired Mike Pettine as their 15th head coach. Pettine comes from a background as a high school head coach, the linebackers coach in Baltimore and defensive coordinator with the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. Pettine’s press conference was different then the many that Browns fans have seen before and the Twitter response was mostly positive following him speaking. There are many psychological reasons that Pettine seemed to “win” this presser but as he alluded to he knows winning football games, in the end, is all that matters.
We will cover this hire in a number of ways starting first with the psychological cues that allowed fans to like Pettine. For those new to FoS, this writer is a professional counselor, working in the field for the past 12 years. It is with this background that this article is written.
While Pettine’s dimensions are not readily available online, it was obvious that he is a large man. From the picture above he looks to stand at least 2 inches taller then owner Jimmy Haslam and is built like a linebacker. Tall with a solid build psychologically gives people confidence in a man’s ability to lead. That he is big, but not out of shape, gives confidence that he is disciplined and controlled, unlike the previous iterations of Rex Ryan and the current version of his brother Rob. People respond to physical appearance and stature when giving confidence to others, Pettine passed this test.
Pettine’s speech pattern was clear and concise. Pettine didn’t seem to waffle when answering questions, instead his words were steady and precise, without being read directly off a piece of paper or seeming to be overly prepared by a public relations person. Pettine’s words did not drip with emotion but how he spoke, intensity and firmness specifically, showed the passion he has for the sport. Psychologically people respond to speech patterns that seem A) Authentic and B) Have appropriate level of emotion.
Pettine gave direct eye contact during a majority of his time, whether his initial speech or while answering questions. Eye contact gives the receiver the perception that the speaker is talking directly to them. Not breaking eye contact while answering questions also means it is less likely the person is lying or thinking of a creative way to answer a question they are uncomfortable with. While Pettine gave consistent eye contact he did not stare at anyone in particular nor did anyone get the sense he was using eye contact as a means of intimidation. Psychologically people like the ability to read someone’s eyes and eye contact allows that.
Pettine’s connection to Rex Ryan was brought up in the best way possible. Since Pettine is not a greatly known name, connecting him to a known coach is a positive thing. The Browns and Pettine were able to connect him to the positives of Ryan; passionate, hardworking, defense oriented, but distance him from other Ryan qualities; Super Bowl predictions, crazy quotes and the like. People’s comfort levels with others often comes from recommendations. Connecting Pettine to Ryan, even if Ryan wouldn’t recommend him directly, allowed the fans to think of Pettine as if Ryan had recommended him. This psychologically transfers the confidence the fan has in Ryan to Pettine to some degree.
Whether on purpose or not, the Browns and Pettine did a great job of presenting at the press conference. What did you notice that gave you confidence? Anything cause you to be concerned? Did you know these psychological principles were in place as you watched or listened to them introduce Pettine? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.