2011 was supposed to be the start of something new, something special for the Cleveland Browns. They had a young up and coming quarterback to groom for the future, a running back that had achieved a level of stardom unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and a new coach cut from the same mold as Mike Holmgren. This was supposed to be the year in which the Browns began to turn over a new leaf and become a legitimate NFL franchise once again. No one was expecting to make the playoffs, but noticeable improvements and an exciting brand of football weren’t out of the question.
My how quickly things can change. Gone are the promising expectations and hope for better days to come built up during the preseason. Instead, they have been replaced by those familiar feelings of frustration and anger that creep into the hearts and minds of Browns fans each and every December. We want answers. We want to know how and why the season has unfolded the way it has. We want to know whose house to storm with torches and pitchforks. This season the answers to these questions can be directed in the direction of one person.
Head Coach Pat Shurmur.
It’s easy to understand the Browns encountering a few bumps in the road. After all, Shurmur is a rookie head coach in the NFL. Compounding the problem is the fact that Shurmur lacks head coaching experience at any level of competitive football (How exactly was he qualified to be the head coach of an NFL team? Can someone please explain this to me? I’ll wait). As far as unproven coordinator guys go, he’s about as unproven as they get. As a result, the Browns first season under the leadership of Shurmur has been filled with potholes the size of craters ultimately leading to the age old debate among Browns fans concerning a head coach…
Should Pat Shurmur stay or go?
Think about that for a second before you answer. Thirteen games into Pat Shurmur’s career as head coach and already we’re debating whether or not he should get a second season. Maybe that is the answer in and of itself. In year one, shouldn’t a new head coach instill some sense of optimism and hope before things go immediately south? Even Norv Turner makes it a good year or two before he goes all Norv and the fan base cries for his head. Shouldn’t there have been some sign at some point this season that made all of us say, “Ok, this is the guy?” But there hasn’t. Instead it’s been one mind numbingly dumb mistake after another.
In conversation it’s easy to try to defend Shurmur with a certain amount of logic and denial of the truth, but when you actually look at all the mistakes written out, the sheer number of them cannot be ignored.
1. Shurmur’s play calling, expected by many to be new and exciting (because that’s what you’re supposed to get with an offensive guru) has been anything but. In fact, the play calling at times has been abysmal. Play action passes on 3rd and long, hand offs in goal to go situations to third string tight ends, and little to no attempts to push the ball down field on a consistent basis. It’s just been ugly and not fun at all to watch.
2. Shurmur has shown an inability to utilize his players by playing to their strengths. McCoy is a young quarterback learning on the fly. He needs to be managing games not winning them on his own. There is no reason he should have thrown the ball more than 25-30 times in any game. This year he only hit that sweet spot in 3 games. Meanwhile, Peyton Hillis, when healthy has been a forgotten man, especially in short yardage situations in which he should be getting the ball. Instead he’s handing the ball off to a third string tight end who’s never taken a hand off in his life. Shurmur appears more willing to cram his square peg players into a round hole with a sledge hammer rather than adapting and figuring something else out.
3. “We went back and looked at the tape and saw some real positives.” Positives? What positives? What is there to possibly be positive about after these games each and every week. “We need to improve, we need to get better, but we like the progress and direction this team’s headed.” What the cuss? Is Shurmur watching the same game film as the rest of us? He seems clueless.
4. Speaking of clueless, Shurmur is admittedly guilty of not knowing the following:
- Colt McCoy was concussed, he had no idea. Now the Browns are the center of an embarrassing full scale investigation concerning how they handled Colt’s concussion and how the NFL will handle concussions in the future.
- Alex Smith, not Owen Marecic was in the game against St. Louis, he had no idea. As a result, Smith took a handoff and immediately fumbled.
- Peyton Hill was sick? He was hurt? His agent had him sit out? Shurmur had no idea. His bumbling of that situation led to a PR disaster heading into the bye week and a rare media appearance by Mike Holmgren
- Proper clock management and use of timeouts, Shurmur has no idea. He continually holds on to timeouts for no reason or spends them early like they’re going out of style.
- He got a penalty… called on himself. I didn’t even know that was possible.
Depressed yet? No? Ok, I’ll keep going.
5. Against the Steelers, with a record of 4-9 and absolutely no chance at making the playoffs, Shurmur kicks a field goal on fourth and goal from the half yard line. The Browns never get any closer to the end zone and it set a defeated tone for the remainder of the game. The offense was never the same after that.
6. Speaking of field goals, Shurmur’s high powered offense has scored 178 points, 13.7 per game. That’s good enough for third worst in the NFL. Good thing he was considered an offensive genius by somebody.
7. Shurmur was supposedly a groomer of quarterbacks. He had worked with Donovan McNabb early in his career with great success and helped Sam Bradford have a successful rookie season last year in St. Louis. He was supposed to groom McCoy into the QB of the future, the franchise guy. This year it appears as if McCoy has regressed and is at odds with Shurmur on a weekly basis or play calling and personnel on the field.
8. He failed to have the team ready to play the week before the bye week against Tennessee when they were still in position to stay in the AFC North race. As a result, the Titans came into Cleveland and walked all over a Browns team that looked as if they had their bags packed and were ready for a long break. You could almost say this was the beginning of the end of the season… in week 4.
9. Shurmur has yet to “win the press conference.” Each and every week Shurmur takes the podium to speak with the media and each and every week we are less and less impressed. At times he has even shown a short temper and snapped back at reporters or even walked out. Some guys just look and sound like a head coach. Shurmur is neither. Even his name fails the litmus test for a head coach. Pat Shurmur… he was sure to be up there in prestige with the great names like Mike Ditka, Bill Walsh, Chuck Knoll, Vince Lombardi, or Tom Landry.
10. According to reports from various sources in the local media, some are suggesting that Shurmur has lost the locker room. To lose the locker room in this short a period of time is not a good omen for things to come.
What about that instills confidence? What about anything Shurmurs has done so far this season makes Browns fans say, “This is the guy to lead the Browns to the Super Bowl.”
Absolutely nothing, that’s what.
I’ll be the first to admit that firing a coach after one year is never the answer, but in this circumstance I don’t see any other option. Consistency for the sake of consistency is just as bad as inconsistency. You can’t force these things, but anything and everything that could go wrong for Shurmur in year one has gone wrong. Is it all his fault? I don’t know. I’m not in the locker room, I’m not in the meetings and film studies, I’m not on the sidelines. All I can do is go by what I see on a weekly basis during each and every game and like everyone else who roots for this team, I don’t like what I see.
So in three weeks or so, Mike Holmgren will have a very tough situation to make. Does he stay the course with Shurmur, or does he bail on the plan and the process and head in a different direction. Odds are we’ll be watching Pat Shurmur on the sidelines in 2012, but if things continue at this pace over the last three games, Holmgren needs to at least consider a change. he already wasted a year by hanging on to Eric Mangini. Can he really afford to waste another by holding on to Shurmur?
I guess, we’ll all just have to wait and see.