Thanks to the recent play of the Browns, there is a growing sentiment amongst fans that Pat Shurmur shouldn’t be fired at the end of the season. It’s an interesting debate considering how many of us felt about the situation as recently as three games ago. After the Dallas game it seemed like a lock that we would be rid of Pat Shurmur in 2013. After back to back wins with four somewhat winnable games to go… not so much.
So the question remains: Should the Browns fire Pat Shurmur at the end of the season?
I’ve made no secret about my unabashed hatred for Pat Shurmur as the coach of the Cleveland Browns. It’s become somewhat of a running gag for me to poke fun at him in the Monday Mail Bags and when providing my analysis of his performance I’ve been pretty brutal. Naturally, everyone probably thinks I still hold the opinion that Shurmur should be gone come season’s end.
Well… about that.
I think I’m starting to shift the other way and might actually want to see a third year of the Pat Shurmur regime. I know, I can’t believe I’m saying this either, but when you take an objective look at the situation and everything Shurmur has had to deal with, combined that with how the team has performed, and you can make the case that Shurmur should stay put.
First off, Shurmur has yet to experience what you would call a typical offseason and training camp. In his first season at the helm he had to deal with a shortened preseason and training camp due to the NFL lockout. In year two, it was announced on the first day of training camp that the Browns were being sold. It’s a little hard to prepare a team when every question regards the team’s pending sale and writers commenting on your job security.
Secondly, Shurmur has one of the youngest teams in the NFL. He’s been forced into a situation in which his quarterback, running back, right tackle, and best wide receiver are all rookies. Adding to the level of difficulty, Shurmur’s second best receiver is in his second year and still learning the position. From an offensive standpoint, it makes sense then why this team still struggles to put points on the board.
That being said, look at last year compared to this year. In 2011, the Browns scored a total of 218 points. So far, through 12 games in 2012 the Browns have already scored 229 points. By the time things are all said and done there will have been a rather dramatic offensive improvement between years one and two. One has to think with a full offseason and one full year of experience under the belts of Weeden, Richardson, and Gordon the Browns can only get better heading into Shurmur’s third year.
Defensively speaking, the Browns have also shown a dramatic improvement. While, Shurmur holds a significantly lesser role in terms of defense, it’s his staff under Dick Juron that has led to the vast improvement. The influx of talent via the draft helps, but the scheme implemented by the coaching staff is working.
Lastly, while Shurmur still shows problems in terms of clock management and when to throw the challenge flag, he has shown dramatic improvement in terms of how the team is prepared and the effort put forth on the field. Despite the fact that Shurmur would appear to be a lame duck coach, this team is still playing for him. They play hard every minute of every game and it shows. How else do you explain them being in each and every game this season and most of last year.
Again, that’s indicative of a young football team. Hell, that’s indicative of a young team in any sport. You have to learn how to win. You have to go through the battles and get knocked down a few times before you actually learn how to win. That’s exactly what this team is doing right now. If the switch ever flips and the Browns figure things out… look out.
You could make a case that Shurmur is on the same sort of career path a Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak. When Kubiak took over the Texans in 2006, they had just finished up four seasons under Dom Capers in which they went 18-46. Under Kubiak the Texan began acquiring talent at a feverish pace. Unfortunately, the results never followed.
In 2006, the Texans went 6-10 and then followed that with back to back years of 8-8. Expecting that 2009 would be the year they finally got over the hump, the Texans finished 9-7, just barely missing the playoffs, and followed that up with a disappointing 6-10 in 2010. Naturally, fans called for Kubiak’s head yet ownership held steadfast to the belief that Kubiak was the man for the job.
They were rewarded handsomely.
In 2011, the Texans finished 10-6 and looked like the best team in the NFL until a freak
injury to QB Matt Schaub derailed their season. Now, with an 11-1 record, the Texans are clearly one of, if not the best team in the NFL. They look poised to make a deep playoff run and possibly even win the Super Bowl.
Where would they be had they fired Kubiak and decided to rebuild following 2010?
Is Pat Shurmur the next Gary Kubiak? Is he a coach that wasn’t necessarily ready to be a head coach at the NFL level and needs the time to grow into the position? Are the Browns poised to make a huge leap in 2013 under Shurmur? Considering all the close games and tough breaks this team has had to endure over the past two seasons and the fact that they “keep battling” each and every week, it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility.
So should Pat Shurmur be the head coach of the Cleveland Browns in 2013? Honestly, it’s probably too early to say. There are four games left to be played and depending on how they play out may very well impact the decision. Just know that as of right now, when you look at everything objectively, the decision isn’t nearly as cut and dry as it was a few weeks ago.