Coaches Are Made, Not Hired

(Update: The hiring of Pat Shurmur is official)

As the Browns are reportedly on the verge of hiring Pat Shurmur to be their next head coach, most Cleveland fans don’t get it.

The hand-wringing and sniping reminds me of all that TV footage of Jets fans complaining about their team’s draft picks live on TV over the years.  Point being, just because you don’t know anything about Shurmur doesn’t mean that he isn’t the right guy for the job.

“But he doesn’t have a track record that we can look at like Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher!”  Neither did Mike Tomlin or John Harbaugh to name two men who we see a combined four times per year.

“But the St. Louis offense isn’t even that good!”  That team was 1-15 in 2009, was forced to rush their rookie QB into the starting lineup for the 2010 season and won seven games.  Sure, they only scored enough points to be 26th in the NFL offensively, but that was a jump of six spots year-over-year.

None of this stuff really matters anyway as every situation is different.  The Rams had to climb out of the basement and they are seemingly on their way.  The Browns were trying to climb out of the basement this year and Eric Mangini got them off on the right foot.  Now the Browns organization is primed to take the next step.  That step requires the right coach, but it is a little different than we are used to thinking about it.

The coach needs to be a part of the team with the front office.  They need to be able to work in concert with Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert.  There needs to be singular focus as they work through tough decisions on personnel in free agency and the draft.  These aren’t disparate units with walls up.  The success of the organization will hinge on all of them working together.

Everyone in this town is used to looking for a fall guy and sending them packing.  Butch Davis, Mo Carthon, Romeo Crennel, John Collins, Phil Savage, Brian Daboll, Eric Mangini, George Kokinis, and Randy Lerner have all been in the crosshairs of Browns fans as the singular point of negativity over the last five years or so.  It has been one witch hunt after another, and who could blame us?  There was no cohesive organization in any of these cases.  Just seemed like independent pods in various struggles for control.

Pat Shurmur needs to be a good coach who can come in here for the long haul.  That task isn’t really only riding on his shoulders though.  It is up to Tom Heckert to make Pat Shurmur look like the savior next year with his personnel decisions.  It is up to Pat Shurmur to make Tom Heckert look like a savior by getting the most out of the players that he is given.  It is up to both of them to make Mike Holmgren look like a genius king sitting atop it all building a competitive winner.

Finally, it is up to all three of them and then some to finally make Randy Lerner the afterthought that he so desires to be as the owner of the Cleveland Browns.  Let him just be the guy with the bottomless pit of a checking account as long as real football men are taking care of everything else.

If you want to micro-analyze Pat Shurmur’s career as a coordinator to try and figure out how he projects as a head coach, be my guest.  I am argumentative, so I can probably make any case you want work.  The truth is that beyond being extremely competent as a coach between games and on game day, he will only be as good as his president, front office, coordinators and players allow him to be.

Too often we look for a singular scapegoat, and rarely are things that simple.  I am not sure if this is a ringing endorsement of Shurmur or not, by the way.  It is just how I feel about it right now.

  • Chris

    I was kind of disapointed when I first heard the rumors “You’re hiring WHO?! No… seriously… who is that?”

    I’ve started realizing over the past day or so, though, that the most likely scenario is that Holmgren wants a blank slate who he can then groom to be the coach of the future.

    I don’t like that it seems like it might still be a year or two before we see any progress, and I will always think Mangini didn’t get a fair shot in Cleveland, but I’m forced to admit that a superbowl winning coach grooming someone to run the Browns and create an entire, unified vision for the organization from the ground up can not be a bad thing.

  • CoachA12


  • Brian

    As the offensive coordinator of the New York Giants, Sean Payton had the play calling duties stripped from him by Jim Fassell who called games the rest of the year (they made the Super Bowl by the way.) I’m sure Saints fans were pointing to that failure as the reason why that hack was never going to win them a Super Bowl when he got hired.

  • DouginCincy

    Spot. On. I have been making this same point for the past few days. It is not about the big name, it is about the ability to work as a moving part within a larger machine. Unless the guy that comes in is such a genius you could simply hand him the reigns and set him loose (can’t even name someone that is still in the game, but a Parcells or a Landry…and those guys aren’t taking a job any time soon) we need a proper fit for the entire organization. Pat Shurmur fits that description better than Cowher or Chucky ever could, and that is what breeds success. I dig the hire if it happens.

  • Ben

    Has Grossi started to run him out of town yet?

  • NJ

    “Too often we look for a singular scapegoat, and rarely are things that simple.”

    Exactly. We need to blame everyone.

    I’m willing to give Shurmur a chance. That said, I’m starting to feel a certain foreboding about the Holmgren dynasty. All these Lamonte connections, the in-depth coaching search that wasn’t, giving big bucks to Jake Delhomme…

    I find it hard to be an optimistic Browns fan.

  • stin4u


    Trust in H&H.

  • 5KMD

    I just don’t understand why they don’t wait until the playoffs are over (or at least the divisonal rounds) so they have more cnadidates to look at. They must feel no one on those staffs are worth the interview.

  • Nate

    It’s a cold wintery evening back in Philly a couple years. Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur are out for an offseason night on the town. And after many rounds, Pat starts complaining how he will never be a coach in the NFL. Tom Heckert, the up and coming NFL exec, puts his arms around Pat and tells him:

    Dude, Dude, Dude. . . Your grret guy man . .. like the coolest dude I know. Your crrazy, but I like youu mannnn. If I ever get to be GM of a team, your gonna be-a my-a first coach I-a hire . . . man.

    Tom immediately throws up and passes out on the floor, and Shurmur so excited by this news calls his wife and tells her that their ship has come in, after he answer 15 questions about where he is and what he is doing from his wife.

    And that ladies and gentleman, is how Pat Shurmur has become the next coach of the Cleveland Browns. It’s like swimming, use the Buddy system.

  • 216in614

    im not disappointed at all. i’d much rather see a coach make a name for himself turning the browns into a playoff/super bowl team than watch “gruden/cower/whoever big name” come here and it still doesnt happen.

    i want someone who has something to prove. i would rather see a coach get made as opposed to being hired.

  • Slydawg

    Don’t know about Grossi, but KNR doesn’t like the hire so you know it’s a bad choice…

  • Scott

    “Has Grossi started to run him out of town yet?”

    Depends on how he answers questions and how much access he provides.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    I’m willing to give this guy a shot, but let’s watch how much we use the rose-colored glasses. Mangini did some positive things in Cleveland, but to say that the team has a good foundation to make the next step might be pushing it a little. They’ve had double-digit losses all but 3 seasons since returning to the league in ’99 including two consecutive 11-loss seasons.

    The talent level from one NFL team to the next does not change that much. While I’m not expecting miracles next season, I want a winning record.

    It’s like Yoda says…do or do not, there is no try.

  • MattC

    There’s something to be said about the notion that Shurmur, Holmgren, and Heckert will be on the same page philosophically and “in this together,” so to speak.

    That still doesn’t ease my concerns about the quasi-nepotism here with the agent and past team connections and the impact it possibly had on a truly diligent coaching search.

    I personally liked Mularkey over all the other realistic and long-shot candidates, including Gruden, Cowher, Fox etc. Some Browns insiders did, too.

    Oh well, hope for the best.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    It’s pretty obvious at this point that Holmgren is looking for a protege. Holmgren “doesn’t want to coach”, but he will train his protege to coach just like he would. So in a sense, Holmgren will still be coaching…he’ll be coaching the coach that is coaching the Browns…

    “I think I’ll call him….mini-Mike…” (lifts pinky to edge of mouth…)

  • bobby

    Next step is the staff now. I heard hes going to try to lure Dick Jauron back into coaching as our DC. Wannstedt would be an interesting coach as well.

    Off note- Brian Daboll was interviewing for a Miami OC or QB coach spot… who would want that guy?

  • bobby

    Can mini-Mike be Shurminator’s nickname?

  • cleveland78

    I’m getting tired of the comparison to lesser-known coaches joining playoff-ready teams and then finding success. Unless I missed it, Shurmur isn’t coaching a team with Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Roethlisberger, Roddy White, Greg Jennings, the Baltimore defense, the Pittsburgh defense, etc, etc, etc.

  • cleveland78

    @ #5 & #12,

    Not sure, but if it stops the constant Cowher lobbying, I’ll give Shurmur the benefit of the doubt.

  • Chuck

    I was pushing for Mularkey too, but I read an interesting article from 2005 on USA today’s site from a link on a friend’s FB page.

    Take it for what it’s worth, but hey it’s not like this was written yesterday.

  • Harv 21

    @ MattC: not sure why Grossi and Mary Kay are focusing on agent-directed nepotism. As I understand it, this particular agent owes his career (and client list) to Holmgren feeding him guys. He piggy-backed Holmgren for a second career. Possible that Holms is directing younger coaches he knows to his friend the agent. People might be erroneously assuming that the tail is wagging the dog.

    @ Bobby: “mini-Mike” – pretty perfect.