The difference in Pat Shurmur year over year is obvious. While it is far too early to see how it translates to the team on the field, there’s simply no doubting he is a different guy than the guarded, often flustered coach that talked to the media every day last year about the percentage of “installation” that had been completed. Simply put, Shurmur often looked like a guy who needed more coffee but dreaded wasting any time because he had so much to do. He wasn’t rude, but he just seemed drained more often than not in the first few days of camp a year ago.
Shurmur spoke to it directly today. A year ago when players walked by him, “I was watching numbers walk by,” he said. “Now as I watch a guy walk by, I know his wife. I’ve talked to him this morning, I know what he did last year. I know how to push his buttons. I know how he responds to adversity.”
When one phase of your job becomes more comfortable though, another phase is likely to pop up and surprise you. The pending sale of the Browns probably isn’t weighing heavier on anyone in Berea more than Pat Shurmur.
Mike Holmgren might lose his gig, but he’s in the twilight of his NFL career anyway. Tom Heckert could get lost in the transition1 but he probably wouldn’t have much trouble bragging about the roster turnover he’s enacted in his short time here. Pat Shurmur is by far the most vulnerable because he has the most to prove2 and might not get as long as he thought to prove it. Shurmur’s future most likely hinges on the support of Mike Holmgren and if Mike Holmgren is out then Shurmur could be out as well. Tom Heckert might have been on board with Shurmur’s hire, but if he’s also fighting for his future, it’s hard to imagine he’d go to bat for Shurmur simultaneously.
That’s life in the NFL where you’re only as good as your last season and billionaires who buy billion dollar businesses generally like to install their own people and / or make a splash upon entering the league. Today at camp, despite that, Shurmur seemed at ease and plowing through to try to take care of the things that are in his control.
The Browns are already working on their plans for the first three games without Scott Fujita. They’re working hard to get the interior of the defensive line up to speed with Phil Taylor out. Ahtyba Rubin is out too as he recovers from a small surgical procedure he had six weeks ago, but he’s expected back shortly.
That’s more than enough for a second year coach with a rookie QB,3 a brand new running back, a new offensive coordinator and the unknown expectations of a brand new boss who just paid $920 million for the right to hire and fire whoever he wants.
Sometimes life is easiest when there’s only one thing you can do to help yourself. He can’t bank on a three year plan in line with Mike Holmgren’s contract. In this case, whether Shurmur has any future with the Browns or not, the only way forward in the NFL for him is with some success to pump up his resume. As of today, Pat Shurmur seems more comfortable and more confident.
Other notes: Shurmur referred to Buster Skrine and Eric Hagg as “eventual starters.” The young DBs were looking quick and explosive on the field. There’s obviously an opportunity there and it’s up to them to grab it. No drama amongst tight ends. Ben Watson is your starter and Shurmur looks forward to using multiple tight ends in different combinations. So far so good for Mitch Schwartz. That’s about all you can say for a lineman before he puts on a full set of pads.
- Though I view him as most secure in his role for whatever reason. [↩]
- His first season as Browns coach doesn’t light up the resume. [↩]
- Thankfully Shurmur didn’t have to answer “the QB question” again today. He didn’t announce a starter. Weeden was first up in all the drills and it is clearly his job to lose. [↩]