If Pat Shurmur thought he was embroiled when the team was 0-5 he ain’t seen nothing yet. Pat Shurmur will be able to say things to defend himself, but the second-guessing is just too obvious on this day to be baseless. Yes, Shurmur called what should have been a go-ahead TD pass to Josh Gordon on 3rd and 1 in the fourth quarter with over six minutes remaining in the game. The Browns went to the line to go for it on fourth down and one from near the Colts 40-yard-line, ran out of time, had to call timeout and returned to the field… in punt formation. The TV coverage showed Jimmy Haslam and I’m just guessing because I am not a body language expert, but he didn’t look very happy with his coach’s decision.
Shurmur might even argue that it didn’t matter because the Browns got the ball back, but again, he’s wrong. Shurmur will say it isn’t his fault that Reggie Hodges only punted the ball only about 20 yards from the Colts 40 to the Colts 20. Technically he’s right. You always expect your punter to do better than that. Still, when given a chance on your opponent’s side of the field with a fourth and one and a chance to go ahead in the fourth quarter, punting is just abysmally depressing to fans and presumably his team and owner.
Most of today’s tilt between the Browns and Colts was like a really boring tennis match. Both teams were moving the ball and the defenses were content to not give up too many big plays. The clock rolled off pretty quickly it seemed as both squads seemed to want to wait for someone to “hit it into the net.” Eight yards and a pile of yawns was what seemed to transpire most of the game.
It was one of those games where it felt like the Browns had been dominated in the first half. Even that being said, they trailed only 14-6 with the promise of the ball first in the second half. The defense seemed to bend-not-break to its own death in the first half. The Colts were great on third down, or the Browns couldn’t get off the field. Probably a lot of both.
It was another game where Trent Richardson was unable to help his team due to injury. That’s alright. He gave it a go. What wasn’t alright was the Browns lack of running attack against one of the league’s worst rushing defenses. Montario Hardesty ended the game with seven carries and the Browns as a team rushed for 17 including one scramble by Weeden. The Colts on the other hand, without number one back Donald Brown, rushed for 148 yards on 37 carries. That’s how you help a rookie QB and an overall young team develop.
In the end, Browns fans must feel ashamed that they got fooled into placing expectations on their team after one week and a win. This was a winnable game and the team came out flat. The defense generally played uninspired and even with some questionable refereeing working against the Browns they had a great opportunity to win the game against another team in transition. A combination of poor execution and questionable coaching decisions sunk them in the end.
I’ve said a number of things generically about NFL head coaches. I’ve said it almost never makes sense to replace one in the middle of a season. I’ve said that, generically speaking, any coach should get to see his third season because that is when he’ll be likely to hit his ceiling as a game runner. Judging by Haslam’s body language, Shurmur might not get a chance to show his ceiling if he and Joe Banner determine it’s just too low to bother with the continuity Banner said he covets.