July 29, 2014

Despite criticisms, Shurmur should remain for the rest of this season

I’ve admittedly struggled with my criticisms of Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur. I am more than happy to critique individual decisions along the way, but frequently the desire of the fans is to reach conclusions as soon as humanly possible. I like to take my time reaching conclusions because, as they say, timing is everything. That’s why I said that I thought the Browns needed to reach a conclusion on Tom Heckert right away. For a general manager who is leading up to the draft in April, the Browns, in my estimation, shouldn’t wait until after the season in February to decide if they’re making a change at GM. They need to know ASAP. I don’t really feel the same way with the head coach in the middle of the season.

The conflicting ideas are between best practices and when exceptions need to be made. For example, I truly believe that a first-time head coaching candidate is probably not going to reach his individual ceiling as a coach until probably his third or fourth season. Year one everything is new. Year two things should be more familiar, but some of the game situations might still surprise a guy. Year three he should really be as good as he’s ever going to be and depending on one’s view of the roster he has to work with, you should be able to judge accordingly. That being the case, I have real philosophical difficulties concluding on a guy this early in his tenure even if my eyes tell me that the verdict is in. My conclusion today is that even though I’m skeptical about Pat Shurmur’s future as head coach with the Browns, I don’t think there’s any reason to replace him in-season even if the powers that be decide they won’t continue with him past this season.

I know as we get to the bye week and as everyone continues to study the body language of Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner, it will be very easy to suggest going to an interim coach among those who have given up on Shurmur. We all know the Browns have at least three guys in the building1 who have “interim coach” written all over them. And while a move such as that might alleviate a fourth and one call or a two-point conversion decision somewhere in the second half of the season, that hardly seems like a worthwhile reason for the level of team disruption that is caused by firing the head coach. For all my criticisms of Pat Shurmur up to this point (and there have been many,) and despite all the losses, I still don’t get the sense that the team is off the rails in terms of practice, preparation and effort on Sundays.

If you asked me today if Pat Shurmur should be the coach here next year, I probably wouldn’t really give you an answer. I know a lot of criticism I take as a writer stems from this fact. Let’s just say based on his performance so far, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he was fired, but I’m always hesitant to take my decidedly outsider’s perspective and reach a conclusion. The people who are going to make this decision (if they haven’t already) are talking to players and seeing all the practices and talking to all the supporting coaches. I haven’t been around the team since training camp. Without seeing him interact with players daily and seeing the body language of his team coming in and out of drills, etc. it’s very tough to feel like I have an informed opinion.

Maybe it is just as simple as looking at the record and some questionable in-game decisions, but if I was making the decision, I’d want access to more info. Plus, the ultimate question when you fire a guy is “who is going to replace him?” Without knowing a short list to answer that question, I generally choose not to call for a guy’s firing. I’ll stick to criticizing along the way and let those details float into space more times than not. Plus, there’s the whole question of timing. I think everyone would agree that the best time to make a change at head coach is after the season as long as you can afford to wait. It seems to me that the Browns can afford to wait at this point.

In the end, I think the Browns should keep Shurmur the rest of the year barring some kind of catastrophe that I can barely even imagine. We’ll see how the Browns decide to proceed next season, and my suspicion is there will be some additional frustrations with Pat Shurmur’s decisions in the second half. Despite those, there’s no reason at this point to not let him make his own case for the full year. We’ll find out shortly if Joe Banner and Jimmy Haslam stay true to their word about not making changes.

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Footnotes:

  1. Not Mike Holmgren. I said IN the building. Burn! []
  • Harv 21

    the only situations that I can imagine justify an in-season change would involve:

    - an underachieving team which the coach seems to have permanently lost, which still has a playoff shot and where there’s a competent interim already on the staff capable of getting them there..

    - a team where the HC has helped foster a poisonous culture that seems to be impacting key players.

    I don’t include the mere incompetence as we have here. The losing stinks but other than Joe Thomas the key players are young and the attitude is reversible. Most importantly, you won’t get the next HC time of year, and you are signaling future candidates that you wouldn’t mind dumping them mid-season one day.

  • mgbode

    or if Haslam/Banner feel Shurmur is sacrificing the future to try to force-fit a couple of wins this year (example: if Trent isn’t healhty, then he shouldn’t be playing. i don’t know enough to know if he is healthy enough to play or not, but I am sure that Haslam/Banner are monitoring)

  • Shane

    Very interesting take, but the guy’s gotta go. Chuck Kyle anyone?
    Go Cats

  • Harv 21

    Maybe I give the actors too much credit for acting rationally but don’t see how even Pat thinks that helps him, either in playing an ineffective guy out of desperation or in doing something he knows bossmen won’t approve of. Trent is the Franchise, and if I’m Jimmy I text Pat a little reminder after reading Trent’s claim in this morning’s PD that coach “knows I won’t sit out.”

  • mgbode

    I think you give too much credit. Desperate men in desperate situations tend to err on the side of irrational.

  • Harv 21

    Right. Always expect fear of career-immolation will trump the craziness of desperate NFL coaches and execs. But it often doesn’t, like embattled Savage sending out that “go root for Buffalo” tweet or Holmgren’s “don’t come to me for playoff tix.” You’re right, they can totally lose perspective once the public and media are all over them.

  • Harv 21

    guess the next question is: if he playsTrent, whose injury then worsens, win or lose do you fire Pat or just order him to sit Trent, play Montario and Brandon Jackson and limp the season out?

  • mgbode

    you order Pat to sit Trent, who most likely doesn’t like you giving him orders like that and either quits or lets you know you’ll need to fire him to do that.

    not how I’d want it to play out, but it seems the most probable scenario IF and, again, that’s IF Shurmur is planning on playing an injured Trent to try to scrap out an extra win or two.

  • Big Z

    I agree. Keeping Shurmur for the rest of the year also ensures a top-3 (probably #1 overall) draft pick.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    LoL the brightside

  • mgbode

    man, you haven’t seen the Panthers imploding or the Chiefs then. those teams look like they are giving up (and Romeo even intimated it in how he said Quinn was the starter just to try to wake up his team). we may be bad, but we haven’t been giving up yet.

    best way to get a higher pick is to fire Heckert and either fire Shurmur or have a littany of leaks out to the media that he is going to be fired. completely undermine his authority and cause turmoil for the team.

  • webdawg01

    Good for you. Shurmur shouldn’t have ever been hired. Let the learning process go untTHE SEASON IS OVER AS Jimmy Haslam said it would. Then it’s time to find our coach and start winning some football games.

  • Stevie Knicks

    Fire Shurmur ASAP. And the Special Teams coach. We have more than capable interim coaches. Shurmur himself has lost games for us. It’s hard to blame losing efforts in a team game on anyone except for the team, but the coach has lost some winnable games this year for us. This is why I would fire him. Add in the brain dead game management, horrid play calling, hoard of excuses, and bizarre press conferences… it’s a no brainer…. FIRE THIS MAN BEFORE HE USES FRANCHISE TRENT’S FUTURE AS A SACRIFICE FOR HIS OWN FUTURE

  • Steve

    But if Shurmur doesn’t fit in with the plan that Haslam and Banner have, how does it help to keep him around any longer? Start the rebuilding process as soon as you can. Unless you’re planning on keeping the exact same schemes on both sides of the ball, you need to give your next coach as much tape as possible to evaluate who he wants on the next roster. Shurmur is going to make decisions that will give him the best chance to win in the present, when the team needs someone who will make decisions for what is best down the road.

  • Steve

    I’d really hope that the future candidates can see the difference between new management bringing in their own guy, and Lerner just thinking that firing the coach every 2-3 years will fix everything.

    You’re right that firing the HC in the middle of the season will make the organization look bad, but how much lower can outside opinions of this franchise get?

  • cmm13

    And cue the Ori tirade in 5..4..3..2..

  • Atldawg62

    The major problem with keeping him is that his inflexible gameplan (if that’s what you want to call it) and inability to adapt scheme to player skills puts the players at unnecessary risk of injury. That concept does not take experience, it takes common sense. How many blown 2 min. drills do we need to see?

  • mgbode

    i disagree he doesn’t adapt to player skills.

    best example:

    Gordon goes deep to use his jets. Little goes short to use his physicality. Now, every now and then they’ll swap just to keep the defense guessing, but they do what they do best most of the time.

  • Harv 21

    disagree. There’s no rebuilding that can begin here mid-season unless it’s one of attitude, and that’s trumped by letting the players develop on their current course. There’s still so little depth that there’s no issue who should be starting at any position, and those young starters need to keep playing to get NFL experience under their belts. If you’re planning on switching offensive or defensive schemes you can’t do that mid-season with young players. This staff has good assistant coaches who seem to be competently developing the young players, including the QB, the D-line and the O-line. Absent a crisis it’s far better to let the rooks and second-years go through their NFL initiation with minimum distractions. Keeping the staff in place for just 2 months more far outweighs the benefits of the illusion of a head start.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    As I mentioned on another thread, Holmgren’s biggest mistake was hiring a head coach with no experience and a less than stellar history as an assistant to lead the youngest team in the NFL. This team needs a proven winner and leader and who commands respect the second he walks in the locker room. Someone who these guys will rally behind and want to run through a brick wall for. An assistant might work in some situations where a lot of the pieces are in place and there is a core of veteran leadership already in place (ex: Tomlin in Pittsburgh, Harbaugh in SF). This is not that situation. This team has some talent, but they don’t know how to win yet. They need someone who knows how to win and can show them how and they’ll believe it…because he has done it before. Holmgren should have taken the job himself for 2-3 years, gotten the system installed and the ship righted, and then handed the team off to a protege, who was serving as assistant HC to learn the ropes. I thought that after Mangini was fired, and I still think it today. It was a huge error to put a rookie head coach in charge of a team full of rookies.

    More on topic…as critical as I have been of him, I don’t see any upside to firing Shurmur mid-season, unless he has clearly lost the team and they quit on him. I don’t think that has happened (yet). As others have said, if we reach a point when Shurmur’s decisions are negatively impacting the long term future of this team, then you have to consider firing him. Not sure that’s the case…as of now.

  • Ron

    Nothing can help this team in the immediate future. Their very poor existing condition dictates that the kind of restructuring/rebuilding they must go through will take at least three seasons, not including this year, providing the right decisions and changes are made in a timely fashion.

  • steve-o

    Keeping a coach around to improve the future coaching candidate pool during a lost season is fine, provided it ends the day after the final game. The chances of Pat Shurmur one day leading us to a superbowl victory are about the same as a sky full of flying rubber chickens.

  • eagle45

    So they play TR,they don’t use him enough anyway.I would suggest a two back set ala Mack and Byner and work the offense off that.Kosar did well,passing game flourished. Shurmur?Seems sorta lost to me.

  • Steve

    If the assistant coaches are as good as you say, then the young players will keep developing even with an interim coach. If they are as good as 1-6 suggests, then keeping the staff in place has few, if any, benefits. And I think there will be more distractions if we keep having to ask every week whether or not Shurmur will still be around. If he won’t be, and you fire him now, you demonstrate that you are a straight shooter, and there is going to be a clean break from the Lerner era, and you better got on the bus now.

  • brownsfaninindy

    Dude, Shumur is GONE like a freight train at the end of the season! Not For Long (NFL) Coaches are graded ONLY on WIS VS LOSSES!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jim.firster Jim Firster

    What the hell planet are you on-anyone who has no confidence in his team one 4 and 1 as against the Colts is no winner!

  • NoVA Buckeye

    #PROGRESS

  • NoVA Buckeye

    Is Whipple still our QBs coach? That would explain a lot of things if it were true.

  • http://twitter.com/oribiasi oribiasi

    Oh Craig…always straddling the fence on issues. It seems like the only thing you can commit to is not committing to an answer on this issue. It’s so obvious he is a failure…and some of us saw this a year or so ago…hmm…

    You should get into politics.

  • JH

    Bill Cower will replace Shurmur – post season.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.dunn.144 Anne Dunn

    So true and before going into politics one of the best apologists for the outgoing Browns management. Shurmur needs to go.

  • http://www.facebook.com/www.kdev.us Kdev Øø

    wow you guys are sorry. you’ve got it all wrong. you cant keep playing shurmurball no matter how cohesive you think it will keep this unit… thats such bullshit. if you commit the kind of fraud that shurmur does, you caant expect your boss to wait until the end of the year to fire your ass…