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.
- Not Mike Holmgren. I said IN the building. Burn! [↩]