While great clouds of unknown hang over Berea, only Jimmy Haslam III — and, to an extent, Joe Banner — can clear up the sky. The Cleveland Browns are marching hard toward what would be their second win of the 2012 NFL season and morale is at one of the higher levels seen in quite some time. But as the shine wears off and the party slowly starts to become less attendend, it will be Haslam who decides the future for his current head coach in Pat Shurmur.
With Shurmur’s safety blanket in Mike Holmgren ready to ride off into the sunset, the headset-wearing play-caller will be on his own to earn the respect — and employment — of Haslam and his staff. In a league of “guys,” everyone wants theirs in place. Holmgren’s biggest downfall in what was a five-year plan may have been holding on to a head coach who obviously was not going to be in his long-term plans, thus forcing Shumur into a lockout-shortened campaign as rookie, leaving him with an ownership change in his first full season.
If Jimmy Haslam is not sold on Pat Shumur and his offense being the system to get the Browns to where he envisions them being in the next five seasons, the ties need to be cut. If Haslam chooses the alternative, put the pen to the paper and get a contract extension signed — money and mouth, firmly in lockstep.
During his introductory press conference, Haslam stated that he wanted to be “transparent” on his path to getting the Browns back to a level of prominence. He spoke of consistency, an ideal he learned during his time as minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that has had fewer head coaches in the last 40 years than the Browns have had in their last eight. Team CEO Joe Banner piled on just this week by stating that the team needs, what he referred to as, “the best people.” Alleviate the worry, alleviate the sideshow. Forget the trial runs and evaluation periods. Make a decision and start practicing the preached.
Naturally, both Haslam and Banner confirmed that they will not consider any addional personnel moves until the end of the season. Technically, Mike Holmgren will not be retiring until this point; it’s rumored that Randy Lerner will be paying the rest of Holmgren’s contract as the new regime begins to lay the groundwork for the future. Had they opted to make a move by relieving either Shumur (following a win, mind you) or Tom Heckert — who has reportedly been passing résumes out since August — of their jobs, who would they bring in mid-season? All would-be coaches, save for retired now-analysts, and front office execs are currently working with their respective teams. Certainly, there’s risk involved with delegating control of a 53-man roster to a man who will have no say three months down the road, trades and releases being what they are, but to believe that there is not going to be increased oversight by both Haslam and Banner would be naive.
But once this season comes to a close and Haslam has had the opportunity to view both men under a microscope and compare each of them to their respective Haslam-set benchmarks, decisions have to be made. If they’re not the men to see this team to their first Super Bowl in franchise history, the losses have to be cut. If they are, however, the men for the job, lets make sure they’re a part of this team for the foreseeable future. Give them a contract extension, silence the cynics and prepare for the first draft under the watch of the former CEO of Pilot-Flying J.
When asked about his job being on the line, Shurmur responded by saying that he’s in a “good place.” He’ll be even better once the uncertainty has been removed.
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)