Pat Shurmur, game manager extraordinaire


Nothing irritates me more than poor game management. It’s inexcusable. Any 12-year-old kid who plays Madden knows when to go for the 2-point conversion and how to use timeouts at the end of a game. A kid in his basement, chugging Mountain Dews and stuffing his face with pizza doesn’t think twice before going for two when going up 15-10 in the 4th quarter against Philadelphia, or when going up 19-14 late in the 3rd quarter against Pittsburgh.

Luckily the second decision didn’t come back to bite the Brownies, but the fact that Shurmur isn’t learning from these mistakes is what worries me. If only Shurmur could type in “2-point conversion chart” into Google, and find a magical chart that tells you when you should and when you shouldn’t go for two.

Oh wait?

These charts do exist?

And every decent football coach from Dillon, TX to Hudson, OH uses it? Hmm…

Why would Pat ignore such widely accepted principles? Maybe he’s not.

Let’s start with the Eagles game, according to the chart if you are up five with approximately 15 minutes to play, you go for two as long as you believe you have a greater than a 24% chance of converting.

Pat must have believed his offense had less than a one in four shot of converting.

The chart shown below, computed using the Dynamic Programming Model, is intended to provide guidance on when to attempt a two-point conversion.

That logic makes complete sense. I mean two yards is a long distance. I’ts approximately how tall Shurmur is himself. Pat knows how hard those two yards are to come by and did the safe thing of kicking the point after.

I could see how his decision may have been different if the Browns’ average play goes over five yards and average run is over three yards or something like that. Ohhhh wait, two yards is practically nothing. That’s right. Not to mention if you kick the extra point, Philly needs a touchdown to beat you.

Wait they still need a touchdown even if we’re up five?

Well what about Pittsburgh? Up five with 20 minutes to play.

The chart says we would need to be more than 30% confident in our offense or else we should kick it. Almost an identical situation to the Philly game, in which Shurmur got burned for not trying for two, and good ol’ Pat does the same thing, and kicks once again.

And once again the Browns found themselves on defense with a six-point lead as the game concluded. This time the defense held, but the point is the Browns shouldn’t have been up six in this game or the Philly game. Go for two, if you get it you’re up seven and can’t lose, and if you fail then you’re up five and no worse off than being up six. It baffles me that an NFL head coach doesn’t know these things.

Pat continued to audition himself as a game managing consultant last Sunday in Oakland. After receiving a horrible spot on a 3rd-and-1 quarterback sneak, up 13-10, with five minutes left, Shurmur decides to call a timeout.

As soon as he calls timeout, he no longer can challenge the play since this was the Browns’ final timeout.

Maybe Shurmur just wanted to be sure he had time to think about 4th and inches and what the team should do. That’s  fine, I get that.

Except if Shurmur throws the challenge flag, you can take the review time to think about 4th down, ANDyou might even win the challenge and get a first down!

It’s like wanting to order two different sauces for chicken wings, but you just order the one. Then they tell you can have both if you want but you tell them no thanks I’ll settle for just the one.

Shurmur could have had his timeout to think about the situation AND could have had the refs review the bad spot, but Pat said no thanks, I’ll just take spicy garlic.

I understand you don’t know what these coaches go through until you strap a headset on and walk the sidelines yourself. I’m guessing Shurmur isn’t quite as comfortable on Sundays as little Mikey talking smack on Xbox Live as his mom brings him snacks and drinks. But the decisions Mikey faces while playing Madden simulate the real decisions coaches make every Sunday.

When do I punt?

When do I kick?

Onside kick?

Should we go for 2?

When should we take the timeout?

Is it worth a challenge?

These are questions that coaches like Belichick, Tomlin, and the Harbaughs have memorized the answers to. Those men don’t hesitate. They’ve done their homework, they know how to play the game, and they execute their plan.

For the Browns to go to the next level as a team, they need to be led by a man who is ready to take them there.  Whether it’s Pat Shurmur, John Gruden, or Little Mikey the Madden guru in his mom’s basement, Jimmy Haslam must make sure he has the man who will give the Browns an edge over their opponents, not a handicap.

Pat Shurmur has had 28 games to make his case, but none will leave a more lasting impression than these next four. Sharpen up Pat, I hear little Mikey is free on Sundays.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Great post. This is what has killed me about Shurmur all year: If *I* know what they should be doing – not just an opinion or belief, but I know based on statistics and common sense – then how the heck can a guy whose job it is to know not?

    What kills me is that even the argument for stability, that like a Kubiak he just needs to learn from his mistakes, etc. all ignore that the mistakes he’s making aren’t merely ideas that he can learn from. They aren’t just play-calling errors or substitution or PR (though he’s made those plenty), but they’re mistakes that a head coach should absolutely *never* make. Eric Mangini would never be making these mistakes – whatever issues he had, knowing the rules and basic statistics and the like were never an issue. These mistakes are Romeo Crennel-style, which is pathetic – the guy who burned a timeout to decide to challenge a call, and lost the challenge. Poor clock management, poor 2-point decisions, poor 3rd/4th and short decisions and play calling. These should never happen.

  • grammarpolice

    Nothing *irritates me more than a grammar mistake in the first line of an article.

  • Kildawg

    I could have done a much better job than Short-Bus Shurmur, and my opinion only comes from playing Madden and catching the games. The Browns could have 10 wins (and maybe the division title) by now if we have a competent HC. I would have gone for 2 against Philly and have the D hold the line. Should have blown out Pittspuke, making the call for 2 moot point. Plus, the Browns should have signed another competent CB when Patterson went down (think Patterson should have been on IR due to seriousness but I digress).

  • dwhit110

    Really good post. Spot on. Just too many game management mistakes for a professional football coach.

  • Henry Brown

    All coaches, even the great Bellichick, make questionable decisions, but the main point is that silly chart and the cloyingly in-vogue game of percentages (apparently due to some Grantland article about Chip Kelly, a guy who has never coached in the NFL) is largely meaningless unless you’re really down near the end of the game and there’s only a possession left to go. If there are 2 or more possessions there is no way you allow a team to beat you with 2 FG drives over a single TD drive. I’m all for going for it on 4th down more, but this 2 point conversion thing that some WFNY writers seem obsessed over is nonsense. Furthermore, if you think that playing Madden is comparable to playing actual NFL football, you should probably re-think your piece from the start.