Reporting Daryl Ruiter
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) - Entering his second season as head coach of the Cleveland Browns, coach Pat Shurmur is a different man.
Shurmur is relaxed smiling more and ready to prove the doubters wrong. The worst is behind him.
In a 20-minute conversation with Bull and Fox Thursday afternoon on 92.3 The Fan, he reflected on a difficult first season in Cleveland as well as looked ahead to the upcoming season.
“This second year we have a full cycle and I think that adds to the confidence that we’re going to be a much improved team,” Shurmur said. “We all know that the results of last year are not acceptable. Believe it or not, coaches are way more urgent than fans and we understand areas that we need to get better (in).
“We addressed a lot of things that we felt we needed to do.”
Shurmur took a lot of heat last year from fans and times he appeared to be overwhelmed.
“I didn’t feel overwhelmed at all,” Shurmur said. “It’s easy to say that because we weren’t winning. As you go through the process of establishing a team that can be a consistent winner there’s some adversity there and so you keep fighting through it. Then you add some better players and your systems smooth out and you make better decisions. I tell you what, if we execute a lot better, then I think we all look smarter.”
Tough losses, poor game, clock and personnel management left many shaking their heads as the team finished 4-12. It was the fourth consecutive 11-plus loss season for the franchise. Eight double-digit loss campaigns in 9 years have shaken fans’ confidence in the team – and Shurmur.
“Anytime something goes bad, and it’s natural, you say ‘These guys aren’t doing the right things,’” Shurmur said. “I saw improvement. I saw learning and there’s obviously things that I’ll do differently now. We’ll be able to move forward quicker. We have guys now that understand what our expectations are.”
RELATED AUDIO: Browns coach Pat Shurmur with Bull and Fox on 92.3 The Fan.
As the 2012 season approaches, Shurmur is ready to look ahead to a bright future with a young football team. Offensively, they could conceivably start 6 players who are rookies or in their second season.
“We’ve got a very prideful group of guys that have been here a long time and are longing to get this thing over the hump and win,” Shurmur said. “And then we’ve got a lot of young guys that we’re adding that can help them do that. That’s the direction that we’re going.”
There are no excuses now. No lockout, a full offseason of minicamps and OTA’s to implement his system and a fresh class of rookies including quarterback Brandon Weeden, running back Trent Richardson and receiver Josh Gordon.
The No. 1 question at the moment is when will he name his starting quarterback?
“I’m going to make that announcement sooner than later,” Shurmur said. “It’ll get done here quickly.”
It’s assumed that Weeden has won the job but Shurmur has waited to name him the starter because he wanted to see the team in pads first.
“It’s important to see all of the players next to one another competing in a real football setting which includes practice and practice with pads on,” Shurmur said. “You can’t totally do that in the offseason. Now we’re in training camp where you can put the pads on and knock guys around. You add the physical nature of the game, you’ve got almost all of your system in and you’ve got to watch it all function here in the next couple of weeks.
“You don’t necessarily have to see it against another team but you have to see it in a real football setting and then we’ll make that call.”
Weeden was selected in the first round, No. 22 overall, and common sense dictates that the 28-year old wasn’t picked to hold a clipboard for Colt McCoy.
“You’re drafting him because you think that he’s a good enough player to be your guy,” Shurmur said. “When we were in St. Lois (Sam) Bradford started week 1. When I was in Philadelphia Donovan McNabb, who was drafted to obviously be the guy, he didn’t start until week 8. There’s a lot of different models. You’ve got a couple of teams around the league that drafted quarterbacks high that named them the starter. You have another one that was drafted ahead of Brandon who right now is in a competition.
“The situations are all different and there’s enough practice time when you have a full offseason and a training camp to determine who that guy is and to get him the reps that are necessary.”
Richardson, who the Browns moved up 1 spot to No. 3 to secure, will carry a heavy load of the offense this season. Expectations are high for the Alabama back and Shurmur is confident that living up to them won’t be a problem.
“I anticipate that he’s going to have a very favorable impact on our team especially in the running game,” Shurmur said. “He knows how to run the football, he’s a very powerful young man. No whether or not you;re going to create a controversy or not you guys will determine whether he had a great year or not.”
Receiver Josh Gordon, who was selected 2 weeks ago in the supplemental draft, is expected to me a significant addition, contributor and boost to the receiving corps.
His past off the field drug issues are a concern but Shurmur feels those days are behind Gordon.
“I’m very confident,” Shurmur said. “He obviously is like a lot of player in the league that have had some adversity in their backgrounds, some of it is self induced, but he understands how important the position that he is in is. He understands what it means to be an NFL player. He understands that the behavior of the past cannot show up again and we’re going to be here to help him not do those things.
“He understands it. He doesn’t want to be involved with it and I think he’s got an opportunity to be a very fine player”
Shurmur’s first season was a virtual circus. From the week 1 “quick snap” loss to the Bengals to the Peyton Hillis season long drama to Colt McCoy’s concussion against the Steelers.
Drama is something that Shurmur already know how to tune out and he’s hoping that he won’t have to worry about it again.
“I can’t control what becomes drama outside of this building,” Shurmur said. “What I can control is the message that I give the players to help keep them going so we can focus on accomplishing our goals which are winning games and getting in the playoffs so you can compete to play in the Super Bowl and win it.”
Fans are hoping they get to that level “sooner than later.”