Browns

What’s Holding The Browns Back? Look On The Sideline

By Ken Carman, Weeknights, 7pm-Midnight @KenCarman
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Head coach Pat Shurmur of the Cleveland Browns / (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Head coach Pat Shurmur of the Cleveland Browns / (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Ken Carman, on 92.3 the Fan Weekdays 7pm - Midnight Ken Carman
Ken Carman loves Cleveland sports. One of his early memories is of...
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Through nine games, one thing is clear: The talent has gotten better.

What’s kept the Browns so interesting, and has kept most draft talk off the air is that there is no denying that the talent has improved. More young players with increasingly bright futures have made them more exciting, but at the same time more frustrating to watch.

Game by game this season, the Browns have found themselves in a moment where they could change the complexion of the game they’re in, only to fail all but twice.

Admittedly, some of the problems can be contributed to poor execution. Wide Receivers are still dropping passes, defensive backs are still getting torched, and not all of Brandon Weeden’s passes have been sterling.

The players have to take some of the blame, but the head coach has to take most of it.

All throughout this season, I’ve searched for an argument on why the Browns could legitimately keep Pat Shurmur to next season. Each week he’s had a chance, and each time he’s failed. Sunday may have been the last straw.

The decision to go for it on 4th &2 from the Browns own 28-yard line summed up Shurmur’s entire tenure with the Browns: From day 1, he’s been overwhelmed.

The entire mantra of Shurmur’s tenure has been to “bare with me. I really know what I’m doing.”

That decision showed us that he really doesn’t.

Against Indianapolis, Shurmur elected to punt from the Colts 41-yard line, playing it close to the vest and conservative, thinking that the Colts would have to earn it to put the game out of reach. On Sunday, he decided to go for it on 4th down from nearly his own red zone. In the call, he left it up to luck that an NFL kicker may miss a 43-yarder at the longest. He didn’t, and the Browns lost again.

Desperate people can make desperate decisions, and this one reeked of desperation. Shurmur has been steady over his two seasons in Cleveland, but with his play call Sunday, played the equivalent of a man walking into a casino and putting it all on RED, after losing out on the stock market. Going by odds, the house usually wins, and it did with Shurmur’s call.

I’ve tried, I’ve really tried, but there are simply no arguments left to keep Pat Shurmur for 2013.

“But, what about the team’s youth! They’re so young! It’s not his fault!”

I bring up Bill Belichick all the time. His constant dour look from the sidelines make me wonder if he has a pulse. But he’s found a way to motivate (whether it be threatening jobs, playing time, etc.) players and make them win. And when he wins, like he does. I can’t say anything about a coach’s demeanor when he wins.

If they are so young, then treat them like a college team. In college football, momentum can play a huge part. With massive upsets, the favorite makes mistakes, while a less talented team takes advantage and carries momentum to a win. With a lot of players (27 at last count) who are either rookies, or 2nd year players, a lot of them still think that way. If they are young, then coach them that way.

“But, what about the execution!!! He can’t go out there and make plays!”

No he can’t. Pat can’t throw, catch, run, block or tackle during a game. But neither can Romeo Crennel, Norv Turner, Chan Gailey, Jason Garrett, Mike Munchak, Mike Mularkey, Andy Reid, or Rex Ryan. All of those coaches are on the same hot seat as Shurmur. Munchak is in his second year in Tennessee and Mularkey is in his first year in Jacksonville.

Regardless on the talent, a head coach will always be judged on his record.

“But, these young players really are making progress! They are some mistakes, but they are making plays!”

Then we’re talking about Tom Heckert keeping his job, not Pat Shurmur losing his.

“But, Pat didn’t have a training camp last season!!”

Fair. Again though, look at Munchak. And again, a head coach will always be judged on his record.

“But, I’m tired of switching out head coaches every other year!”

Me too. It’s embarrassing. But in today’s NFL, not about not being patient enough, it’s about hiring the right guy, with the talent. Jim Harbaugh was San Francisco’s fourth head coach in a decade. There were a lot of pieces in place when he got there. He certainly looks like he has a handle on them. Shurmur doesn’t.

There are a few things though I can say in defense of Pat Shurmur as a coach and a person.

He does care. There is no doubt in my mind he’s putting everything he has into trying to make this work. If he didn’t care, he may not have made that desperate call against Baltimore. While I have lambasted him for that call, it does (in an extremely round-about-way) shows that he does care.

Shurmur is an NFL head coach. For anyone to do it, they have to dedicate their lives to the game. I promise as I write this, and as you read it, he is trying to figure out a way to beat Dallas in two weeks. I can never question his dedication. Although, I believe every coach who ever achieved great success was dedicated, and the same goes for every coach who has met the fate that Shurmur probably will by season’s end.

He is intelligent. Pat Shurmur is smart. Again, an NFL coach has to be. He is no dummy, but a lot of smart guys will clam up in the clutch. He’s a tireless worker, and when you mix that with his intelligence, you should come up with a winner, but you still have to make the right decision at the right time.

I couldn’t do any better. In fact I’d run it into the ground. I know I would, and so would virtually all of the same hosts/writers/pundits who say the same thing about his in-game decision making. But commenting on his work is my job. Making sure guys like me can’t say anything negative about him (by winning) is his.

I don’t blame him for being a little surly with the media. Again, he’s an intelligent guy. I don’t understand the intricacies of football the same as him. I can try to get close, but he’s dedicated his life to it at a high level. And for the same reason I’ve already written about in this, is why he may be a little terse with the media. We don’t understand it the way he does. But in our defense (and fans) a lot of in game play calls completely defy common sense, which is why we ask the question in the first place.

For now, Pat Shurmur is head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Because of that, I want all his decisions to pan out, because if they do, the Browns win. But considering what we’ve seen, I don’t believe it’s going to work out that way.

Look back up at the top of the page though. There is A LOT to be excited about for the future of the Browns.

You’ve seen it for yourself, and to use one of Pat Shurmur’s favorite lines, the players have made “progress.”

The coaching hasn’t.

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