Reporting Daryl Ruiter
BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Fair or not, Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur is on the hot seat in just his second season.
A bonfire was thrown under his chair the day Jimmy Haslam bought the team in August.
With rampant speculation that he’s as good as gone, Shurmur refuses to talk about his future while he focuses on helping his team turn it around mid-season.
“I don’t want to talk about my future, OK?” Shurmur said. “I’m trying to make this the best Monday of the year, and I’m trying to get our team ready to play the Chiefs and then after that and so on and so forth. I don’t look at it that way. I’m not taking any half-swings here. We’ll just play it out and see what happens.”
Haslam has toed the line regarding Shurmur’s future.
He’s not endorsed him nor said a decision to go in another direction has been made. In an interview with the Plain Dealer last week Haslam admitted that he does see progress under Shurmur despite their overall record.
“It’s always good to hear good things,” Shurmur said. “I do know this. What’s important to me — and it’s very narrow-minded — is this next game, period. And then whatever gets determined gets determined, but what I can control right now with this football team is what happens this week.”
Shurmur has made a multitude of mistakes but he’s also learning from them as the season goes on and in turn his team is in better position to win.
“Any time you do something more and more, you get better at it,” Shurmur said. “It becomes clearer. There are things I see better now. There’s other things that come in to this now. I know my coaches and players better. I understand how everybody on our team is going to respond in most situations. Yeah, I think there’s things we’re doing better — me included.”
The on the job training for Shurmur has fueled talk shows for the last 18 months. Even when the Browns win, he still loses with many fans.
He’s aware of the negativity but trying to not pay the criticism from fans and media any attention.
“I don’t take this personal,” Shurmur said. “I really don’t. My concerns are always for our team and coaches. I really believe in this group that we have, and I really believe this is the foundation of something that can be really good. Even though I say that and believe it, until we start winning games, that’s what shows it. That’s really my concern.
“Some of the other stuff about me personally? What more can they say about me? I mean, really, I don’t listen to it, but I’m told frequently about it. I think that’s where the thick skin part comes in.”
It’s impossible to deny that the Browns, who have 17 rookies on the roster, are improving – and not just statistically. They’ve already blown by their point total of a year ago while equaling the victories with 4 games to play.
“I feel good about where we’re going, we’ve just got to keep going,” Shurmur said. “It’s easy to let that momentum stop. That’s what I’m guarding against, and I think our locker room understands that it’s important you jump right back in the process.
“You’ll get tired of hearing me say that. As long as I’m here, you’ll get tired of hearing me say, ‘jump back in the process.’ Because I think that’s most important. Initially for the season it’s 16 processes and how well you get that right. Because that gives you the best opportunity to be successful on Sunday. And that’s where we all want to be, at our best.”
Rookies Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon are on pace to become the first 1,000 yard runner and receiver for the team in the same season since Jamal Lewis, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr. finished with over 1,000 yards each in 2007.
Shurmur and his coaching staff deserve some credit for the improvement – especially following an 0-5 start to the season. He never lost the locker room.
“We definitely are happy with the guys we have in there,” Gordon said. “But with whatever happens, I guess players can only do so much but play, regardless of who the coaches are and what Mr. Haslam decides to do … keep the same one, we’re really not sure.”
The 4 wins in 7 games is also the best stretch for the Browns since the franchise won their last 4 to end the 2009 season following a 1-11 start.
“He’s getting more comfortable and he knows the players more,” defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin said. “He’s getting acclimated and has a feel for our opponents. Coming in and playing the Steelers and the Ravens and the Bengals is pretty difficult every year, so this conference and division is hard to get acclimated to.”
Of their 8 losses in 2012, 5 are by a touchdown or less. 2 are by 10 points and their largest margin of defeat was to the N.Y. Giants by 14 – a game that they led by 14.
The Browns are close, the foundation is in place and Shurmur hopes to be around to finish the job.
The question remains, will Haslam give him the chance.
If the Browns continue to show the same progress they have and win a few more games, he might want to seriously consider it.