Reporting Daryl Ruiter
BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Progress.
It’s one of the most popular buzz words of Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur.
And the equivalent of heartburn for fans when they hear him say it.
Despite falling to 5-10 with Sunday’s 34-12 beating courtesy of the Denver Broncos, Shurmur sees plenty of progress for the team compared to where they were a year ago.
“I believe that we’re a better football team, more ready to make the next jump than we were last year,” Shurmur said. “I believe that.”
Just 2 weeks ago, the Browns had won 5 of their last 8 to bounce back from an 0-5 start to enter the periphery of the AFC playoff picture – even though their chances of actually making it were remote.
There was a positive vibe around the team that hadn’t been felt in a long time.
“That’s what winning does and we all know how much fun winning is,” Shurmur said. “That’s the emotion that is created when you win. Unfortunately, we have meetings like this when you don’t win.”
2 weeks and 2 losses later, it’s all gone.
They are back to the same old loveable Browns that fans have come to lament – headed nowhere and about to make more changes – again.
“You’ve got to look at the season in its entirety and we’ve lost 2 but there was a period there where we won 3 in a row,” Shurmur said. “We’re working a lot of young players that, in my opinion, are going to provide a great foundation for this team and you’ve got to start somewhere.
“We believe in getting those players from the draft and supplementing with free agency, but those are the things you look toward.”
With the expected firing of both Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert who knows how many of these young players will survive the new regime.
After a second straight close game fell apart in the second half, Shurmur tried to remain positive and not focus on the final scores.
“Well we played against a playoff team that was quarterbacked by a hall of fame quarterback,” Shurmur said. “Middle of the third quarter it was 14-6. OK? And then it kind of got away from us. Those are the things I look at as we go. I saw a lot of guys playing hard. We were ready to play the game. We again played against a good football team that played well and we didn’t do enough things to win it.”
With the loss to the Broncos, the Browns secured their 5th straight double digit loss season, the 9th one in the last 10 years and 11th since the team returned as an expansion franchise in 1999.
It’s the only area in which the turbulent franchise has been consistent – losing.
Presidents, general managers and coaches are like oil changes for the Browns – changed every 5,000 miles or in football terms – every other year.
But Shurmur feels, if they stay the course and continue on the plan that was put in place when he was hired in January of 2011, those days will be behind them – and soon.
“There’s a lot of years around here where I don’t know what it was but I do think we are building a team that is relevant and you have to be relevant before you become a playoff team,” Shurmur said. “Once you’re in the playoffs anything can happen. We’ve seen that. So, it’s somewhat of a journey and that’s the way it is and we’ve had to make this journey this year with change, right, and looming change and so that’s what you push through.”
Through 15 games, the actual progress is marginal at best – especially from a statistical standpoint.
With a game to play, they are a win better than a year ago.
Brandon Weeden has thrown for more yards than Colt McCoy did last year (3,385-to-2,733) but Weeden’s completion percentage (57.4%) is almost identical to McCoy’s (57.2%).
Trent Richardson, injuries and all, has provided them with a solid runner with 950 yards and 11 touchdowns – both franchise rookie records surpassing Hall of Famer Jim Brown. But overall as a team, they’ve run for fewer yards – 1,455 this season compared to 1,531 last year.
They Browns are scoring more points per game this season (19.4) than they did in in 2011 (13.6). However, they are also giving up more points per game in this year (22.9) than they did last year (19.1).
Unfortunately for Shurmur, with the change in ownership this year, he is likely to be a part of more change going forward. He’d be the 4th coach let go, (Butch Davis resigned in his 4th season), and the 3rd to be fired after just 2 seasons joining Chris Palmer and Eric Mangini.
The NFL is a bottom line business. It comes down to wins and losses. Old or young team, rebuild or not.
The Browns are 9-22 under Shurmur.
“We are 1 of the 20 teams that is not in the playoffs where you want to be 1 of 12 because we’ve seen where last seeds have won Super Bowls and all that,” Shurmur said. “As we push through this we’ve got to keep making decisions based on making this team better and unfortunately that involves change, too.”
If you believe the rumors, reports and speculation, it will include the coach.