Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

"We’re trying to win football games"

Well, at least we know one thing about new Browns coach Pat Shurmur: he wants to win football games.*

The Browns introduced Shurmur on Friday as their latest head coach.

“As you talk about our team and the goals for this team, it’s very simple; we’re trying to win football games,” Shurmur said during the press conference. “Our goal is to win the AFC North, to compete in the playoffs and win Super Bowls. Anything we talk about that doesn’t relate to winning, then, I think we’re getting ourselves distracted. We will make all our decisions based on winning and that process started yesterday.”

While Shurmur, who was joined at the podium by team president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert, was understandably vague about his plans, he did shed some light on what the Browns will look like under his watch.

“I think the running game is very important,” Shurmur said. “Everything starts up front. You need to have a gritty offensive line to block the run and protect the passer. From that standpoint, the next most important guy is the quarterback, how he plays and how efficient he is. I think it’s very important we run the ball, but in the NFL you have to be able to efficiently and explosively throw the ball. That’s something we have to get done.”

We liked his answer to the question of how he relates to players:

“I would say my relationship with players is very professional,” Shurmur said. “I believe players are different. Coaches are different. I will say we have to do the very best to get our players to be the best they can. Some guys, a couple quiet words will get them to be their best. I think the key is to get to know your players as best as you can and communicate with them in those ways.

“We take highly motivated, talented people and then we teach them to do very basic tasks, then we tie it all together. Then we go out and let you folks evaluate it and try to have those tasks point to efficient football and winning. The foundation of what we do is teach. “

That’s good. Often coaches fail because they try to treat every player the same. One of the keys to being successful, besides having talented players of course, is figuring out which players need a pat on the back and which ones need a kick in the ass. Shurmur seems to get that.

The one statement that gave us pause was when Shurmur said, at least initially, he would handle the play-calling duties.

“Yes, initially I will start out by calling the plays,” he said. “That really is the fun part. In terms of hiring the coordinators, the staff in general is an ongoing process. We’re actively pursuing the guys we want to come to Cleveland.”

That doesn’t sound like a very good idea to us. With so much going on during the game on Sunday, we’d prefer to have our head coach focusing on everything, not just the next play call on offense.

Holmgren, Heckert and Shurmur left little doubt that all three are on the same page when it comes to turning the Browns around.

“I think the relationship that I have with Tom and Coach Holmgren is part of the strength of what we’re going to embark on,” Shurmur said. “I think we have a collective view of what it takes to win in this league and we’ll be able to put that into play.”

“Like Pat said, from the day he walked in the door, we were on the same page,” Heckert said. “Everybody says they want the character and hard work and stuff, but we’ve been through it together and we’ve done it with getting those players. I think we are on the same page when it comes to players and what we are looking for, and we’ve done it together before. That can’t be a negative.”

“We cannot keep changing around here every two or three years,” Holmgren said. “You can’t do that and expect to be successful, you can’t do that. My hope and why this was so important and why I’m very excited, I see these two men working together. I can envision certain things where it’s a pretty good fit and my hope and prayer is that now the changes stop. Now the growing and building begins. I think we took some strides last year. My hope is this is the coach and this will be the coach for a long, long time. That was part of the thinking.”

So now the deed is done. Shurmur is on board as Browns coach, he needs to get busy filling out the coaching staff – reports have the Browns looking at Dick Jauron as defensive coordinator, which would probably mean a transition to a 4-3 defense, and Mike McCoy as offensive coordinator.

There are free agents, both the Browns and others, to look at, the draft to prepare for, plus a long list of other items.

In other words, it’s time for the team to start focusing on winning games, because everything else is just a distraction.

*We still don’t know, however, where Shurmur stands on the great question of field goals vs. touchdowns.

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