Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Holmgren grabs his man …

… but will Browns fans regret his decision?

The team made its move on Thursday, hiring St. Louis offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur as the Browns fifth head coach since 1999.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to join an organization with such a rich history and tradition as the Cleveland Browns,” Shurmur said in a press release. “I have the utmost respect for Coach (Mike) Holmgren and Tom Heckert and I am impressed with the direction in which they have this franchise going.”

“I am extremely excited about having Pat Shurmur as the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns,” said team president Mike Holmgren. “Pat is a bright, young man who grew up in football and around the coaching profession. I came away from our interview very impressed with him as a person, his extensive knowledge of the game and his track record of success as an assistant coach in this league. Most importantly, I feel as though he possesses the necessary qualities which make him the right man to lead our football team.”

Hopefully Shurmur will last longer than Chris Palmer (two years), Butch Davis (less than four years), Romeo Crennel (four years) and Eric Mangini (two years).

If he doesn’t, Holmgren will have a lot of explaining to do and the team will be even further away from contending than they stand right now.

So what do we know about Shurmur?

He has never been a head coach at any level. Of course Davis and Mangini came to town with head coaching experience and they both washed out without turning the Browns into winners.

He learned the West Coast offense under Andy Reid in Philadelphia for 10 years, spending seven of those years as the Eagles quarterback coach. Seems reasonable to expect the Browns to embrace that offense more fully next season.

He was QB coach in Philly when Donovan McNabb earned three trips to the Pro Bowl.

He is familiar with general manager Tom Heckert, who held various positions with the Eagles for eight years while Shurmur was there.

With such a strong connection to the Eagles and Andy Reid, Shurmur should have little trouble getting on the same page as Holmgren and Heckert, which is key to the team’s success. If the Browns have a philosophy that all three share and buy into, it will be easier for Holmgren and Heckert to give Shurmur the types of players he needs to succeed.

He has no connection to the Bill Belichick coaching tree or the Baltimore Ravens. The Browns have relied entirely too much on those two avenues (Mangini & Romeo; former general managers Phil Savage and George Kokinis) in recent years. It’s refreshing to see Holmgren break this cycle of dependency.

Under his control, the Rams offense ranked 29th and 26th the past two years.

He’s no stranger to working with young quarterbacks. Shurmur spent the 2010 season mentoring rookie Sam Bradford. Under his direction, Bradford completed 354-of-590 attempts for 3,512 yards and 18 touchdowns. His yardage total was second-most ever by a rookie, as only Peyton Manning threw for more yards in his first season, 3,739 in 1998. Bradford also set a rookie record with 174 consecutive attempts without an interception.

“This is a great opportunity for Coach Shurmur,” Bradford told The St. Louis-Post Dispatch. “I really enjoyed working with him last season and he truly helped my transition from college to the NFL game. I think he will be a really good head coach.”

He’s not a “name” coach, such as John Fox, Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher. But that’s OK, Gruden is a joke, Fox is just an average coach and Cowher is never coming to Cleveland. Throw in the fact that no Super Bowl-winning coach has ever won a Super Bowl with a second team and it’s clear there was no reason for the Browns to go down that road.

So what don’t we know?

How Shurmur will handle running the team. Can he see the big picture? Can he put together a productive practice schedule? Can he manage all the unexpected details that come up on Sundays?

St. Louis running back Stephen Jackson thinks so.

“I knew it would not be long before Coach Shurmur got a head coaching job in this league,” Jackson told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He was a good coordinator for the Rams and on Sundays, he got the most out of his players and always had us in a position to win the game.”

Who will his coordinators be? Brian Daboll is certainly out and it appears that Rob Ryan won’t be back. Who’s running the show on offense and defense?

How much can he get out of an offense that still has no quality at wide receiver, a shaky to bad right side of the offensive line and only one threat in the running game?

Most importantly, where does he stand on the field goals vs. touchdowns debate?

Seriously, though, it’s clearly too early to know if this whole thing is going to work out or not. Shurmur is a first-time head coach and there are going to be growing pains. Hopefully having Holmgren around will shorten the learning curve considerably.

Also, there is no universal right offense or right defense in the NFL. The only correct offense or defense is the one that maximizes the talents of the available players.

If Holmgren knows what type of player is needed for the West Coast offense, and if Heckert can get those players, and if Shurmur knows how to coach that offense, then it is the “right” offense for this team. What’s most important is picking an offense and defense and sticking with it so the team can be built to succeed in the particular schemes.

For now we remain optimistic. The Browns have had a lot of practice hiring coaches since 1999, maybe it is time for all that preparation to finally pay off.


Lot’s of opinions on this:

Shurmur not a bad pick: Terry Pluto

Is Shurmur Better than Eric Mangini? Bill Livingston

Shurmur may not catch a break from the hoople heads: Bud Shaw

Hiring Shurmur ultimate test for Mike Holmgren: Marla Ridenour

Our New Nepotistic Golden Age? Cleveland Frowns

Shurmur leaves an angry crowd behind: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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