Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

The Browns are grown-ass men!

Alex Mack is the latest Cleveland Brown to go on the record about how things are different in Berea under new coach Pat Shurmur.

“It’s not acceptable to make mistakes (under Shurmur), but it’s — tolerable is the wrong word — a learning experience more than a lynching experience,” Mack told The News-Herald. “We had a lot of team corrections (the last two years). The theory behind it was as a team you’d see where people made mistakes and hold everyone accountable.

“On the same hand, other guys don’t know what you’re coached. If you keep it in your own meeting group and get it aired out, that’s better. Everyone knows you. But to have a DB get beat and have the coach yell at him — I don’t know how to cover anyone, and I don’t need to know. It’s hard for him to get embarrassed in front of the whole team. If it’s just your group of core guys, and they know how good the receiver is. It’s easier to bear.”

Mack joins a growing list of players who are embracing the changes in Berea from former coach Eric Mangini:

  • Joe Thomas: “I’ve been so impressed with coach (Pat) Shurmur and the staff that he brought in and the way he teaches the players. He won the respect of some of the leaders on the team right away with the way he treated them.”
  • D’Qwell Jackson: “(Coach Shurmur’s) created a great environment for us to want to come to work. You can tell the players are more involved. We have a lot more opinion about things.”
  • Scott Fujita: “Coach Shurmur is going to turn over the keys to us and say, ‘You need to run this thing the right way. I don’t need to be the guy policing the locker room. That’s on you guys.’ I think we embraced that. This is good for this group of guys.”
  • Sheldon Brown: “You have guys who go home to their families, to their kids. You’ll tell me I can raise a family, but I can’t behave and act like a pro? Give me the locker room. He understands that and I think that’s why the guys love and respect him.”

“The atmosphere is really nice,” Mack told The Plain Dealer. “To come to work and not be dreading it from what’s going to happen and how you’re going to get yelled at or what’s going to show up on the screen and just knowing that like, ‘Here, guys, we made mistakes, and let’s get better,’ and have a kind of lighter atmosphere is going to help guys stay upbeat. It’s easier to learn.

“It’s not acceptable to make mistakes, but it’s a learning experience more than a (chastising) experience.”

It’s not uncommon for players to have a positive reaction to a change in the coaching staff. But when you look at the names behind the quotes, you realize these are not just company men trying to get in good with the new coach. Fujita and Brown have been part of winning organizations, and Thomas and Mack are among the best in the league at their positions. When they say things like this, there is some credibility behind their words.

There are three things keys coaches have to do in order to maximize their chances of being successful:

  • Put the players in situations where they can succeed. If you are coaching the Patriots you can run a highly complex offense because you have Tom Brady at quarterback and he has built up a knowledge base over the course of his career. Try to be complex with a career back-up and an over-the-hill veteran and you are out of work.
  • Not everyone learns the same way and you have to figure out who on your team is an auditory learner, a visual learner and a tactile learner. Trying to teach everyone the same way doesn’t work. That’s why Shurmur’s approach of having the position coaches, who work with the players the most and should know how to teach them, work with the players to correct mistakes is a good approach.
  • Just like how not everyone learns the same way, everyone doesn’t respond to the same types of motivation. Some players need a pat on the back, some a kick in the ass. As a coach, you need to know the right approach to take; again you can’t treat everyone the same.

We seriously doubt players need to be humiliated in front of the entire team to understand they made a mistake. Sheldon Brown knows if he blew a coverage. Joe Thomas knows if he blows an assignment, all he has to do is look at the quarterback lying face down on the field. They don’t need to be treated like children.

But while the players can talk all they want about being treated differently, they have to show they have earned that right with their performance on the field each Sunday. That means no stupid penalties, no putting themselves before the team, etc. You want to be treated like adults? Then you better come through for the coach when it counts.

Look, there’s no universal way to coach an NFL team. Offensive coaches can win, defensive coaches can win, player’s coaches, hard-ass coaches, there’s room for everyone if they have the right approach.

We just hope that Shurmur’s approach is the right one for this Browns team.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

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