Shurmur comfortable with former head coaches
BEREA, Ohio (AP)
Pat Shurmur sure must be secure in his abilities.
A first-time head coach now in his second season leading the Cleveland Browns, Shurmur comes from a coaching family with a strong NFL resume. He has created what he considers another family of his own by hiring three former head coaches on his staff: Brad Childress, Dick Jauron and Ray Rhodes.
And he works for one of the most successful coaches in recent NFL history, Browns President Mike Holmgren.
It can be a tricky dynamic. Should things go sour - Cleveland was only 4-12 in Shurmur's debut season - there are experienced replacements at the ready.
Not an issue, the 47-year-old Shurmur says.
''I don't feel threatened at all,'' says Shurmur, who had 12 years as a pro assistant, including two as Rams offensive coordinator, before taking on the challenge of rebuilding the Browns (No. 30 in the AP Pro32). ''It's smart to use all of the resources you have, and these coaches have tremendous knowledge and experience to offer.
''It's extremely important that you trust the guys you hire. It's very critical. You bring them in to be part of what you are trying to achieve and they will have an important role in that, so the trust has to be there.
''A good staff needs to have a good mix, whether it's guys with that experience or young guys coming in. Every coach is better at certain things than others, and you use all of that to help your team.''
Helping the Browns emerge from a funk that has lasted nearly since returning to the NFL in 1999 - two winning records, one short playoff appearance - intrigued Jauron, the former head coach of the Bears, Bills and, on an interim basis, the Lions. He began coaching in the NFL in 1985 after an eight-season playing career.
His success as a head coach has been minimal (60-83), but he is considered one of the sharpest defensive minds in the game.
''The fact they have not had a lot of success here was interesting to me,'' the 61-year-old Jauron says. ''I like to be a part of building something and that is what I see coach Pat doing here. I think it's a lot of fun and a great challenge.
''Pat is clearly in charge. He has a strong personality and a great football mind. He is the guy. (Shurmur feeling threatened) has never been an issue and won't be with any (coaches). When he wants info, he will ask for it and we readily provide it. There is nothing like (undermining) here.''
But it does exist on some teams, as Childress notes. Childress has had one stint as a head coach, nearly getting the Vikings to the Super Bowl in the 2009 season. But everything fell apart in 2010, including the unthinkable: Brett Favre getting hurt and missing starts. Childress was fired 10 games into that season.
Shurmur was eager to hook up again with Childress, with whom he worked with the Eagles, but felt Childress needed time away from football. He hired him this year after Childress sat out 2011.
''Pat and I worked together in the basement of the old Vet, listening to the cats chasing the rats through the rafters before we moved to NovaCare and to Lincoln Financial Field. We had common problems we had to deal with there,'' Childress says, laughing at the memories.
Coaching is all about solving common problems. Unfortunately, not all staffs have that common team goal. It's like in rowing: If everyone in the boat isn't in synch, the race is lost.
The situation can be particularly dicey when a less-experienced man in charge has former head coaches working under him. That dynamic existed in Kansas City, for example, last year.
Shurmur isn't worried in the least. Nor should he be, Childress says.
''I work for Pat. I like working with Pat. I had an idea how he wanted to do it; we're trained in the same system,'' says the 56-year-old Childress, a West Coast offense disciple like Shurmur.
As for future head coaching aspirations: ''I don't have any, it's more of a `I've been there, done that.' If it happens, great, but I am here strictly to be the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns and to help us win and to help Pat win. We can best do that with the staff we have here: All ships rise with a rising tide.''
As long as there is one captain. Shurmur is that captain.
Holmgren knew Shurmur through Shurmur's uncle, Fritz, one of the top defensive coordinators in football for years. Seeing the quick development of Sam Bradford as a rookie with the Rams under Shurmur's tutelage - and knowing he needed a savvy offensive coach to oversee the reconstruction project in Cleveland - Holmgren hired the former finance major who has a master's degree but has written only two checks in 22 years; Shurmur lets his wife, Jennifer, handle the family business.
Childress mentions how Shurmur tried his hand in the business world, but had coaching in his veins.
''Pat is a smart guy who could have sat in a cubicle with his computer and been a big (success),'' Childress says. ''He jumped off into IBM, but he got the wisdom of, `I can't do this, I want to coach.' And here he is.''
But for how long? That question can be asked of any head coach outside of Bill Belichick. In Shurmur's case, there are several particular obstacles he needs to deal with:
-The sale of the Browns. New owners often want to bring in their own people.
-The heavy emphasis on youth on the Browns. Running back Trent Richardson, quarterback Brandon Weeden, tackle Mitchell Schwartz and receiver Josh Gordon, a supplemental pick, could form the foundation for future Cleveland teams. But rookies take time to develop.
-Life in the AFC North, possibly the NFL's toughest division. Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati all made the playoffs last season, and have entrenched and successful coaching staffs and bruising defenses.
Intimidating? Not to Shurmur. No more so than having all those former head coaches in the building.
''In a way, it all becomes like a family coming back together with a little different set of ideas that you use and implement,'' he says. ''My dad (Joe) said to try to find a profession that's a hobby, and so you always enjoy doing it and will find a way to be good at it.
''But regardless, you have to show up. You have to put in the work, and compete. That's what we are doing here.''
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