Browns’ Shurmur not focused on his future

Browns coach Pat Shurmur has already developed thick skin. Now,

he’s bulking up his record.

With two straight wins, the Browns are showing major signs of

improvement in their second season under Shurmur, whose future in

Cleveland could hinge on how his team plays in its final four games

– if it hasn’t been determined already.

On Sunday, the Browns (4-8) snapped a 12-game road losing streak

with a 20-17 win over Oakland, putting the Raiders away with a

clutch, 94-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, when Shurmur

made a gutsy fourth-down call.

The Browns have gotten better and so has Shurmur. He has been

harshly criticized by some Cleveland fans for his game management

and play calling, and there’s a chance he won’t be around for a

third year once new owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner finish

their postseason assessment.

Shurmur won’t predict what’s ahead.

”I don’t want to talk about my future, OK?” he said. ”I’m

trying to make this the best Monday of the year, and I’m trying to

get our team ready to play the Chiefs and then after that and so on

and so forth. I don’t look at it that way. I’m not taking any

half-swings here. We’ll just play it out and see what


There’s no denying that the Browns, with 17 rookies on their

roster, are growing up.

They’ve been competitive since Week 1, but in back-to-back wins

over Pittsburgh and Oakland, they’ve finally shown the ability to

finish games. It’s an important step in the development for any

team, even more so for one starting a rookie quarterback, running

back, wide receiver, right tackle – and with a coach under


Shurmur acknowledges his team’s evolution, but he knows the

Browns are far from a finished product.

”I feel good about where we’re going, we’ve just got to keep

going,” Shurmur said. ”It’s easy to let that momentum stop.

That’s what I’m guarding against, and I think our locker room

understands that it’s important you jump right back in the


”You’ll get tired of hearing me say that. As long as I’m here,

you’ll get tired of hearing me say, `jump back in the process.’

Because I think that’s most important. Initially for the season

it’s 16 processes and how well you get that right. Because that

gives you the best opportunity to be successful on Sunday. And

that’s where we all want to be, at our best.”

Shurmur may be down to his last four Sundays, but he’s committed

to making the most of them.

Last week, Haslam said in an interview with the Plain Dealer

that he believed the Browns were ”very close” to being a playoff

contender. He was noncommittal about Shurmur’s future and

reiterated that he and Banner would wait until after the season

before making any personnel decisions.

Shurmur was pleased to learn his new boss sees progress. That

doesn’t mean it’s time to stop.

”It’s always good to hear good things,” Shurmur said. ”I do

know this. What’s important to me – and it’s very narrow-minded –

is this next game, period. And then whatever gets determined gets

determined, but what I can control right now with this football

team is what happens this week.”

On Sunday, the Browns will host the Kansas City Chiefs (2-10),

who pulled together and beat Carolina one day after linebacker

Jovan Belcher shot and killed his 22-year-old girlfriend, Kasandra

Perkins, before driving to Arrowhead Stadium, where he committed

suicide in the practice facility’s parking lot.

After facing the Chiefs, the Browns will host Washington before

closing out the season with road games at Denver and Pittsburgh.

Cleveland has already matched its win total from last season, and

if Shurmur bumps up his resume with another win or two or three, he

could make it very difficult for the Browns not to bring him


He’s made his share of mistakes, but Shurmur appears to be

learning from them. Earlier this season, he was slammed for

electing to punt on a critical fourth down against Indianapolis.

Two weeks later, his gamble on a similar play against Baltimore

backfired in a loss. On Sunday, Shurmur chose to go for it on

4th-and-1 after quarterback Brandon Weeden was stuffed on a


Following a timeout, Shurmur had Weeden run the same play and

the Browns converted to keep alive their game-winning drive.

”Any time you do something more and more, you get better at

it,” Shurmur said when asked if he’s improved. ”It becomes

clearer. There are things I see better now. There’s other things

that come in to this now. I know my coaches and players better. I

understand how everybody on our team is going to respond in most

situations. Yeah, I think there’s things we’re doing better – me


Browns defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin sees a difference in

Shurmur from last season, his first as an NFL head coach.

”He’s getting more comfortable and he knows the players more,”

Rubin said. ”He’s getting acclimated and has a feel for our

opponents. Coming in and playing the Steelers and the Ravens and

the Bengals is pretty difficult every year, so this conference and

division is hard to get acclimated to.”

With a youthful, talented nucleus, the Browns have a promising

future. What’s unclear is who will coach them after this


Shurmur has his fans and critics, who even find faults when he

wins. He’s managed to block out the personal attacks and remains

focused on winning.

It’s not always easy.

”I really believe in this group we have and I really believe

this is the foundation of something that could be really good,” he

said. ”Even though I say that and believe in it, until we start

winning football games, that’s what shows it. That’s really my

concern. Some of the other stuff about me personally – what more

can they say about me?

”I don’t listen to it, but I’m told frequently about it. That’s

where the thick skin part comes in.”

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