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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