Certainly Shurmur did not experience a successful tenure as Browns coach, however the team did improve in record and performance. Was that because of him? Probably not.
Cleveland General Manager Tom Heckert, who also was let go, has done the most of anyone among the past regimes to put a competitive team on the field. The 2012 version of the Browns was a much better team than the 2011 club, yet Shurmur still only won only one more game than last season, and 2 of 12 divisional games over the past two seasons, one each over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
As with any young team there are plenty of questions. First and foremost is Brandon Weeden the quarterback for this team? Or will he go into the Cleveland scrapheap with Tim Couch, Jeff Garcia, Derek Anderson and Charlie Frye, just to name a few. Weeden showed flashes, however he also showed he is one of the oldest rookies to ever enter the NFL. The 29 year old threw for over 3300 yards in 15 games, missing yesterday’s start. He passed for 14 TD’s but did have 17 picks and lost three fumbles during the season.
Weeden’s age should be a concern, maybe even more now than it was when he was drafted. In entering his second year, Weeden will now learn his the second offense. Weeden should be in his prime, yet his baseball career pushed that back. Now he must put together all his tools fast or the 22nd pick in the 2012 draft will become just another missed opportunity.
The hiring of a coach is one of the last things that will happen in this off season. The new ownership and front office personnel have to first decide what direction they want to take this club. It’s obvious Jimmy Haslam will be a more “hands-on” owner than Randy Lerner ever was. Lerner was never interested in owning a football team, however was thrust into the role when his father Al died in 2002 just three years after acquiring the team.
Haslam’s first move was to replace Mike Holmgren with Joe Banner as Team President. Banner will handle the day-today operations, yet is not a “football” man. In Philadelphia he was the nuts and bolts operator, the football decisions were left with Andy Reid. It now appears Banner would like to leave his imprint on the field.
So the predicament the Browns have is what the hierarchy be and how the new GM be allowed to work. This may not be a very fruitful decision for the Browns. Some say every football move will have to be approved by Banner. That could be the dilemma anyone interested in the job will have to adhere to if they take the job. So far the only name being floated willing to work under those rules is for Browns scout and assistant GM Mike Lombardi. A name that doesn’t ring optimism in Cleveland fans.
Yet if Lombardi is the man to take over the position, the most likely choice for the coaching position would be someone from the Bill Belichick tree. That’s because when Lombardi got his chance in the NFL, it was given to him in Cleveland by Belichick. Lombardi started out as a scout in 1987, but quickly climbed the ladder to become the assistant GM before the team moved to Baltimore.
If that is the case, then the two names most prominently rumored for the job would be correct. First is Josh McDaniels. Adam Schefter of ESPN is now saying McDaniels isn’t a prime candidate, however don’t dismiss the idea fully. McDaniels coaching tenure in Denver lasted just under two years and consisted of an 11-17 record. He was vilified in the Rockies for his trades and draft picks, yet the Broncos have won the past two seasons with players from his system.
Also on the Browns radar is Bill O’Brien. The current Penn State coach posted an 8-4 mark with a depleted team, yet this was the first season he experienced as a head coach. That doesn’t bode well for his chances. Yet he does have the Belichick name on his resume, which makes him a favorite for Lombardi. O’Brien did an outstanding job rallying the troops after a mess in Happy Valley. Can he do the same in Cleveland?
Others on the horizon include Indianapolis Colts and former Browns Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians. Arians was ripped by the media while here and left to tutor Ben Roethlesberger in Pittsburgh. That didn’t turn out badly.
Another name is Ray Horton, the Arizona Cardinals Defensive Coordinator. Are you seeing a trend here? Both names have Pittsburgh connections, just as Haslam did when becoming Browns owner. They say in times of distress, you go back to what is familiar. Haslam might be doing just that.
In the end, the Browns need someone who can come into Berea and change the culture of this team. Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert and Shurmur did a little. The next coach needs to send this organization over the cliff in a good way.