“Pat Shurmur pulled out all the stops to shake and bake by the lake.” — Mary Kay Cabot
“It’s good to win in a different way sometimes.” — Pat Shurmur
“We’re putting something together here and it’s going to be beautiful.” — Trent Richardson
“Let me tell you something, Nick Saban wouldn’t work with Mike Lombardi in a thousand years.” — A league source “with knowledge of both men”
After 29 games, an NFL team coached by Pat Shurmur finally won one in a blowout. So what does it mean that it took so long? Or that the blowout came not only against the team with the worst record in the league, but also one quarterbacked by Brady Quinn, coached by Romeo Crennel, and reeling from the fallout of one of the worst experiences a football team or anyone could have, as well as first quarter injuries to its only explosive offensive threats?
It at least means it’s worth considering the idea that a roster that’s improved as much as the Browns’ has over the last two seasons would be expected to show some baseline level of improvement — enough to at least beat the league’s very worst teams, even in consecutive games — no matter who the head coach is. Which is either a testament to the work of Tom Heckert as the Browns GM, the efficacy of the NFL draft in ensuring league-wide parity, or both.
And another testament to the same comes from a comparison to the Browns’ current 3-game win streak to the last time they won so many in a row, Eric Mangini’s four-game win streak that closed 2009. Because if you say that Shurmur deserves no more consideration for the current win streak than Mangini did for that one, you’re really soft pedaling. It’s not just that the 2009 streak didn’t include wins over teams that were as bad as this year’s Raiders and Chiefs, but look at what Mangini was working with back then:
That’s from the box score from the fourth and last win of the 2009 streak, reflecting things like Derek Anderson as your leading passer with 84 yards, Robert Royal as your leading receiver with 2 catches for 34 yards, Jason Trusnick leading your team in tackles, a rookie Kaluka Maiava leading your team in sacks, and the likes of Mike Furrey, Hank Poteat, Nick Sorensen, and Ray Ventrone getting multiple snaps in your secondary. So when it comes to assessing what each streak says about the worth of the head coach, there’s really no comparison at all. Sometimes it’s much easier to attribute wins on the field to the coaching staff than at other times.
But when there is progress shown on the field, however small, and however low the bar has been set, is it fair to judge a head coach who isn’t to blame for the schedule having broken the way it did? Maybe not, but injuries to Ben Roethlisberger and now Robert Griffin III, are helping to make the waters as muddy as possible here. And probably muddy enough, barring a miracle extension of the current win streak through the end of the season, for Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner to conclude that they saw plenty of Shurmur before the win streak, including the circumstances by which he became head coach in the first place. Haslam and Banner shouldn’t be punished for the schedule having broken the way it did any more than Shurmur should.
It really is too bad that Griffin got hurt, but the Broncos and Steelers should each have something to play for in the season’s final weeks. Thanks however much to the schedule having broken the way it did, the work of Tom Heckert as GM, or the efficacy of the NFL draft in ensuring league-wide parity, Shurmur still has at least a surface chance to create real doubt as to his future in Cleveland.
- Here again is the Boston Globe report connecting Mike Lombardi with Nick Saban, Chip Kelly, and the GM and head coaching jobs in Cleveland in case you missed it yesterday.
- Even in a blowout win against a team with no offense and the worst record in the league, and with two sure interceptions having been dropped by the Chiefs, Brandon Weeden registered a Total QBR of 25.7, which is even lower than his league-second-worst and worse than every other rookie starting quarterback by a mile 26.1 season average.