When Pat Shurmur was hired as the Cleveland Browns fifth head coach since ‘99, most fans were thinking to themselves, “Here we go again”. You really couldn’t blame them. Coach Shurmur had absolutely zero years of experience as a head coach in the NFL, and only had two years of experience as an offensive coordinator. He spent 10 years as the Philadelphia Eagles QB coach, so one would think that Shurmur made more sense as a QB coach, not a head coach.
Nevertheless, Shurmur was named the head coach, and after his first couple of press conferences, I think most fans started to settle down on the idea, instead of thinking the worse. Through the first three games of the season, fans really supported Shurmur. Sure there was criticism to be heard, especially because of the offense, but for the most part Browns fans were becoming more and more comfortable with Shurmur as the head guy.
Now that the Browns are 2-3 after back-to-back disappointing performances (on offense), fans are starting to question Mike Holmgren’s hire once again.
Reading the various Cleveland Browns message boards on the internet, I’ve really started to become appalled by most Browns fans. Some fans have started this conspiracy that Holmgren only hired Shurmur because his uncle, Fritz, was Holmgren’s defensive coordinator in Green Bay when the Packers won the Super Bowl in ’96. Fans are even calling for Shurmur to be fired, citing his “dumfounded” expressions on the sidelines as one of the many reasons the coach should be axed.
Now, I’m a relatively young Browns fan. I remember the team right before Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore (the ’94 season specifically), but have relied on my father’s stories about how great the team use to be. The truth is the Browns haven’t tasted much success in the last 20 years or so. They’ve never reached the Super Bowl, and have a 16-20 overall record in the NFL playoffs.
The Browns haven’t won a championship since 1964, and haven’t been a consistent threat to make the playoffs since the ’80s. So I ask this, where did this sense of entitlement come from Browns fans?
I completely understand that the fans want more, but to expect more, why?
During that ‘94 season the Browns lost to the Steelers in the Divisional Title. Since then the Browns haven’t done much in terms of playoff success (lost in the wild card round in ‘02). Expectations were understandably higher for the ‘03 season, but when the season was a failure, order had been restored in Cleveland.
To me, there’s a difference between wanting the team to do well, and expecting the team to do well. Fans in Cleveland are passionate about all the cities sports franchises, but they have a level of expectation that isn’t realistic.
When Shurmur was hired, Mike Holmgren had this to say about the coaching situation.
“We can not keep changing around here every two to three years. You can’t do that and expect to be successful. My hope and prayer is the change has stopped. My hope is this is the coach for a long, long time.”
Still, the team’s 2-3 start has some Browns fans ready to move on to the next head coach of the organization already. Nevermind the fact that the lockout put this team at a severe disadvantage heading into the season. They had a new head coach, new offensive and defensive schemes, a new starter at QB, and new players, who are rookies or in their second year in the NFL, to worry about.
The bottom line is fans need to be patient. Let’s see what he can do with a season under his belt, and a complete, normal off-season to go through. If after that the team shows zero improvement, then yes, it’s probably time to move-on. I wouldn’t be surprised if Shurmur is relieved of his offensive coordinator duties in favor of someone who can deal with the offense full-time. There are times that Shurmur looks like he has entirely way too much on his plate, but he’s going to improve as a head coach.
Coach Shumur may not be the guy for the job in Cleveland, but five games into his first season (ever) as a head coach isn’t going to be the tell-all. Patience is critical here. If fans can learn to be patient, it may not be all that long before we’re talking about the Browns as a yearly playoff contender.