The Cleveland Browns are nine games into Pat Shurmur’s tenure as head coach, sitting at 3-6 with the 30th ranked offense in the NFL, ahead of only the winless Indianapolis Colts and Sunday’s opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Shurmur has had the difficult task of installing a new offense without much of the help that an actual offseason would provide. While that’s an excuse that hardly passes this late into the season, it should at least be considered. One must also consider the lack of quality personnel that Shurmur inherited. Not all of the players in the current system fit the mold of a traditional West Coast offense, and it will no doubt take time to draft and sign the right players.
But the frustration of Browns fans is understandable. For much of this season, the Browns offense has been stagnant, unimaginative, and yes, painful to watch. It took until last week against the Rams for Shurmur to finally concede and throw some wrinkles into the excessively bland and predictable offense.
That doesn’t mean all is well, though. Third-and-short continues to be a pain, though the team does convert on nearly 41% of its third downs. Many fans also take exception to Shurmur’s conservative play calling – most notably against the Rams, as the team did not make an attempt at the end zone in the waning minutes.
And what about Shurmur’s overall control of this team? Players still seem to support and respect their coach, and there’s no evidence that Shurmur has “lost this team,” despite some of the more negative and speculative things that have been written about the Browns.
It has been preached here that it is too early to fairly judge a young player like Colt McCoy, so why can’t the same go for the coach? The prospect of bringing in an offensive coordinator is a prospect that should be considered in the offseason, but think about the things that have been working against Shurmur in his first season:
- The lack of an offseason
- Injuries to key offensive players such as Eric Steinbach and Peyton Hillis
- A receiving corps led by Mohamed Massaquoi, who is still recovering from a concussion
- No major free agent signings
It’s hard to argue that many coaches would be able to succeed in such a situation, let alone a head coach in his first year. It is important for everyone to take a step back and consider what was working against this team from the start.
Giving the Browns another draft, some potential free agent signings, and a true offseason will likely do wonders for the look of this team. It’s been said many times in the past – and it’s understandable that Browns fans would be hesitant or frustrated – but the patience will pay off with the way this team is currently being built.
Does that mean Pat Shurmur is the right coach to lead the team through its current rebuilding process? That’s a question whose answer needs more time to develop.