Sunday morning’s Plain Dealer ran a story by Mary Kay Cabot on first year head coach Pat Shurmur and his status in the the locker room and in Berea. As the Browns have struggled over the first half of the season, particularly on offense, much of the frustration has been directed at Shurmur. He has handled the press like a rookie coach at times but more importantly, on the field, Shurmur’s offense has been overmatched. Just last week, there were discussions in NFL circles about the offense being the “joke around the league.” Since Week 1, when the Bengals pulled the old snap the ball while the defense is in the huddle trick, Browns fans voiced concerns about Shurmur’s ability to handle head coaching duties and run the offense.
Those who would like to put these questions and concerns aside argue that he’s only coached half a season. That seems sensible, and Cabot’s article quotes both coaches and players on both sides of the ball who support Shurmur and his ability to turn the team around.
It’s a somewhat innocuous article, providing “endorsement” quotes in response to the many frustrations and questions noted above. But at 3-5, having coached only 8 games, is it anything more than frustration at this point? ESPN headline writers seem to think so, as they went with “Is Browns’ Shurmur on the hot seat?”
Cabot never mentions his job status or the hot seat in the article, but the need for such an article in the first place presumes that an undercurrent could be building there (almost every coach in the league has uncertain job security on a season-by-season basis). Cabot, however, focuses on why this season has been so underwhelming – namely, due to injuries and the late start because of the lockout. Those quoted in the article universally cited these reasons (or “excuses” for the more critical) as well, including Scott Fujita:
“Pat’s done a great job handling everything. Obviously he’s been dealt an interesting hand, starting with the lockout. He never made any excuses for that. And he’s had some drama throughout the course of the season that most coaches — much less first-time head coaches — wouldn’t have to deal with. Things like that, he’s handled it extremely professionally. He keeps guys focused, he keeps guys with their eye on the prize — and that’s just trying to get better and win games and that’s all you can do in this situation.”
The ESPN “hot seat” headline is little more than a headline, as the below post by Jamison Hensley does little other than say the seat may be warm, but it’s too early for this article from Cabot.
The timing of this article is a little too early. The seat for Shurmur is certainly warm after a disappointing 3-5 start, which has featured a struggling offense and wins against teams with a combined 3-22 record.
The frustrations and embarrassments notwithstanding, I think most (or all) would agree that it’s still too early to discuss Shurmur’s status. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have that discussion after 16 games though, particularly if it gets worse from here. A loss to the 1-7 Rams today, however, could hasten the heating.