“It’s a process.”
That should be the theme of the Cleveland Browns under the leadership of Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur.
On face value, I agree 100 percent with that statement. There are seldom quick fixes in the NFL that have any real staying power. I agree with the plan to build through the draft and not go crazy throwing cash at free agents.
It just seems like the “process” could involve a little more winning than it currently does.
When you look around the league there are good teams, mediocre teams and bad teams. Within those groups just about every team can be seen as trending up or down. The Steelers, while still good, are trending down. The Cardinals, who were mediocre, are trending up. The Bengals, who two years ago were at the absolute bottom of the league, are now good and continuing to trend up.
The Browns, on the other hand, are just bad. I want so desperately to believe that they are trending up, that they’re getting better. But the fact is that they’re 0-3 for the fourth time in five years, are widely regarded as the worst team in the NFL, and dismissed without a thought nationally.
Even the expansion Cleveland Browns, who literally started with nothing and led by an incompetent GM finished 7-9 in Year 3 and made the playoffs in year 4.
Virtually no one believes that is even a remote possibility for this team at this point.
The most disturbing thing to me about Shurmur as a coach so far is the astonishingly high number of times the Browns show up to a game seemingly unprepared to play, as was the case Sunday against the Bills. In 19 games as the head coach of the Browns, Shurmur’s offense has failed to score a first-quarter touchdown in 17 of those games!!!
There is supposed to be the great mass of genius offensive coaching minds in Berea with Shurmur, Holmgren, Brad Childress, Gil Haskell and Mark Whipple. Yet this team continues to play abysmal offensive football.
I don’t believe that the talent on this team is all that bad. They’re young, for sure, but there is a lot of talent that needs to be coached up. That doesn’t appear to be happening.
Take Greg Little for example. It’s clear that he is physically talented player. For a rookie he was quite productive last year. It appears, however, that he has not developed at all this season from where he left off in January.
Did I miss something? Were the players locked out again this summer?
Speaking of Little also brings up another difficult issue in the Shurmur regime. Little is the third high profile player to have, we’ll call them “issues” that end up in the media.
Last year it was Peyton Hillis and his sore throat as well as Joshua Cribbs complaining about his role on the team. Then this year there’s the issue of Little and his Usain Bolt pose.
(The Usain Bolt pose thing spawned just some fantastically hilarious Twitter action earlier this week. While playing quarterback for the scout team in my football practice on Monday I threw down a fantastic Usain Bolt pose after one of my “blind squirrel finds a nut” great passes. Being that I live in Wisconsin, none of my players got the joke but they laughed anyways because that’s what high schoolers do when their coach does something he obviously finds very funny.)
The manner in which Shurmur has gone about dealing with these issues has left many fans with the feeling that he does not have control of the locker room.
And then there are his press conferences…or really any time he opens up his mouth to talk when there are microphones around. Pat Shurmur is about as uninspiring of an individual as there could possibly be. I know that being a “rah-rah” guy is not a requirement for being a successful coach, just look at Bill Belichick and Tony Dungy.
But the coach’s personality has to be one that inspires his players to point that they’re ready to play and run through a wall for him.
Every coach needs to be “genuine” as Pat says. You can’t be something you’re not, players will see right through the façade.
But what that might mean is that some guys just are not cut out to be head coaches in the NFL.
Each of these issues on their own might not seem like a lot. But as a totality, they are huge and it becomes clearer every week that Shurmur is losing his grip on the team.
His comments to the media this week sounded like a man who was struggling to get a grip on a situation that way over his head.
And that’s exactly what I believe Pat Shurmur is: way over his head.
I hope I’m not right, but I don’t think Shurmur will be the coach of the Cleveland Browns in 2013 if he even lasts through this season.
I take no joy in the Browns continuing the carousel of coaches and want so desperately for them to find the guy. I just don’t think Pat Shurmur is that guy.
I hope I’m wrong.
On that happy note, on to the Week 4 lines…
(Gamble at your own risk. Home team in CAPS. Lines from SportsBook.com.)
Browns (+12) over RAVENS
I had three great reasons ready for why the Browns could pull off the shocking upset on prime time Thursday night:
1. Ravens are coming off an emotional last-second win over the team that beat them in the AFC Championship Game last year setting up a let down only three days later.
2. The Ravens played a very tough physical game late Sunday night and have a couple injuries and banged up players.
3. THE REPLACEMENT REFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Unfortunately, we've lost the great equalizers, the glorious replacement officials which I thought gave the Browns a legitimate chance to win against one of the best teams in the league.
Without the officials on the Browns' side, there are then a myriad of reasons why the Browns won't win on Thursday night:
1. Ed Reed
2. Ray Lewis
3. Haloti Ngata
4. The Ravens are really good
5. The Browns are not good
6. Ed Reed
7. John Harbaugh
8. Torrey Smith
9. Ray Rice
10. Ed Reed
With that said, 12 points is a lot. I think that on a short week, the Browns will keep the closer than it really is but I honestly don't think the Browns have a great chance to win this game. I just hope they don't look embarrassing.
Patriots (-4) over BILLS
How crazy would a home win for the Bills be to put them to 3-1 and the Patriots to 1-3?
Well it's not going to happen. I have New England winning big in a major pissed-off performance.
FALCONS (-7.5) over Panthers
On face value I'd normally take Cam Newton to at least cover in this situation at more than a touchdown. But the Falcons have been very good this year and are almost unbeatable at home.
Oh yeah, and the Panthers have not been good and Newton has received more criticism this week than he's probably had his whole life about his play and attitude on the field.
49ers (-4) over JETS
I think this line is an overreaction to the 49ers losing to the Vikings. It happens to the best of teams. Going into last week San Francisco was being hailed as head and shoulders the best team in the league. Now they're only giving four points to the Jets?
The Jets stink; I'll lay the points.
Chargers (Pick 'em) over CHIEFS
Another head-scratcher. I get that the Chargers haven't exactly been, well, good this year but they've got to be better than the Chiefs, right? Right?
Don't screw me now, Romeo.
Titans (+12) over TEXANS
Jake Locker and Tennessee haven't been that bad so far this season, and even though Houston is the best team in football in my opinion, they aren't really the kind of team that's going to blow people out every week. They'll win convincingly enough, but the Titans will cover.
RAMS (+3) over Seahawks
This is the first home team I've taken and I actually feel really good about this pick. It's going to be tough for Seattle to come out on the road and play after the crazy week that they've had, not mention the Monday night hangover into an early Sunday start for a West Coast team.
CARDINALS (-6.5) over Dolphins
It's as simple as this: I think Arizona is good and I think Miami is bad. Of course this is the NFL and this exactly the kind of early season game where a seemingly crappy road team comes in and exposes the hot team as a fraud.
(And yes, I wrote that last sentence just to cover my butt for whatever happens in this game, proving that I don't feel great about the pick.)
Raiders (+6.5) over BRONCOS
The case can be made that the Raiders have just had a very strange start to their season. Lost their long-snapper in Week 1. Had to fly cross-country on a short week to play in black jerseys in the Miami heat. Then gutted out a tough win over Pittsburgh at home.
Maybe the Raiders are actually good?
I'm still not sure how I feel about Peyton Manning, and don't forget about the subplot of Raiders head coach Dennis Allen going up against the team he was the defensive coordinator for last year.
Bengals (-2.5) over JAGUARS
I get that the Jags haven't been horrible but I don't understand why they're only getting 2.5 points. This one seems too easy to just take the Bengals, but I'll do it anyways.
Saints (-7.5) over PACKERS
If you would have told me at the end of last season that the Saints would be getting more than a touchdown against the Packers I would have assumed that something terrible had happened to Drew Brees.
That team is a mess right now, but it's not like the Packers are a whole lot better. They've scored as many points as the Browns so far this year.
I still think the Packers win the game, but I don't think they'll blow out the Saints.
BUCCANEERS (-3) over Redskins
If you've read me at all, you know that I'm a huge RG3 fan and I believe he's a fantastic player. But the Redskins defense is horrible beyond words, and they're decimated with injuries. Also I'm not sure that the triple-option offense they're running for Griffin won't end up getting him killed.
Giants (+1) over EAGLES
I have zero faith in the Eagles at all, especially if I have to pick them as the favorites against a division rival that's a better football team.
COWBOYS (-3.5) over Bears
No one is more devastated by the loss of the replacement refs than Jay Cutler and Tony Romo, who were both ecstatic about the prospect of throwing interceptions that could be counted as touchdowns.
On a serious note, if Dallas expects to be taken seriously as a contender then a Monday Night Football showcase at Jerry's World is a game that they must win.
I have no faith they'll actually win but I don't want to bet on Cutler, even if I'm not using real money.
Last week: 8-7
You can follow Benjamin Flack on Twitter @ClevelandFlack.
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