Cleveland Browns: Jimmy Haslam's First Move Should Be to Fire Pat Shurmur

Bill SmithAnalyst IOctober 2, 2012

Shurmur and Haslam
Shurmur and HaslamJason Miller/Getty Images

Jimmy Haslam will face many issues when he takes power after the NFL vote on Oct. 16. One of the most significant issues is what to do about head coach Pat Shurmur.

For several reasons, I believe that Shurmur should be dismissed. The sad part is that only a few of these reasons are the fault of Shurmur. Many more are the fault of team president Mike Holmgren.  I will have more to say about that in a future article here on the Bleacher Report.

The biggest issue is Shurmur’s lack of experience. He had only been an offensive coordinator in St. Louis for two years before being named head coach of the Browns. And those two years were not successful. His lack of experience causes him to challenge plays that are, by rule, not challengeable. Often, he uses time outs because it takes him so long to come up with a play call. Then, during crunch time, we have no time outs left.

In 2009, as offensive coordinator, Shurmur led the Rams to the 32nd-ranked offense in scoring and 29th in yards per game. In 2010, the Rams ranked 27th in yards and 26th in scoring. While it was an improvement over 2009, they ranked 27th in yards in 2008. This is clearly not the resume of a HC candidate.

Shurmur was not a head coaching prospect for any team other than the Browns. Given the lack of background, I have to wonder if Holmgren kept Eric Mangini as the head coach in 2010 just to give his choice Shurmur one more year as offensive coordinator for the Rams.

When Shurmur took over as head coach, he insisted in putting young Colt McCoy under center almost all the time. McCoy was more comfortable in the shotgun, but that did not matter to Shurmur. He wanted his offense run his way. The WRs that the Browns had were not good at running precise patterns that the West Coast offense required. The WRs ran bad patterns and struggled to get separation. Far too many passes were incomplete or intercepted.

McCoy’s stats fell under Shurmur. He averaged 60.8 percent completion in 2010, but 57.2 percent last year. Worse, the average yards per pass fell from 7.1 to 5.9 yards per attempt. The O suffered facing 3rd-and-long way too often. No offense can flourish if that happens regularly.

Shurmur has shown very little creativity in play calling. The defense knows if they can stop Richardson, the offense will stall. Shurmur does not use his personnel properly. Several interceptions have been due to small WRs like Travis Benjamin at 5’10” running sideline routes against taller corners.  Benjamin should be used on slants and skinny posts to take advantage of his speed.

The team is unable to complete a screen pass. The O-line has no problem allowing the rushers in.  The issue seems to be the inability of the line to get out to support the pass. The team looks like it has not practiced the play.

Shurmur did not do his job as head coach. He was much more comfortable with the offensive coordinator function and ignored issues that a head coach must resolve.

One example of this is the special teams. They were a disaster last year.  In the game at Oakland, there were three special teams’ gaffs that cost the team the game. If I had been head coach, special teams coach Chris Tabor would have been fired on the spot. But Shurmur did nothing, and the special teams continued to be a disaster all last year and so far this season. 

The punter, Reggie Hodges, has had two punts blocked in the preseason. Except for the unbelievable skill of kicker Phil Dawson, the special teams would be the black hole of the team.

Under Shurmur, the players have not improved. That is a function both of his lack of quality control and his choice of assistant coaches. Under Holmgren and Shurmur, the Browns seemed to hire the best coaches that agent Bob LaMonte represents. The single agent generated a very comfortable old boys club that worked against development of players. 


The offense has suffered from slow starts over the last 28 games. Failing to score in the first quarter has become the team’s signature. Teams that win the toss elect to kick off because they know that the Browns will be three and out. They get good field position because of it. Slow starts are caused by not being ready to play and bad play scripts. Those are both directly the responsibility of the head coach and offensive coordinator .

After a year and eight games of the WCO, young WRs are still not running accurate patterns. The running game is still not working despite taking a great young RB with the third pick overall in 2012.  Shurmur uses an inept FB because his leaders drafted him.

At least this year, he has not let TE Alex Smith carry the football.

That’s what I think. Tell us what you think.


Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He edits  He has also published several novels on and a non-fiction work at

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