7 Candidates Who Could Replace Pat Shurmur for Cleveland Browns
It's hard to pile on to Cleveland Browns head coach Pat Shurmur at the moment, since he just guided his team to its first win of 2012.
Unfortunately, much of the blame on a struggling franchise falls on the man in charge of the on-field product on Sundays. In the "win now" mentality of the NFL, there isn't much room for dismal results.
Shurmur must improve his 5-17 record pretty drastically between now and Week 17. Otherwise, it is likely he'll find himself replaced under the new ownership of Jimmy Haslam.
All hope is not lost, though. There is still time for the Browns to salvage this season; and for Shumur to salvage his job. In a report by the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot, new president and CEO Joe Banner had wonderful things to say about Cleveland's current head coach:
He’s an extremely good guy, he’s just a really good person, he’s a very hard working guy, he’s a very principled man, he’s got a wonderful family and I don’t think you’ll find anybody as more passionate at trying to do the best they can and succeed as well as they can.
If Shurmur gets the ax after the season ends, it won't be due to a lack of effort. His familiarity with Banner from the Philadelphia Eagles organization also won't hurt, especially if GM Tom Heckert remains in his position.
In the event that Shurmur should be let go, though, here are some potential replacements the Browns may consider.
Dick Jauron or Brad Childress
Keeping head coaching changes in-house is ideal, especially with multiple members of the current staff having so much experience.
The most qualified candidates are defensive coordinator Dick Jauron and offensive coordinator Brad Childress.
Jauron won the 2001 Coach of the Year Award in guiding the Chicago Bears to a 13-3 season, only to lose in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. However, that was Jauron's only winning season in five years at the helm. He then had another stint with the Buffalo Bills, which was uneven and generally unsuccessful.
A strong case could be made for both men, who have had varying but tangible amounts of success as NFL head coaches. What's also working in their favor for the job—and for this year's staff to stay, in general—are the ties both have to new president and CEO Joe Banner.
In 2010, Jauron was the defensive backs coach in Philly. Chilly served as the Eagles' offensive coordinator from 2003 to 2005, and was the quarterbacks coach for the beginning of Donovan McNabb's career.
Banner had been a part of the Eagles administration since 1995. That can't hurt either of these coordinators' chances.
A trend around the league has been a shift towards younger head coaches who have no prior head coaching experience. The results have been a mixed bag, and Cleveland has been on the wrong end of it with Pat Shurmur thus far—whether it's his fault or not.
Jay Gruden would be a step in that direction once again, but it would make some sense.
In the lockout situation of 2011, the Browns were unable to implement and effectively execute Shurmur's West Coast offense. In Cincinnati, however, Gruden was able to install his version of the scheme rather effectively. It certainly helped that it was triggered by the rookie combo of QB Andy Dalton and dynamic receiver A.J. Green.
Multiple teams inquired about Gruden as a head coaching candidate this past offseason, but he signed an extension with the Bengals instead.
It may be awkward to cut that deal short and move onto a division rival. But there are perks to the situation in Cleveland.
While he has no direct ties to CEO Joe Banner or current GM Tom Heckert, Gruden could once again be a hot name for teams needing to fill head coaching vacancies. Replacing Shurmur with him would maintain at least schematic continuity on offense.
Gruden has proven he's not simply in the NFL because of his brother, Jon. Considering the quick turnaround in Cincinnati, he has proven his worth as a bright offensive mind.
Ultimately, the front office's lack of familiarity with Gruden and the fact that he just signed an extension may discourage an intense pursuit for him as the next head honcho.
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According to multiple outlets, Cleveland's 92.3 THE FAN reported earlier in the week that the Browns' new regime was interested in Nick Saban as the next head coach.
While it's pure speculation at this point, that has to be unsettling news for Pat Shurmur. It also can't be terribly pleasant for Saban, who will probably have to answer a few tedious questions about the matter.
As the NFL Network's documentary A Football Life: Clevleand '95 pointed out, Saban was the defensive coordinator for the Browns under head coach Bill Belichick. That was in the years leading up to the before move to Baltimore.
Without spoiling anything, Saban shared the sentiment of all the men who went through that situation—they felt bad, and they wanted to see the turnaround through. Perhaps that could be a selling point if it's true that the new regime covets him.
Beyond the rumor and prior Browns connection, there isn't much else to connect Saban with the job. He had a brief stint as a head coach with the Miami Dolphins, but otherwise doesn't have other pro head coaching experience.
Despite the report, Saban seems like a big dark horse for the job, especially considering the success he is enjoying at the University of Alabama.
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This would be a Joe Banner-Tom Heckert special.
Mornhinweg has been on the Philadelphia Eagles staff since 2003, and currently serves as the team's offensive coordinator.
The only problem is that Mornhinweg had two disastrous seasons with the Detroit Lions in 2002 and 2003, posting a total record of 5-27. Then again, that was when Matt Millen was running the show.
In the Browns' case, Mornhinweg would be handed the reins to a team on the rise, rather than one in the midst of implosion. There is little doubt about how skillful he is at utilizing the talent he's given on offense, and he would have to be considered among the top play-callers in the game.
With the turbulence currently going on in Philadelphia, though, Mornhinweg may be looked at as a potential replacement for current head coach Andy Reid instead.
A lacking track record of success may be Mornhinweg's undoing. But with Banner calling the shots, it's not at all hard to imagine how Mornhinweg could at least land an interview.
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Among West Coast, offensive-minded coaches with the most established pedigree looking to return to coaching, Jon Gruden has to be the No. 1 man on the market.
A report by NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal indicated that Gruden would return to coaching if the situation is right. Gruden conveyed these thoughts on HBO's Real Sports, hosted by Bryant Gumbel.
The thing that Gruden does is that he takes teams that have struggled and instantly makes them competitive.
After two 8-8 seasons to start his Oakland Raiders tenure, Gruden took the team to the playoffs the next two seasons. He likely would have made two AFC Championship game appearances in a row if not for the "Tuck Rule" game against the New England Patriots.
In his next stop with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gruden took a 9-7 squad from 2001 and morphed it into a Super Bowl champion.
That's one heck of a track record; certainly worthy of a serious pursuit by the Browns management team.
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The current Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator would hope that his third stint in Cleveland would be a charm in the form of his first NFL head coaching opportunity.
After serving as the tight ends coach on the 2004 Browns staff, Chudzinski returned to be the offensive coordinator for Romeo Crennel's team before being let go as part of that staff in 2008.
Another election year will pass without Chudzinski coaching in Cleveland, but he very well could be in the mix to be the next head coach based on his success with the Panthers.
Chudzinski runs a West Coast offense while also adjusting to suit players' strengths, which is something the Browns could definitely use. Too often this season, rookie QB Brandon Weeden has been asked to put the ball in the air despite having No. 3 overall pick Trent Richardson at his disposal in the backfield.
The fact that Chudzinski called plays to make Derek Anderson a Pro Bowl quarterback speaks to his abilities, as does his top-10 offense in Carolina from a season ago.
Another way that Chud could help the cause is his particular expertise on the tight end position.
Browns tight end Jordan Cameron has great athleticism and receiving ability. He is improving a lot in his second season, but still is very raw. Chudzinski has coached the likes of Kellen Winslow and Jeremy Shockey, and could very well turn Cameron into an offensive weapon in the mold of New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham.
There aren't any ties to Joe Banner here, but Chudzinski should at least be considered as a possible head coaching candidate based on his familiarity with the organization and his play-calling prowess.