Cleveland Browns head coach Pat Shurmur faces smoldering anger by fans and media who want him fired. But the three likely "interim" coaches in the bullpen risk throwing gasoline on the blaze.
Calls by fans and media to fire Shurmur grew louder after the Cleveland Browns blew another fourth-quarter opportunity to win a game. It involved more unproductive play-calling on third downs, questionable judgment on when to go for it on fourth down at the end of games and a coach blaming his players for not executing his bad plays.
If a coaching change is to be made, some have reasoned that now is the right time to make it. Jimmy Haslam III officially took ownership of the Browns Oct. 25. The Browns' win-loss record fell Sunday to 2-7 on the season. And this is the Browns’ bye week.
But Haslam has told Shurmur and his coaching staff no personnel changes would be made until the end of the season.
There are also at least three reasons why Shurmur, if he is to be fired, should not be canned until the end of the season. Those reasons are Brad Childress, Dick Jauron and Ray Rhodes.
Those are the three former NFL head coaches on the Browns' staff and the likely candidates to become interim head coach if Haslam makes a midseason move.
Of those, defensive coordinator Jauron has the most NFL head coaching experience: 10 years in 26 overall years of coaching. Some remember him from the Chicago Bears, where he was the Associated Press Coach of the Year in 2001. He improved on his 11-21 record in 1999-2000 to a 13-3 record and an NFC Central Division title.
Jauron took the Bears from a decade-long hangover after Mike Ditka’s heady 1980s teams into the playoffs against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bears lost 33-19. Jauron’s head coaching career never returned to such heights as that one-hit wonder season.
In fact, he would never again enjoy a winning season despite coaching for two more years in Chicago, a partial year in Detroit and three-and-a-half years in Buffalo. His regular-season record as head coach? A measly 60-82, or .423.
Jauron was fired in 2009 after compiling a 3-6 record in Buffalo, one win better than what Shurmur has achieved so far this year. Critics called Jauron “Dickie Don’t” and used commentary that sounds eerily familiar to that which is directed at Shurmur: “Dickie Don’t still exhibits a fundamental flaw in his coaching style – a failure to correctly analyze the possibilities in front of him and make the best decision.”
Browns offensive coordinator Childress has four-and-a-half years as head coach in an overall 10-year coaching career. Of the Browns’ three former head coaches, Childress enjoyed the most success, earning a 39-35 record plus 1-2 in the playoffs in Minnesota. That included a 10-6 record before Childress and the Vikings bribed quarterback Brett Favre out of retirement with money, bonuses and a private jet to fly him from his Louisiana home to the Twin Cities.
But Childress lost control of his locker room. “Many players, particularly on offense, have no respect for Childress,” wrote Yahoo Sports writer Jason Cole in 2010. “According to multiple team sources, Favre’s disdain for Childress is deep.”
Childress was fired after achieving a 3-7 record in 2010—one win better than what Shurmur has posted in 2012. Childress' coaching exploits won him a spot on Bleacher Report’s 50 worst NFL head coaches.
And then there is Browns senior defensive assistant Rhodes, who has 30 years of coaching experience, including five full seasons as head coach (Philadelphia Eagles 1995-98 and Green Bay Packers 1999).
Rhodes’ win-loss record was a mediocre 37-42-1, not including 1-2 in the playoffs. It started out well for Rhodes, as he inherited a talented Eagles roster that won 20 regular-season games in his first two seasons. It went downhill from there, culminating in a 3-13 season in 1998.
The decline of the Eagles on his watch led to Rhodes’ own demise, also earning him a spot on the Bleacher Report’s 50 worst NFL head coaches.
Interim leadership by one of these three potential candidates is what Cleveland Browns fans could look forward to from a midseason firing of Shurmur. Browns fans, and surely the youthful Browns players too, are tired of the coaching carousel and want a little stability—even if it is only to the end of the season.
Fans should consider what they may get by seeking a Shurmur firing now. It would bring them someone who has more experience at being Shurmur than Shurmur himself.