Cleveland Browns: Pat Shurmur's Biggest Mistakes of 2012

Andy McNamaraCorrespondent IIJanuary 1, 2013

Cleveland Browns: Pat Shurmur's Biggest Mistakes of 2012

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    Pat Shurmur's tyrannical reign of terror over the Cleveland Browns is finished.

    That statement is, of course, made in jest, and in fairness, many believe the now former head coach never had a chance with a new owner coming in.

    However, Shurmur made plenty of mistakes throughout the 2012 season that certainly did not help his cause.  

    Let's explore some of Pat's most consistent errors.

Forcing the West Coast Offense on Brandon Weeden

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    Pete Carroll's model in Seattle of adapting the offense to best fit your rookie quarterback makes perfect sense.

    Pat Shurmur's plan of jamming a square peg into a round hole does not.

    Force-feeding the Browns' first-year QB, Brandon Weeden, the West Coast offense was a mistake.

    The former Oklahoma State Cowboy is a product of a spread system.

    This style is where, out of the shotgun, Weeden's long-distance accuracy and powerful arm are most effective.

    However, it doesn't typically transition well for signal-callers, especially out of the NCAA's Big 12.

    The six quarterbacks who led the conference in passing under a spread attack between 2000-2009 have been non-factors in the NFL, according to SR/College Football.

    That's not to say Weeden can't or won't be an effective gunslinger.

    It does mean that the WCO playbook of short slant routes and taking snaps primarily under center stunted BW's growth.

    Shurmur's inability or unwillingness to cater to Weeden's strengths may have been his greatest failure.

Short-Yardage/Late-Down Play-Calls

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    An early-to-midseason problem, the decisions on short-yardage third- or fourth-down situations were quite often baffling.

    There was the 4th-and-1 punt late against Indianapolis that allowed the Colts to hold on for a hard-fought 17-13 victory.

    From ultra conservative to unnecessarily aggressive was the story in the Week 9 Ravens game.

    With 3:53 remaining and the Browns trailing 22-15, Shurmur had a pair of timeouts plus the two-minute warning.

    On 4th-and-2, he gambled instead of punting, giving the defense a chance for a quick stop. Brandon Weeden's throw to Greg Little was off-target and went incomplete.

    This led to a turnover on downs and a Baltimore field goal that sealed a win for the visitors.

    According to Nate Ulrich, the head coach commented to the Akron Beacon Journal, “What I would like us to do is execute, give them a better play and make it. I would consider doing something different if I can guarantee I’m gonna get the ball back.”

    One more odd occurrence during that Ravens matchup was electing to run on 3rd-and-11.

    Cleveland was already in field-goal range, so why not utilize your quarterback's strong arm and try to move the chains?

    The effort was stuffed for no gain, and Phil Dawson successfully kicked the three points.

    Many of the passing plays called on 3rd-and-1 throughout the first nine or 10 contests were also confusing—especially when their is a No. 3 overall pick named Trent Richardson ready to steam roll for at least a single yard.

    According to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal Shurmur was asked about that in a media scrum before the team's bye, "We’ll look at third-and-ones, what we can do better, the people we use, the plays we run as we move forward to make that absolutely better.”

    The predictable choices in those short third-down scenarios became almost laughable. Everyone and their cousin knew that Weeden would toss a screen to the right side.

    Despite opponents consistently swarming the receiver, Coach Pat stuck with it through a large chunk of 2012.

    Improvements were seen from Week 11 onward, but correcting these errors took far too long.

Sharing Play-Calling Duties

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    Heading into the bye week, it was revealed that Shurmur shared play-calling duties with new offensive coordinator Brad Childress.

    An Akron Beacon Journal comment from the head coach sums it up.

    “Brad and I call the game...I send in the play to the quarterback, and then he calls the play in the huddle."

    Doesn't this seem like an unnecessary mess that could lead to confusion? Well, it was for the entire offense.

    Leading up to the bye week, timeouts were being burned because either plays were not getting in on time or the correct personnel was not being sent out on the field.

    This was most apparent in the November 4 Baltimore matchup.

    Pat used three timeouts due to the above issues. Two in the same series during the second quarter and another in the third following consecutive false starts.

    “I’m absolutely responsible for that,” Shurmur said. “So we’ll make changes here, and we’ll streamline some of the things.

    The 45-year-old brought Childress in because he was clearly overwhelmed when handling the entire Cleveland offense alone in 2011.

    Why did it take nine games to figure out that the process needed to change?

    Not allowing his OC to take over the play-calling from day one was a mistake that came back to haunt Shurmur.

End of the Line

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    Maybe if given another year or two, Pat Shurmur could have grown into a solid NFL coach.

    Being at the helm of the youngest team in the league, which included 17 rookies, isn't exactly a recipe for instant success.

    In the end, his mistakes probably didn't matter much.

    As is often the case with new regimes, owner Jimmy Haslam and new CEO Joe Banner probably were going to make a change no matter what Shurmur did.


    Follow Andy McNamara on Twitter @AndyMc81