According to several league sources, St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and the Cleveland Browns are currently in the final stages of contract talks and it is expected that the Browns will introduce Shurmur as the team's new head coach within the next 24 hours.
Browns team president Mike Holmgren has had full control of the head coaching search and has been looking to hire someone with a good offensive mind and who has the skills and experience to develop quarterback, Colt McCoy, into the future of the Cleveland Browns.
With two seasons as the Rams offensive coordinator and a decade as quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles under his belt, Shurmur seems to fit the bill. His development of rookie quarterback Sam Bradford this past season has been impressive and likely the main reason that Shurmur has been considered the favorite for the Browns job over other candidates since the search began.
In 2010, Bradford posted a respectable 76.5 QB rating, nearly led the Rams to a division title and passed for an impressive 3,512 yards, second to only Peyton Manning in rookie passing yardage in NFL history.
However, the question must be asked: Can Shurmur do the same for Colt McCoy?
After all, McCoy and Bradford are two entirely different players with very different skill sets.
When the Rams took Bradford with the first pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, he was considered a can't-miss prospect, a quarterback with all the tools and football intelligence to have immediate success at the NFL level.
Standing 6'4" and possessing a cannon for an arm, Bradford had the prototypical size and arm strength that NFL scouts drool over.
Meanwhile, McCoy is considered short for an NFL quarterback at 6'1" and was rated as having questionable arm strength, causing his draft stock to fall all the way into the third round. McCoy was considered a project at quarterback and even Holmgren himself planned on having him ride the bench for a season or two before being placed under center.
While Bradford is a true pocket passer, McCoy often relies on his mobility and vision to extend and create plays.
One similarity between the two quarterback is their QB rating. Despite throwing nine interceptions to only six touchdowns, McCoy managed to post a rating of 74.5, only two points lower than Bradford.
Another thing that McCoy and Bradford have in common is the offense around them and this could be the biggest indicator that Shurmur is indeed the right man to take McCoy to the next level.
Shurmur's offense allowed Bradford to excel, despite playing behind a questionable offensive line, throwing to unwanted, no-name receivers and having few playmakers around him.
It should, because it is exactly the type of offense that Shurmur will inherit with the Browns.
In fact, Bradford's only real offensive weapon was Steven Jackson, a physical, versatile running back who gained 1,624 total yards and was the Rams ground game.
This too, should sound familiar, as the Browns have their own version of Jackson on the roster in running back Peyton Hillis.
This is good news for Shurmur, for McCoy and for the Cleveland Browns. Hillis' tough running style and success in Eric Mangini's run-first offense mask the fact that he is seemingly a perfect fit for the west-coast offense that Shurmur is likely to employ in Cleveland.
Hillis' combination of power, agility and quickness and his tremendous ability to catch the ball out of the backfield will be invaluable in helping McCoy transition to Shurmur's style of offense. It will also allow Hillis to remain effective, both running the ball and in the passing game.
After all, the only thing worse than trying to stop Hillis between the tackles is trying to tackle him one-on-one in the open field.
Also, Shurmur's work with the Rams receivers is encouraging. Much like McCoy, Bradford lacked a single dominant receiver to work with, but managed to find success. If Shurmur can coax 600+ yards out of guys like Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson, perhaps he can do the same for Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie.
Shurmur's ability to develop McCoy will rest on his ability to develop the talent around him. Holmgren seems to have confidence in that ability and GM Tom Heckert spent eight seasons with Shurmur in Philadelphia, so you can bet that the front office has a good idea of exactly what they are getting in Shurmur.
Hopefully, they're bringing in a coach who can take not only McCoy, but the entire Cleveland Browns organization to the next level.
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