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I wanted to be able to say nice things about rookie head coach Pat Shurmur after this game. I really, really did. Unfortunately, Shurmur didn't make that easy for me.
I'm guessing Shurmur has already been suitably tortured for incurring a penalty for running into an official, so I'll leave that one alone here. Besides, there were plenty of other things in Shurmur's game plan to complain about.
First, the blame for the overall feel of disorganization and chaos during the game and the excuse-making that took place immediately after the game has to lie with the head coach. Shurmur was disappointingly full of excuses after the game. It would have come off better if he had just acted frustrated and contrite.
Worse, he appeared slow to adjust to the Bengals' maneuvering in the game, saw his team flagged for 11 penalties (and actually commit even more than that when you count the ones that weren't called) and he gets most of the blame for the substitution mess that lost the game for the Browns.
After the game Shurmur mentioned that any one of the defensive coaches, LB D'Qwell Jackson, or he himself could have called the time out to fix the problem there. That may be, but he's the head coach, and he's the one who should have called it, or at least the one who should take the blame without qualifying it by saying "anyone could have done it" if nobody does.
Let me qualify this by emphasizing once again that it's only Week 1. I absolutely don't think this grade is a sign of how Shurmur will rate overall at the end of the season, or even a few weeks from now. The poor mark is a combination of predictable adjustment and growing pains, and Shurmur's poor reactions after the game to that.
I can deal with mistakes on the field and the sideline for a rookie head coach, but I was furious at the excuse-making Shurmur heaped on us after the game. Especially as a new hire, he should have owned up to this. I am 100 percent confident that Shurmur will be notably better as soon as next week, but this game (and the aftermath) was not his finest moment.