CLEVELAND — Barring a miracle turnaround or some ill-conceived grace on the part of Jimmy Haslam III, Browns head coach Pat Shurmur won’t be around after this season.
As the Browns hit their bye week, they sit at 2-7, full of disappointment after blowing a fourth-quarter lead against the Ravens last week. They squandered an exceptional performance by the defense and seemingly overcame their offensive miscues to take a late 15-14 lead. By the end of the game, it was 25-15 in favor of the Ravens and the Browns were left searching for answers, as is usually the case.
Shurmur was obviously disappointed, though he defended himself in the latest series of questions surrounding his play calling; specifically, it was his call to go for it on 4th-and-2 from the Browns’ own 28-yard line with two timeouts and the two-minute warning left late in the fourth quarter. The attempt failed and the Ravens sealed the victory.
When asked about it, Shurmur said, “I wanted to get the first down and felt like we had a play that we liked and we didn’t execute well. That’s why [we went for it].”
“Had we converted it, and we moved forward, then it would have been talked about what a gutsy move it was, right? That’s all. And I think that’s fair and I’ll join in [the questioning].”
The loss — and his latest questionable maneuver — could not have come at a worse time for Shurmur. Not only was Haslam watching in person, but the bye week gives fans and voracious sports-talk radio personalities plenty of time to cultivate the movement to immediately relieve Shurmur of his coaching duties.
The call to fire Shurmur is strong, but Haslam must remain strong in his conviction. He made it clear that he will not make any personnel decisions until after the season, and that has to include the ones that stick out like a sore thumb.
For Haslam, not only would he already be going back on his word, but in the fairness of true evaluation, he hasn’t been in Cleveland long enough to even make a decision like that.
As a tremendously successful businessman, Haslam surely understands the importance of proper evaluation and a strong public image. Rocking the boat midway through this season serves little purpose other than to set off a tumultuous start to his ownership.
Consider this: in a recent Sporting News poll, which asked 103 NFL players to name the worst organization in the league, the most votes (20) went to the Browns. The players in the league see it, the fans certainly see it, and everyone else who follows professional football sees it. The firing of Shurmur (though warranted) any moment before the last whistle in the Browns’ last game on Dec. 30 is simply a predictable continuation of the way this team operates.
It is vital that Haslam, no doubt frustrated by what he has seen so far, continues to hold off on slamming down the gas pedal. For now, he will remain an omnipotent observer, waiting to put his stamp on the organization. Building this team into a consistent winner will take time, and no interim coach in 2012 will do anything to speed up the process.
Only a miracle can save Pat Shurmur now. But in the interest of the Browns’ future, Haslam has to at least give Shurmur the chance to see it through to the end.