BEREA — Pat Shurmur quickly emerged as a candidate for the Browns coaching job, was the first to interview and hasn’t lost the lead.
Yet most Browns fans haven’t embraced the thought of him standing on the north sideline along the lakefront Sunday afternoons.
They better get used to the idea.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday night that the Browns settled on Shurmur as the pick to be the next coach and hoped to get a deal done within 48 hours. NFL Network’s Jason LaCanfora reported later Wednesday that the Browns expected to announce a deal today.
A Browns spokesman didn’t confirm the reports, as is team policy. He said the Browns didn’t interview anyone Wednesday.
Shurmur, 45, has been the Rams’ offensive coordinator for two seasons, following 10 as an assistant in Philadelphia. He’s never been a head coach at any level.
President Mike Holmgren said that wouldn’t be a deterrent when he talked to the media Jan. 3, hours after firing Eric Mangini.
“I was a coordinator, had no experience when I was hired,” Holmgren said of getting the Green Bay coaching job in 1992. “In history, if you go back, the coordinator position is a good place to start because you’re dealing with a lot of the team most of the time and it’s the next step, the logical step.
“I’m not going to put a lot of weight in former head coaches.”
If the Browns are committed to hiring Shurmur — they also interviewed Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell — the only hurdle is agreeing on a contract. That should be nothing more than a speed bump. Holmgren, general manager Tom Heckert and Shurmur have Bob LaMonte as their agent.
As a first-time head coach, Shurmur shouldn’t command huge dollars, likely in the $2.5 million-$3 million range. Browns owner Randy Lerner owes Mangini nearly $8 million for the two years remaining on his four-year contract.
The fan base was split on whether Mangini should be fired after just two seasons, despite going 5-11 in each.
Now the question becomes whether Shurmur is an upgrade.
He doesn’t have the big name of former head coaches Jon Gruden — who chose to stay at ESPN for 2011 – and John Fox. He’s also not the hot coordinator of years past, like Charlie Weis, Josh McDaniels or Rex Ryan.
But that doesn’t mean Shurmur, who didn’t interview for any other head coaching jobs, won’t be a success — regardless of the lack of confetti at his introductory news conference. Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, Mike Smith and Mike McCarthy were under-the-radar hires who inspired little enthusiasm in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Atlanta and Green Bay. They’ll all be coaching this weekend in the second round of the playoffs.
Shurmur has been described as quiet and he wasn’t flashy in his meetings with reporters as the Rams coordinator. Browns fans may need some time — and wins — to fully embrace him.
For now, they’re going to have to trust Holmgren. Lerner did just that when he hired him to run the franchise and gave him the authority to make big decisions like this one.
“I think if in our process we come to the conclusion that this particular person is the right person, the pedigree doesn’t matter,” Holmgren said Jan. 3. “I really have to kind of look at everything and then try and come to a decision of who would be the right fit for this team right now.”
A couple of Holmgren’s most trusted confidants gave in-depth scouting reports on Shurmur.
Heckert, who led the coaching search with Holmgren, was in Philadelphia’s front office for eight of Shurmur’s years there. Eagles coach Andy Reid, a Holmgren disciple, hired Shurmur in Philadelphia.
Reid taught Shurmur the West Coast offense he learned from Holmgren in Green Bay. Holmgren said running the system wasn’t a must for the new coach, but it will make it easier for him to communicate with Shurmur. Holmgren also won a Super Bowl in Green Bay in 1996 with Fritz Shurmur, Pat’s uncle, as his defensive coordinator.
Pat Shurmur’s offense in St. Louis didn’t light it up in his two seasons, but the Rams were a bad team. They finished with the 26th-ranked offense in scoring (18.1 points) and yardage (302.9) in 2010.
But strides were made, as the Rams went from 1-15 in 2009 to 7-9 and a win away from making the playoffs. Rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, the first pick in the draft, was the biggest difference. He started all 16 games, completing 60 percent of his passes for 3,512 yards, 18 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a 76.5 rating. He is a top candidate for rookie of the year.
Shurmur, who worked with Pro Bowler Donovan McNabb for seven years in Philadelphia, will be counted on to bring along Colt McCoy at quarterback. Holmgren believes he can be the long-term answer, but he must be developed.
- Schefter reported Browns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll interviewed with the Dolphins in Miami on Wednesday for their coordinator or quarterbacks coach job.
- Mangini will appear on ESPN today and Friday as an analyst breaking down the playoff games.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.