June 29, 2016

Partly sunny

NFL combine notes: Rams coach speaks highly of Browns’ Pat Shurmur


INDIANAPOLIS – St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo worked with new Browns coach Pat Shurmur for eight years. He gave a scouting report for Cleveland fans Thursday at the first day of the NFL scouting combine.

“A teacher and high-character guy,” Spagnuolo said.

They were assistants together in Philadelphia for six seasons, then Spagnuolo hired Shurmur as his offensive coordinator with the Rams in 2009. Shurmur was hired away by the Browns in January after two seasons in St. Louis.

Shurmur stressed the importance of teaching in his introductory news conference with the Browns, and Spagnuolo said it’s a philosophy taught by Eagles coach Andy Reid, their former boss.

“Andy put a high importance on hiring a bunch of teachers,” Spagnuolo said. “It’s a pretty important part of what you do.”

Spagnuolo is a first-time head coach — as is Shurmur — and was asked the most difficult part of the transition from assistant.

“The immediate thing is you realize how many people rely on you every minute of every day,” he said. “You might have a list of things that you’re prepared to do in a daily routine, and you’ve got to realize that anytime you’ve got to drop that at the service of other people.

“I don’t know if Pat will feel the same way, but I know that was a challenge initially for me. It might be early in the morning or late at night that you finally get around to do the things you thought you were going to get done.

“I’d put together the best staff and rely on them.”

Shurmur will also hold the offensive coordinator title and call plays. Is that too much responsibility for a rookie coach to assume?

“I don’t know that,” Spagnuolo said. “I know other guys that have done it. If you look around the league, other people have done it, and some people have done it real successfully. So I’m sure Pat’s planning on doing the same thing.”



NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi, a Browns executive in the 1980s and ’90s, liked the rookie performance of Browns quarterback Colt McCoy, but said he must get stronger.

“I think his body’s got to get bigger, his body’s got to get stronger, his arm’s got to improve,” Lombardi said. “He’s got to follow the same thing that (Green Bay’s) Aaron Rodgers did.

“For him to take the next step, he’s got to really recondition his body. To play in the NFL, 16 games, 60 minutes and to take the pounding quarterbacks take, if your body’s not ready it’s not going to be able to do it. If you look at Colt McCoy compared to some of the other quarterbacks in the league, he needs to get more physical and stronger.”



The Miami Dolphins’ decision to hire former Browns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for the same position left many Browns fans scratching their heads.

Daboll was criticized throughout his two-year tenure in Cleveland under coach Eric Mangini, as the Browns ranked 32nd in offense in 2009 and 29th in 2010. Daboll was hurt by a lack of stability at quarterback, where five guys started in the two years.

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland defended the decision to hire Daboll, who wasn’t retained by Shurmur.

“Brian’s track record, for one, was intriguing to us,” Ireland said. “His history with quarterbacks. His history of being a defensive coach and an offensive coach. Coach (Tony) Sparano and myself were really impressed with how he put a plan together for our offensive players.

“I wasn’t necessarily looking at what his production was with Cleveland. I know some things there were different, but we’ve got different personnel.”



The combine proceeds as usual, but the threat of a lockout was felt in the gathering of NFL executives, coaches, agents and draft-eligible players.

The owners and players union broke Thursday until Tuesday after seven straight days of negotiations. The collective bargaining agreement is set to expire next Thursday. Mediator George Cohen said “some progress” had been made in negotiations, but “very strong differences remain.”

At the combine, everyone was hoping for the best, which is to avoid the first work stoppage since 1987.

“We have a lot of contingency plans,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Lombardi said teams with new coaches could benefit from an extended lockout. The common thinking is the players need a full offseason of workouts and practices to learn the new offensive and defensive systems.

“It can be viewed in a positive way for some of the staffs,” he said. “You have to teach the coaches the system first. The extra time will help them be able to teach it to the players.”



AFC North rivals Cleveland and Cincinnati are switching to the West Coast offense in 2011 under Shurmur and new Bengals coordinator Jay Gruden.

“I don’t think it’ll be something that we haven’t seen before, but it’s a great offense,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a ball-control offense, it expands on the running game with a controlled passing attack and what they call extended handoffs. It’s something I really want to build into our offense a little bit more.

“It’ll be a big challenge for us. Colt McCoy’s a good, young quarterback.”

Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert isn’t concerned about the changes in the division.

“Changes occur all the time,” he said. “We just have to do what we do and concern ourselves with our team. At this time of year, we never focus on what anybody else is doing in our preparation to make our team better.”



New 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, John’s brother, said he wasn’t contacted by the Browns about their opening. … Midview graduate and former NFL offensive lineman Joe Staysniak hosted his Indianapolis radio show from Lucas Oil Stadium. … Baltimore’s Harbaugh said re-signing unrestricted free agent Marshal Yanda, a guard/tackle, is a priority. … Offensive linemen, tight ends, kickers, punters and long snappers were available to the media Thursday. The big names arrive today, as quarterbacks, running backs and receivers head to the podiums.



“Who’s won a standoff with Mike Brown? You’re not gonna win that battle. That’s time-tested.” – Lombardi on Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer threatening to retire if he isn’t traded. Brown is the Bengals owner.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.