Under what circumstances — if any — should Pat Shurmur return to coach the Browns in 2013?
This question was not being asked three weeks ago. In fact, if you had posed that question three weeks ago in a Cleveland-area bar, you would have been laughed out of the joint and perhaps punched in the face, too, on general principles. Browns fans, myself included, were ready to see Perplexed Pat hit the road and have the team start over with a new regime picked by the new owner.
But the last three weeks have produced three wins, including last weekend’s trouncing of the hapless Chiefs. Now the Browns stand at 5-8, and actually have a very, very small chance of making the playoffs. Of course, the Browns would have to win out against three good teams, and a lot of dominoes would need to fall their way — but still! A chance to make the playoffs! It’s almost like there’s a professional football team on the shores of Lake Erie.
I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid. The Browns have beaten three pretty crummy teams in their winning streak, and their offense sputters something awful. And yet . . . the young players (of whom there are many) look like they could actually be legitimate players in the NFL. The defense plays a rugged game and doesn’t seem to get down when they give up a big play. The offense has some reasonably good playmakers, all of whom (with the exception of thirty-something rookie QB Brandon Weedon) just started shaving last week. It’s hard not to think that this team will only get better with age, experience, and a few wins under their collective belts.
I’m not convinced Shurmur has what it takes to be a successful NFL coach . . . but I also think NFL owners should think long and hard before they dump the old regime and bring in a new playbook, new approaches, and the disruption that is the inevitable result of such a change. I want to see how the Browns look against the Redskins, who are battling for a playoff spot. I want to see whether these young players maintain their focus and whether they come out and play hard now that their games are starting to mean something. I want to see if Shurmur continues the interesting playcalling we saw in the Chiefs game.
There’s still plenty of time before this decision needs to be made. Watching the Browns has suddenly become interesting again.