Browns' most visible rookie experiences plenty in four games

Posted Oct 7, 2011

In only four games, rookie coach Pat Shurmur has gone through a wide range of experiences.

The Browns' roster has plenty of rookies, but the one who has drawn the greatest attention since his arrival stands on the sidelines each week wearing a headset and holding an offensive play-call sheet.

Pat Shurmur already has had a wide range of experiences during his first four games as an NFL head coach.

He has twice felt the satisfaction that comes with victory. He has twice felt the frustration/agony that comes with losing.

Shurmur went through the heartbreak of having a winnable game slip through his hands in the season-opening loss against the Bengals. Then he had the chance to enjoy rebounding with a triumph in his first road game, followed by the relief of pulling out a win after about 56 minutes of his team playing poorly enough to lose.

Last Sunday, Shurmur had what easily was the worst feeling of all: the sense of hopelessness that comes from being on the wrong end of a lopsided score.

Now, he and his coaching staff face the considerable challenge of picking up the pieces from that 31-13 loss against the Titans.

From the time he first assembled his team at training camp in July, Shurmur has presented himself as a steady, even-tempered leader. He has displayed a remarkable knack for not letting his emotions run too high or too low, and for simply keeping his focus on doing everything possible to help a young team to get better.

And the Browns are young. And their youth does make the process for improvement difficult because of the many mistakes that inevitably happen along the way.

But Shurmur, who is also going through a learning process of his own, must make the most of the extra time that he and his assistant coaches have through the bye to find ways to get the team on the right track.

Knowing how he has handled things thus far, it’s fair to say that he is unlikely to panic and make radical changes. Still, some adjustments are warranted.

On offense, which is Shurmur’s area of expertise, he must figure out how to get more plays downfield from the passing game. Future opponents are going to pay close attention to how the Titans were able to virtually eliminate deep routes and force Colt McCoy to continually throw short and intermediate passes that do minimal damage.

Shurmur also needs to find out how to make consistently effective use of his two-pronged rushing attack that mixes Peyton Hillis’ power with Montario Hardesty’s speed.

And he and defensive coordinator Dick Jauron must solve the many issues that surfaced last Sunday with matchup problems in the passing game and poor tackling.

That’s quite a bit for a rookie to accomplish. But as Shurmur knows quite well – pointing out earlier this week “there are no excuses; we have to win” – head coaches don’t get a pass whether they’re on the job for four games or four years.

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