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Shurmur Dragged Childress Onto The Hot Seat And They Both Got Burned

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Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Long before the 2012 season started, Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur was on the hot seat.

He seemed to be a reach – at best – and completely unqualified when the Browns hired him in 2011 to his first head coaching job at any level. When the Browns finished 4-12 his first year and made some unforgiveable coaching mistakes – even for a rookie coach - it turned up the heat even more on him.

It didn’t help matters that his specialty was offense and his 2011 unit was abysmal. It was incredibly boring and painful to watch.

But Shurmur was team president Mike Holmgren’s guy – the one he had hand-picked for the job – so he was going to be given all kinds of slack.

Just was training camp was beginning, however, Shurmur’s seat was turned into a barbecue grill when the impending sale of the Browns to Jimmy Haslam was announced. Holmgren no longer had the run of the building, acting as the de-facto owner while Randy Lerner concentrated on his Aston Villa pro soccer team in England. He now answered to Haslam, who was around nearly every day.

And, as such, Holmgren could no longer protect Shurmur. The coach would have to survive on his own merits. He proved incapable of doing so, illustrated by the fact his 2012 club lost its first five games, six of its seven and eight of its first 10 en route to a 5-11 record.

The offense was only moderately better – and only slightly more exciting – that it had been in 2011. Shurmur further indicted himself when he force-fed rookie QB Brandon Weeden – the team’s second first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft – into a West Coast, pitch-and-catch offense even though his arm strong made him much better suited for a vertical passing offense, like the one under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner is installing this season. The fact that Shurmur would try to shape his players around his offense instead of molding his offense around his players was the epitome of stubbornness.

That’s not all, though. For whatever reason (a possible control freak), Shurmur did not allow Weeden to audible out of bad plays at the line of scrimmage. And there were plenty of bad plays called that the rookie should have – and could have – been changing. Weeden was a good soldier and kept his mouth shut, but he dropped enough hints to make it clear that he was in an untenable situation.

But wait, there’s more!

Shurmur dragged poor Brad Childress onto the hot seat with him. In 2011, Shurmur acted as his own offensive coordinator, and the fact he was trying to do too much is why he made so many hard-to-fathom mistakes as the man in charge.

So last offseason, Holmgren stepped in and hired Childress to run the offense and lighten Shurmur’s load. Even though Childress was a longtime offensive coordinator in the league and had served as the coach of the Minnesota Vikings, Shurmur didn’t give up either duty. Childress devised the game plan and suggested plays from the coaches’ booth, but it was Shurmur who made the final call on what plays were used.

Thus, when the offense flat-lined again in in 2012, Childress took some of the criticism as well – his reputation as a solid offensive mind was sullied -- even though he was powerless to do anything about it. Childress began to understand what Weeden was up against, being hamstrung by someone who insisted on being the supreme ruler of the offense.

It was a charade to say the least. The firing of Shurmur after the season couldn’t happen fast enough for the fans, Weeden and even Childress.