Not many people were surprised when the Browns fired Eric Mangini after another disappointing 5-11 season. It was almost surprising Browns President Mike Holmgren didn’t fire Mangini after the 2009-10 season, as most front offices like to have their own choice of head coach in place. As things stand, despite showing improvement and promise in 2010-11, the Browns cut ties with Mangini. Today they named his replacement. Former Rams Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmurwill be the Browns fifth head coach since returning to the league in 1999.
Prior to working in St. Louis the past two seasons, Shurmur spent nearly ten years coaching under Andy Reid in Philadelphia, the last seven years serving as the quarterbacks coach. My guess is that Holmgren is thinking that Shumurs experience with a quick pass, “West Coast”, style offense will suit new quarterback Colt McCoy. The many ties between Holmgren and Shurmur were the lynch pin in the deal. Shurmur served under Reid, who was quarterbacks coach for the Packers when Holmgren was the coach. In addition, Shurmur is nephew to Fritz Shurmur who served as Holmgren’s defensive coordinator from 1994-1999 in Green Bay.
Some knocks on Shurmur are that he has no head coaching experience at any level. In addition, to the aforementioned NFL experience in Philadelphia and St. Louis, Shurmur’s only other experience is at the collegiate level where he served a combined nine years as tight ends coach for Michigan St. (1990-1997) and offensive line coach at Stanford (1998). In addition, his two years as offensive coordinator with the Rams were not particularly successful. His offense finished 29th in 2009-10, and 26thin the league this past season. To his credit, he was able to help make rookie QB Sam Bradford’s transition to the NFL smooth. Under Schurmur’s tutelage, Bradford was almost able to the lead the Rams to the playoffs in his rookie season, albeit in a very weak NFC West Division.
Personally, I believe firing Mangini was a mistake. He showed more than capable leadership ability, and he was able to field a competitive team weak after weak, despite being out classed in the talent department. The schedule the Browns faced this past season was unbelievably difficult, and Mangini was a few breaks away from a .500 season despite having an awful Jake Delhomme and an under-prepared rookie in Colt McCoy at the most important position on the field.
As a Jets fan, I did not particularly like Mangini after watching him coach in New York, but as coach of the Browns he displayed a few qualities that won me over big time. First of all, he never made excuses. He easily could have led the Jets to the playoffs in two out of three seasons had it not been for Brett Favre’s insistence on playing with a serious injury which derailed the Jets late in the 2008-09 season. He was put between a rock and a hard place being forced to coach a player with a ego’s such as Favre, and never once did Mangini complain about his situation. In addition, after being fired as the Browns suffered a string of hard fought, but heart breaking losses this past season, Mangini never made any excuses. In addition, Mangini showed the ability to evolve. He realized his demeanor was causing a rift between himself and his players in New York, so he became more of a players coach in Cleveland. If you poll the Cleveland players today, I bet the vast majority would say they respected Mangini and enjoyed playing for him.
Now, when they could have had some much needed continuity, the Browns franchise must start with a neophyte head coach who will probably take a few years to figure out his style and what type of leader he is going to be. It is one thing if the Browns were able to acquire someone like Jim Harbaugh or Jon Gruden. Both of those men have experience as a head coach and a proven track record of success. Harbaugh turned the Browns down because he preferred to stay in California, so he chose to accept the 49ers job. Gruden apparently was not ready to give up his job as the Monday Night Football Analyst for ESPN. As it stands, I believe this was a bad decision on the part of Mike Holmgren. Cleveland fans had better hope he keeps making good decisions come draft time in April, like he did with Joe Haden, TJ Ward and Colt McCoy last year, or else there will be many more years of losing to come.
About the Author
Written by Fran Berkman
Francis (Fran) Berkman is a graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY with a BS in Human Development. He is currently working towards a master's degree in journalism at Hofstra University. He lives in Massapequa, NY.