Pat Shurmur quickly turned rookie quarterback Sam Bradford into a rising NFL star. Shurmur's next project will be tougher.
The Cleveland Browns are no easy fix.
Shurmur, the St. Louis Rams' offensive coordinator the past two years, was hired by the Browns on Thursday, ending their search for their fifth coach since 1999, which began when team president Mike Holmgren fired Eric Mangini on Jan. 3 after his second consecutive 11-loss season.
|St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was the first candidate to interview for the Cleveland Browns' head-coaching job. (Jeff Roberson/Associated Press)|
Shurmur isn't a big-name hire, and his addition won't trigger a celebration by Browns fans or a rush of season-ticket requests.
But to Holmgren, the 45-year-old's last name means success.
Shurmur's late uncle, Fritz, was Holmgren's defensive coordinator in Green Bay when the Packers won the Super Bowl after the 1996 season. And in hiring a candidate with no head-coaching experience, Holmgren is following the path he took to reach the top of his profession.
Like Shurmur, Holmgren was a quarterbacks coach and an offensive coordinator before landing the Packers' job in 1992. When Shurmur, who was the first of three known candidates to be interviewed, sat across the desk from Holmgren, Cleveland's top football executive might have seen a younger version of himself.
"Pat is a bright, young man who grew up in football and around the coaching profession," Holmgren said. "I came away from our interview very impressed with him as a person, his extensive knowledge of the game and his track record of success as an assistant coach in this league.
"Most importantly, I feel as though he possesses the necessary qualities which make him the right man to lead our football team."
Another coach with Holmgren ties -- Dick Jauron -- also is being considered for the Browns' defensive coordinator position, a league source told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora. Rob Ryan no longer is in the Browns' plans and will interview with the Dallas Cowboys about their defensive coordinator job.
Jauron, who was Holmgren's defensive backs coach in Green Bay in the early 1990s, also brings considerable head-coaching experience, going 60-82 in 10 seasons with the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions (on an interim basis) and Buffalo Bills. He would provide Shurmur with a strong infrastructure.
Jauron spent the 2010 season as the Philadelphia Eagles' secondary coach.
The Browns have been a mess for far too long. In a league where quick turnarounds are common, they've been an exception to the rule.
Cleveland has made the AFC playoffs only once and posted nine double-digit loss seasons in 12 years. Chris Palmer, Butch Davis, Romeo Crennel and Mangini each failed in trying to build a consistent winner in the Browns' expansion era.
Now, it's Shurmur's turn.
The Browns will introduce him as their 13th full-time coach Friday in an 11 a.m. ET news conference at their Berea, Ohio, headquarters.
Shurmur's development of Bradford, last year's No. 1 overall draft pick, was one of the main reasons the Browns nabbed the coach. They hope he can have similar success with Colt McCoy, who showed poise and promise as a rookie after being thrown into a starting role because of injuries.
Under Shurmur, Bradford lived up to his hype and set rookie league records for completions and attempts. Bradford also led the Rams to a 7-9 record -- one season after they were 1-15 -- while throwing for 3,512 yards, second-most ever for a rookie behind Peyton Manning's 3,739 in 1998.
"This is a great opportunity for Coach Shurmur," Bradford said. "I really enjoyed working with him last season, and he truly helped my transition from college to the NFL game. I think he will be a really good head coach."
The Rams scored 114 more points this season than they did in 2009, and running back Stephen Jackson had his second consecutive 1,000-yard campaign in Shurmur's offense.
"I knew it would not be long before coach Shurmur got a head-coaching job in this league," Jackson said. "He was a good coordinator for the Rams and on Sundays, he got the most out of his players and always had us in a position to win the game."
It wasn't all rosy in St. Louis, though. Shurmur's offense was criticized for being too conservative. Many of Bradford's completions were short dump-offs. Shurmur was ripped after the Rams' 16-6 season-ending loss to the Seattle Seahawks, which cost them a playoff spot. In that game, Jackson had just 11 carries -- four in the second half -- and Bradford couldn't get things going.
Before joining the Rams, Shurmur spent 10 seasons in Philadelphia. He coached the Eagles' tight ends for three years and then their quarterbacks, helping turn a raw Donovan McNabb into one of the game's best all-around quarterbacks.
Although he promised a "wide" coaching search, Holmgren only met with Shurmur, Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. Interviews with potential candidates Jon Gruden and John Fox never made it past an exploratory phone call, and an expected meeting with Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg -- another Holmgren protege -- never happened.
Shurmur emerged as the front-runner in recent days. His deep connections with the Browns' front office certainly helped his chances.
Shurmur spent eight years working with Browns general manager Tom Heckert in Philadelphia. Shurmur never worked directly with Holmgren, but he learned the West Coast offense under Eagles coach Andy Reid, one of the Browns president's closest friends.
"I have the utmost respect for Coach Holmgren and Tom Heckert, and I am impressed with the direction in which they have this franchise going," Shurmur said. "I have known Tom for most of my pro coaching career, and while we were in Philadelphia, he and I developed an outstanding relationship.
"I am looking forward to this challenge and can't wait to get started in helping to build the Browns back to one of the elite teams in the NFL."
Shurmur's agent, Bob LaMonte, who also represents Holmgren and Heckert, arrived Thursday to finalize a contract, and the sides needed just a few hours to work out details. Shurmur signed a four-year deal, The Plain Dealer reported on Twitter, citing a league source.
Holmgren began his first coaching search promising that head-coaching experience wouldn't be a requirement for Mangini's successor. He kept his word.
Shurmur's arrival was greeted with mostly a collective yawn by Browns fans, who have grown weary of change. Now, they have to trust Holmgren's keen eye for coaching talent. Holmgren, after all, is the one who hired an up-and-coming Gruden and Reid. Holmgren also has had seven other current or former NFL coaches on his staff, including Mornhinweg, Steve Mariucci and Jauron.
Holmgren is taking a chance with the unproven Shurmur, but he has seen it work before.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.