Monday, February 7, 2011

First mistake

Now that the dust has settled on the Browns’ coaching staff, time for an early assessment.

First off, and most important, new head coach Pat Shurmur is making a huge mistake in anointing himself offensive coordinator. By insisting on calling plays, that’s exactly what he’ll be, albeit unofficially.

It’s hard enough to be a head coach with no interference. Add coordinator to that title and you are asking for trouble.

As a rookie head coach, Shurmur will have enough problems handling an entire team’s fortunes. There are way too many responsibilities for a head coach that preclude any outside interference.

One of the most important roles any head coach must perform is the ability to coach his coaches. Let them know exactly what he expects from them. But when one of those coaches is himself as a coordinator, that’s a problem.

There is no way Shurmur can juggle both jobs and be effective. When he’s worrying about his side of the ball, who is going to be worrying about the other side of the ball? Or the special teams?

It is the head coach’s job to maintain responsibility for the entire package. And if his mind is distracted by a problem with the offense, that most likely will affect his focus in other areas and impact negatively on the entire team.

Shurmur says its fun to call plays, something he did the last two seasons in St. Louis with the Rams. But how much fun can it be when other parts of the team are being virtually ignored?

Concentrating on improving an awful Cleveland offense is primary and Shurmur obviously recognizes that. But he has to learn to delegate and rely on his assistants in order to have a shot at becoming successful.

When important decisions have to be made during a game, his mind cannot be thinking about the next series of plays for the offense. It must be clear to make snap judgments at critical times.

It would be entirely different if he were a veteran head coach who can juggle several balls in the air like Mike McCarthy does in Green Bay. McCarthy scripts everything offense with the Packers and has enough grasp of what’s going on that it does not impair his judgment.

Returning the Browns to respectability, at the very least, should be Shurmur’s primary goal initially. Nothing should interfere with it. Coordinating the offense does just that.

In choosing Dick Jauron as his defensive coordinator, the new coach most likely will be hands off since it’s the opposite side of the ball, one with which is he is far less familiar. The question is whether Jauron plugs in his style of defense or caters to the whims of his new boss.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Shurmur wants Jauron to dial up a more aggressive stance on defense or resort to the more mundane bend-not-break style of play. The return to the 4-3 scheme suggests it will be the latter.

The other pieces and parts of the coaching staff are just that. Nothing about which to get excited, although Mike Wilson replacing George McDonald as receivers coach is a clear upgrade.

If there is one area on offense that needs the most help, it’s the receiving corps. And with the installation of the West Coast offense, it is the receivers who play the most important role. Just look at what Green Bay’s receivers did in the Super Bowl victory over Pittsburgh Sunday.

Wilson, who owns a few Super Bowl rings, was a wideout for the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980s when Browns President Mike Holmgren was a coach on that staff. And that team featured the West Coast look.

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