The Browns are about to change owners. That may not be good for their coach.
Unless he gets a win, Pat Shurmur’s days could be dwindling.
With his team riding a franchise record-tying 11-game losing streak, Shurmur enters today’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals needing a victory to help reinforce that the Browns are headed in the right direction under him.
As the league’s only winless team, the Browns (0-5) are in jeopardy of having another of those seasons that ends with a head coach being fired.
On Tuesday, truck-stop magnate Jimmy Haslam III’s $1 billion purchase of the Browns from Randy Lerner is expected to be approved by NFL owners. It may not be long after that before the new boss begins putting his stamp on a franchise seeking end more than a decade of mostly deplorable football.
Haslam has said he won’t make any personnel changes until after this season, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t already considering some.
Shurmur is 4-17 with Cleveland, including an 0-8 mark inside the pitiless AFC North. Shurmur’s tenure has been hampered by the labor lockout, close losses, injuries, an inexperienced roster and the ownership switch, which was announced on the first day of training camp and has served as a distracting undercurrent for him and his staff.
Shurmur’s young team — the Browns have 27 players with less than two years of experience — has shown steady improvement, but not enough to result in a win. With Cincinnati coming in, Cleveland has a chance to begin a turnaround.
“This is a division game, so it is kind of a double-whammy there,” Shurmur said. “Winning a division game at home would be great for our young team.”
And for Shurmur, who in recent weeks has begun to show signs of stress. Last week, a frustrated Shurmur cursed and stormed away from reporters after he was pressed on why rookie running back Trent Richardson was absent from practice. Richardson had been excused to be with his girlfriend when she went into labor, but Shurmur would not address the topic on the record, creating an awkward situation.
Then, following last week’s 41-27 loss to the New York Giants, Shurmur was defensive as he was questioned about a third-and-1 play in the first half when rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden threw a costly interception. Shurmur was irritated he was being second-guessed on calling a pass play instead of a run and seemed bothered by the line of questioning.
Earlier this week, Shurmur was asked by Cincinnati reporters about his “chippy” relationship with Cleveland’s media.
“I don’t know that,” he said on a conference call. “I would say that I’m a very competitive guy and I make all of my decisions on what’s best for our team. I don’t know about ‘chippy.’ That may be one person’s opinion.”