Friday, January 14, 2011

Stuck in the middle with you

Is this love, that I'm feeling?
Is this the love, that I've been searching for?

So, it’s Pat Shurmur.

The name isn’t sexy, and the résumé does not sparkle with the glitter of tacky, oversized championship rings.

The former St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator, formally introduced by the Browns this morning in Berea, has never been a head coach. Hell, he’s only been an offensive coordinator for the last two seasons.

As this column is part of the blogosphere - that glowing digital bastion of unwanted opinions and half-baked blanket statements – one could extrapolate from my dour opening paragraphs that I don’t like the hire.

That’s absolutely not the case. I don’t dislike the move at all - nor do I believe it stands as the most fantastic moment in the franchise’s history. In fact, I’m sitting squarely in the middle on this one. I feel neither high nor low, and to be honest I really don’t what to think. How’s that for sexy, friends and neighbors? Don’t blame me…I’m a member of the emotionally stunted MTV generation, and that’s just how we roll.

It is kind of nice that Shurmur has ties to team president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert. The trio shares the same agent, and Shurmur was tutored in the West Coast offense in Philadelphia (as a tight ends/offensive line coach) under Holmgren protégé Andy Reid.

The associations don’t stop there, Browns fans. Shurmur knew Heckert while the latter was GM with the Eagles. In addition, Shurmur’s uncle Fritz was a defensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers while Holmgren was the coach.

So many links! It’s reminiscent of a movie where the police captain has a chart with arrows connecting all the members of the city’s big crime family. The New New New New New Browns are like the Gambinos over here.

Before the hire was made official, Holmgren emphasized the importance of finding a coach who was on the “same wavelength” as the rest of the front office.

“That's the only way you have a chance,” maintained the team president.

This has to be a good thing, right? Holmgren certainly wasn’t on the same wavelength with Eric Mangini, who himself wasn’t exactly sharing psychic visions with the late and unlamented Browns GM George Kokinis. Do you think preclears like Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage were comparing wavelengths when auditing each other’s routes to spiritual awareness? Highly unlikely, and there’s no documented evidence to even suggest the two were dabbling in Scientology.

I guess my answer to the basic question, “Is Shurmur good for the Browns?”, can be summed up thusly: “Why the hell not?”

Since its return, this franchise has tried every coaching permutation imaginable; from unproven coordinators to college coaches to guys with prior NFL head honcho experience. The difference in our newest sideline general, and the reason I maybe ever so slightly lean from my centrist position toward liking this hire, is that Shurmur was brought in not by our naïve, easily swayed owner, but by a man with decades of NFL know-how and a big, diamond-encrusted bauble on his finger.

Yes, Shurmur’s not an exciting name that will energize a fan base. At least one local sports-talker called him a “D-list candidate” who garnered very little interest from other NFL clubs searching for a coach.

I wonder how many people had heard of Mike Smith (Atlanta) or Sean Payton (New Orleans) before they helped elevate their respective teams into two of the best in the league? Energizing a fan base will happen when the left side of the record column has a bigger number than the right. Why can’t a similarly “boring” hire like Shurmur be the one who brings joy back to Brownsville?

For now, all we can do is speculate and hope that our Super Bowl-winning team president made the right move. Otherwise, I don’t know how this will all shake out, and neither do you.