I have been asked often in the past couple weeks since the hiring of Pat Shurmur as Browns coach what my thoughts were. Shurmur was far from the big name hiring most fans thought was coming to Cleveland.
However, it makes sense.
A Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher would not necessarily want to come and just be the coach where a GM is in place and a president with a storied background was in place. Gruden or Cowher would most likely want much more power or control in their next stop at the NFL level—where ever that might me.
After the dust has settled, it appears the front office is the most cohesive that it has been since the team returned in 1999. We'll see how in pans out on the field, obviously, but it appears the Browns have a president being a president; a GM being a GM and a coach being a coach.
What a novel approach—the front office all pulling in the same direction.
In the press conference introducing Shurmer to the media, it became very obvious that Tom Heckert was the key player in hiring Shurmur. He said that he and Shurmur have been on the same page in close to 10 years, most of their time together was with the Eagles.
"I don't think you can understate that," Heckert said. "Like Pat said, from the day (Pat) walked in the door, we were on the same page. Everybody says they want the character and hard work and stuff, but we've both been through it together and we've done it with getting those players.
"We've won a lot of football games," Heckert said. "Unfortunately, we didn't win a Super Bowl in Philadelphia, but we did win an awful lot of football games. I think we are on the same page when it comes to players and what we are looking for and we've done it together before.
"Like Pat said, from day one we were on the same page with what kind of players we are looking for and how we are going to acquire those players. That can't be a negative."
Most fans think the Mike Holmgren is the key player in the front office. However, in my opinion, it is not Holmgren, but rather Heckert. I've said it hundreds of times –the Browns will only go as far as the talent they have on the team. I like the players Heckert brought in his first season. I thought he did a much better job of bringing in free agents and draft choices to fit in with Eric Mangini's system than Mangini did in his first season with the Browns.
The signings of Ben Watson, Scott Fujita and the trade for Sheldon Brown and Chris Gocong improved the Browns and they gave up little in return. In the draft, it appears Heckert hit on at least three of his top four picks and maybe all four.
Joe Haden, T. J. Ward and Colt McCoy were all starters at season's end. Shawn Lauvao was slated to start the opening game at right guard, but suffered a high ankle sprain and was never able to get back into the rotation. There's a good chance after the off-season with the team, he will be able to step in and be a mainstay for many years on the line.
The players Heckert was used to bringing to Philadelphia for Andy Reid will be the same players he is looking for Shurmur.
As I watch with dismay the Steelers heading to yet another Super Bowl, I can only see the way they continue draft and bring in players that fit their system. The Steelers have had a system for decades and know what they are looking for and bring in players to fit their system. Most fans outside of Pittsburgh don't know who Kevin Colbert is, but he's the key guy bringing in the players that make the Steelers go. The Steelers' Director of Football Operations (GM) has put together a team that has gone to the Super Bowl three times in the past six seasons.
Let's hope Tom Heckert becomes that guy for the Browns.
On the hiring of Dick Jauron…
My thoughts on the hiring of Dick Jauron as defensive coordinator are positive. He was the type of veteran presence I was hoping the Browns would bring in to run the defense after hiring a rookie head coach. The Steelers retained Dick LaBeau when rookie Mike Tomlin was brought in as their head coach. Jauron has been a head coach with two different NFL teams and is a long-time defensive coordinator. When the Eagles fired their coordinator, it was assumed they would put on a full-court press to keep Jauron in Philadelphia, but he said the Browns were attractive to him due to his past affiliation with Holmgren.
"There were many elements of this job that were attractive for me," Jauron said upon his hiring. "I have known Pat and his family for a long time and, in fact, I played for and coached with his uncle Fritz.
"I believe that with people like Pat Shurmur, Mike Holmgren and (general manager) Tom Heckert in place, this organization is building a solid foundation. I can't wait to get started with the Browns."
Jauron coached the Bears fro 1999-2003 and the Bills from 2006-09. He was named AP coach of the year in 2001 after the Bears went 13-3, with the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense. He also was interim coach of the Lions in 2005.
On the search for offensive coordinator…
I am not as concerned about the offensive coordinator as Shurmur will be the defacto coordinator. Shurmur said he will call the plays—at least initially—on the offensive side of the ball. That will keep some prospective coordinators away as many of those candidates prefer to call the plays if they are the coordinator.
The most likely scenario will be the hiring of someone who was a quarterbacks coach elsewhere and will have the chance to have the title of offensive coordinator for the first time.
Beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder. How else can you explain the Dolphins hiring Brian Daboll as their offensive coordinator. Was it his 29th ranked offense?
Look at the Steelers' offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians. I remember when he was the scourge of Browns fans for his lack of originality when it comes to play calling. It all comes down to having talent.