Shurmur Talks to Fans in Canton

Browns head coach increasingly comfortable representing the team, despite the lockout.

This story originally appeared on Fox Sports Ohio.

CANTON, Ohio – I think Browns fans are going to like Pat Shurmur.

I think Shurmur thinks so, too. And I think that's a good thing.

The Browns' new head coach spoke Monday at the Hall of Fame Luncheon Club in Canton, a place that loves its football. With the NFL still officially closed for business, there wasn't much he could say in the way of specifics.

But Shurmur was comfortable, much more so than he was in limited public appearances in his first couple months on the job. And he was engaging. And he didn't go the route of past Browns coaches in hinting that he was going to reinvent anything or be a whole lot smarter than the last guy(s) who had his office.

Shurmur's never been a head coach before, but he seems to know what the Browns mean in these parts. And he seems to know he'll be popular right up until the Browns lose a game. That's the business, and he's been a lifer.

Past Browns coaches have failed for many reasons; popularity isn't high on that list. The Browns have had too much change, made too many draft-day mistakes, lacked more than their share in the way of good luck and a lot in the way of good players.

Because of the lockout, Shurmur is yet to actually coach a player. But the Browns added a bunch they hope will be good in the draft a little over 10 days ago and positioned themselves to add even more good players with two first-round picks next year.

Shurmur started his address Monday by saying the Browns made a "historic trade, one that will probably one of the greatest trades in draft history."

That would qualify as an attention-grabber.

The Browns already have more than enough sales guys on the payroll. They need someone to give them something legitimate to sell. That's why Randy Lerner writes those really big checks to Mike Holmgren, which led the Browns to Tom Heckert, who made sure Shurmur was the choice as the team's new head coach.

Shurmur said he and his staff have been busy, even with no players to coach. They're studying opponents and getting to know each other. He voluntarily talked up the assistants he kept on from the Mangini Regime. The rest of the staff has a heavy Holmgren influence, a heavy West-Coast offense influence and the influence of guys who have coached against Shurmur in the past.

"We didn't have to get to know each other," Shurmur said. "We didn't have to decide what practice was going to look like or what our team was going to look like."

He let on that the players they'll be coaching are better than the rest of the league thinks they are, and that he's not afraid to play a bunch of rookies if they earn their jobs. For the first time in a long time, it feels like the Browns have a plan they're planning to stick with.

"The systems we are teaching are proven," Shurmur said. "They have won multiple Super Bowls."

Some of the rest of what Shurmur was selling Monday…

**He's quick to list what he loves about Colt McCoy, repeating that McCoy is probably the Browns player he knows best because of the time they spent together in the 2010 pre-draft process when Shurmur was with the Rams.

**He's going to call his own plays, which means he's going to answer his own questions on late Sunday afternoons and Monday mornings when they don't work. He knows if McCoy works, everything will work. He said he believes the passing game is the best way to score enough points to win in today's NFL, but he noted that successful West Coast systems often rank high in rushing stats and that the Browns have Peyton Hillis "and a pretty good run-blocking offensive line."

**He hinted that the Browns will be active in free agency – whenever it begins. "We know who we want," he said, "I just can't talk about it quite yet."

**He seems to "get" Cleveland – and Canton, and parts in between. He raved about the insiders tour of the Pro Football Hall of Fame he got before his speech. He called football the greatest game in the world and says he loves it here because "football is more than a sport, more than a game. I understand the responsibility and I think we're setting things up the right way."

The hope, of course, is that he's right. And that two years from now no one will worry about Shurmur's lack of head-coaching experience, Holmgren's shadow or McCoy's growing pains. The plan includes the Browns being a playoff team, one Shurmur guides and one that thrives in those proven systems.

Shurmur said what he said Monday like he means it. Maybe he does. For now, let's believe him. He is undefeated. So far, he hasn't even screwed up a play call in practice.

Eventually, the Browns are going to get back to work. Next year, Heckert and Shurmur will have a chance to really make that trade one of the greatest in history. For now, all Shurmur can do is sell it as such.

And all Browns fans can do is buy in.


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