By Tony Grossi
The Morning Kickoff …
Manage the job: This can’t go on. Or Pat Shurmur won’t make it through the year. He will implode.
The losing? Well, of course, that can’t continue. Jimmy Haslam can’t possibly profess to “bring a winning team back to Cleveland” and then stand pat as his football team rewrites the franchise record for consecutive losses.
Come next Tuesday, when Haslam is approved by the NFL as owner of the Browns, the clock officially starts ticking for all of Mike Holmgren’s men. The curtain is falling on the Big Show and it’s every man for himself.
Besides the losses, Shurmur has to stop the battles with the media, which have become a daily occurrence. Like the games themselves, he can’t win those, either.
In the last week alone, Shurmur has confronted a former Browns coach for critical comments he made on a local radio show; tossed a few F-bombs after a reporter pressed him to go on the record about Trent Richardson’s excused absence at a Browns practice; and then over-reacted to legitimate and fair questions about a game-changing play-call in the 41-24 loss to the Giants.
This follows weeks of condescending answers and comments to questions posed at his daily press conferences by media members who are trying to explain to long-suffering Browns fans – Haslam’s future customers -- why the team continues to lose, while other floundering teams such as the St. Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings appear to be turning it around.
Where's Holmgren?: The NFL head coach has enormous responsibilities – probably more so than any of his brethren in the other pro sports. He has to manage up to 61 players and 20 assistant coaches, answer to a general manager, a president and an owner and, on top of that, serve as the face and voice of the franchise in daily meetings with the media, through thick and thin.
Like most head coaches who have gotten their first big break in Cleveland, Shurmur is stumbling through this small but important part of his job.
In my 28 years of covering the Browns and the NFL, the two coaches I’ve come across who are best at dealing with media are Bill Parcells and Holmgren.
Parcells could be a bully, but he was most effective in using humor and sarcasm to disarm strong-armed media interrogation. I never covered Parcells on a daily basis, but the many times I was exposed to him on a national level left me in awe of the way he could joust with the media and leave them laughing. If a Parcells’ press conference were offered on pay-per-view, I would buy.
Holmgren had this ability, too, in his coaching days. His press briefings were not as entertaining as Parcells’, but they were generally informative and satisfying. Holmgren was a gifted communicator, stemming from his beginnings as a school teacher. Which makes it all the more baffling to me why he hasn’t schooled Shurmur on the art of dealing with the media.
Holmgren plucked Shurmur from his agent partner Bob LaMonte’s stable of clients as the first and last coach he hired as Browns surrogate owner. I know Holmgren didn’t want to put in the long hours to coach the Browns. The least he could do was give Shurmur a remedial course on how best to represent his team and himself in front of the media. He has failed badly in tutoring Shurmur on that count.
Stop it now: I hate the conclusion of these Browns coaching regimes. They usually end the same. Crazy things happen on the field, the losses mount, and the coaches react defensively and irrationally.
One of Sam Rutigliano’s favorite lines on his speaking circuit is “Quarterbacks are like teabags. You don’t know what you’ve got till they’re in hot water.” The same can be said about head coaches.
When the heat was applied to Rutigliano, he doubted he would be fired “because I’m good for Cleveland.” Besides, “eight hundred million Chinese don’t give a damn.”
Marty Schottenheimer’s epitaph was “Play-calling is over-rated.”
Bill Belichick’s mantra was “I can only go by what I see,” but he never saw Art Modell leaving him behind when the owner fled to Baltimore.
Chris Palmer, in his final days, said, “Sometimes I feel like I’m sitting in the front seat of a runaway train.”
Butch Davis had a panic attack during his last game.
Romeo Crennel tried to save his job by proclaiming injured quarterback Brady Quinn as his starter next year, which never came.
To his credit, Eric Mangini never let the media see him sweat. He was unfailingly respectful right to the very end.
What will be Shurmur’s epitaph? He uses the line “I get it” a lot. His problem is he really doesn’t.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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