Despite the delusions of some Browns fans, the big name Head Coaches like Gruden, Fox, or Cowher just were never in the cards. In fact, after interviewing only three candidates (all coordinators), it appears that the Browns' Head Coaching search has reached its end. From the beginning, Pat Shurmur arose as the lead candidate, and multiple sources have now reported that the Browns would like to work out a contract by as early as today.
For those who wanted the big name, sexy coach... I'm sorry. It was just never going to happen. Gruden didn't want to be here and from all accounts, he doesn't want to coach anywhere this season. Cowher announced that he wouldn't be coaching until at least 2012 and the Browns never even requested an interview with John Fox.
For those who are disgusted with the potential hiring of a coordinator... don't be. You only need to look to Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, Mike Smith, Sean Payton, Raheem Morris, Mike McCarthy, Todd Haley, etc. The trend in the NFL is to find a very good coordinator and allow him to rebuild the team with a great foundation in the front office. Not to mention, Mike Holmgren had a very specific profile he was applying to the coaching search.
The ideal candidate had to be offensive minded with a specific love for the West Coast Offense, have direct ties to him or one of his proteges, have experience in developing young QBs, be young enough that he can mold and take full credit for his success, and impressionable enough so that Holmgren can make him an extension of himself.
When you look at it from that perspective, John Fox, Jon Gruden, etc. just don't fit the mold. In fact, Perry Fewell didn't fit the mold even though I think he's a very good coach. It was a clear effort to deal with the Rooney Rule and nothing more. Shurmur is the perfect fit for Holmgren.
Pat Shurmur spent a number of years working under Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid as a QB coach. During that time he also worked with Browns GM Tom Heckert. Andy Reid is perhaps the most successful Holmgren protege outside of Jon Gruden, so there aren't too many people Holmgren would respect more so than Andy Reid. Shurmur came very highly regarded from Andy Reid, with multiple year experience in not only the West Coast Offense, but Mike Holmgren's version of it. Big time mark on the plus side of the ledger.
Shurmur also spent this past season as the Offensive Coordinator for the St. Louis Rams. Many Browns fans, especially the agenda driven local media (who are not only misinformed, but rather ignorant when it comes to the realities of the NFL) will point to the Rams' statistical benchmarks this past year. The Rams finished 26th in total offense and 21st in passing yards/game in the NFL in 2010. Not great stats. But if anyone actually watched the team play, you would see that they were severely limited on offense and that under Shurmur's guidance, Sam Bradford had an incredible rookie season. That is a a HUGE mark on the plus side of the ledger for Shurmur.
Pat Shurmur is 45 years old. He's old enough to have a great deal of NFL experience and yet young enough and inexperienced enough to need a tremendous amount of guidance from Mike Holmgren. I foresee this going a lot like the Parcells years in Miami. Parcells hired an unknown coordinator (Tony Sparano) who had tremendous experience in his system and who could act as an extension of himself. Everything Sparano did for the first few years was directed by Parcells. And who took the credit for the Dolphins turnaround? Not Tony Sparano... but the Big Tuna himself, Bill Parcells.
I honestly believe that Mike Holmgren wants to orchestrate a similar situation in Berea. Shurmur will undoubtedly lean heavily on the expertise, experience and genius of Mike Holmgren. Holmgren has an enormous ego even though it may not come across in the pressers that he has every 6 months or so. That is the primary reason that I never believed Holmgren would go after a Gruden type. Holmgren has tremendous respect and admiration for Jon Gruden, but you're kidding yourself if you don't think that Holmgren wants this turnaround to be driven by himself. He wants to be the genius to who turned around yet another franchise.
So Pat Shurmur, with that in mind, is a perfect fit. He believes in the same ideals, he has the experience with the system, he's young, inexperienced, and Holmgren will be able to mold, develop, and CONTROL him. The successes that he hopefully has in Cleveland, will be largely due to Holmgren's leadership, coaching (of the coaches) and ability to identify and recruit the coach. For Holmgren, this is just another line on his resume and another incredible bonus to his legacy. Shurmur will act out Holmgren's plan. And if he struggles to start, it isn't all on Holmgren. He will preach patience, system, process, and foundation. Does that sound familiar?
I honestly believe that Eric Mangini is a very good coach. But Randy Lerner never gave him a chance. First, Lerner placed far too much power and responsibility with Mangini in his first season. Mangini was not only in charge of coaching, hiring his staff, but also responsible for the draft, trades, free agency, etc. Mike Holmgren, one of the best coaches and football minds in the NFL couldn't handle both coaching and GM responsibilities. Why would Mangini be able to handle it?
Then, Lerner brought in Mike Holmgren. Which by itself was a great move and a much needed move at that. This organization has long needed a strong and credible presence in the front office and it got it with Holmgren. But when Lerner brought Holmgren in at the beginning of Mangini's first year, he killed any legitimate chance Mangini had at success. Holmgren knew from the onset that he wanted someone who fit the profile I detailed before. And that's fine, it's just a shame that Mangini was undercut by Lerner so soon.
Will Pat Shurmur become the next Jon Gruden, Sean Payton, or even Todd Haley? Who knows. But I know that he fits every measurable and even some of the intangibles that Holmgren wants. So much so, that he's willing to sign him today after only interviewing two viable candidates. I guess we'll soon find out just how much of a genius Holmgren can be. And Browns fans... get used to the name Pat Shurmur.