The Cleveland Browns desire to recreate another franchise’s success here in the north coast began in 1999. Remember the San Francisco 49ers East that was established with Carmen Policy and Dwight Clark?
After a four-year stint with Butch Davis that resulted in poor draft classes — yet surprisingly a berth in the playoffs — the Browns returned to their copycat ways.
The New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens were the teams the Browns raided for coaches and front office personnel in order to try to recreate their success.
On Friday, Jan. 14, the Browns formally introduced Pat Shurmur as the team’s 13th head coach and fifth since 1999. During the past year, the Browns have slowly been trying to recreate another team’s success here in Cleveland. The Philadelphia Eagles, who have won consistently throughout this century’s first decade, are now being recreated in Cleveland with Tom Heckert as the Browns’ general manager and Shurmur as the head coach. The final piece? Eagles head coach Andy Reid is a branch from the Mike Holmgren coaching tree.
Reid has been the Eagles coach since 1999 where he has won 61.7 percent of his games and has a Super Bowl appearance. Heckert worked closely with Reid until Heckert became the Browns general manager last year. In addition, Pat Shurmur was on the staff from 2002-08 as the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach.
“Andy and I talked a lot,” Heckert said. “We saw right away, in Pat, how he handled Donovan McNabb and we could see right away (he was head coaching material). Andy and I talked about it quite a bit. We knew it was a matter of time and luckily, for me, it happened here.
“I’ve been around some pretty good coaches. Don Shula, Jimmy Johnston, Andy Reid and now being here with coach Holmgren. You have to rely on what you’ve seen in the past, who you’ve talked with in the past and who you’ve talked with in the league. I think Pat has it.”
The Andy Reid’s own coaching tree is growing bigger and bigger by the year. Currently, there are five head coaches who served as assistant coaches under Reid including John Harbaugh (Ravens), Steve Spagnuolo (Rams), Leslie Frazier (Vikings), Ron Rivera (Panthers) and Shurmur. The sixth, Brad Childress, was fired in Minnesota during his past season, but he did take the Vikings to the NFC Championship in 2009.
“When you’re around people, it’s amazing how many hours we spend together,” Shurmur said. “You see how they handle things and with all the guys you work with you’d like to think you take away the good and let the bad stay. I feel like I did that with coach Reid. He has a unique way of handling things and I think they stand the test of time.”
With Shurmur in place, it appears as if the front office philosophy is aligned, or as Shurmur said, “on the same page.”
“In the evaluation process you try and be as sure as you can be,” Holmgren said. “I do know this, we cannot keep changing around here every two or three years. You can’t do that and expect to be successful. I can see (Shurmur and Heckert) working together and I can envision a good fit. My hope is the change is stopped, the growing and building begins.
“Tom and Pat have worked together for years. This is the first head coach I’ve ever hired and I trust it’ll be the last. I don’t want to do it again.”
This is the fifth time the Browns have hired a coach in 12 years. That’s a new coach every two-and-a-half years. So why is this time any different?
The front office is unified. The head coach, the general manger and the team president share in their vision of how to build a winning football team.
While going through introductions of a new coach is old news, a front office unified in philosophy has been lacking with the Cleveland Browns.
Why have New England, Baltimore and Philadelphia won so many games for so many years? Yes, throw in Pittsburgh. Those front offices are unified in philosophy.
The Browns now possess that trait. While no one knew of Pat Shurmur 10 days ago, it truly doesn’t matter who is the Browns head coach. What matters is if there is a single, clear vision on what kinds of players to obtain. The front office attempts to obtain those players and, finally, the most important piece, is when those players arrive in Cleveland they perform on the field.
The Browns didn’t hire the big-name coach like Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden or John Fox. Rest easy, because if the model in New England, Balitmore, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh holds true in Cleveland, constant change will be a thing of the past.