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Browns coach Pat Shurmur says recent deal with Atlanta Falcons was 'probably one of the greatest trades in draft history'

By Nate Ulrich Published: May 9, 2011

Browns coach Pat Shurmur spoke to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club this afternoon at Tozzi’s on 12th restaurant in Canton. Shurmur gave an opening statement and then answered questions from a crowd of about 320 for nearly a half-hour. Afterward, he met with reporters for about five minutes. Here are some of the highlights from his appearance:

  • Shurmur opened with some jokes. "When I walked in the room, it's very obvious there's quite a lot of wisdom here," he said. "And I'm sure if I made myself available, there's probably a lot of free advice." There was also this gem: "We'll win a lot of games if the coach doesn't screw it up," Shurmur said.

  • He then weighed in on the NFL Draft. "Obviously, we just finished the draft," Shurmur said. "And now they're grading the draft. I think we did great. I don't care what anybody says. But we obviously started off the draft by making a historic trade, probably one of the greatest trades in draft history, when we traded with (the) Atlanta (Falcons) -- our sixth pick to get to (No.) 27, eventually up to (No.) 21 -- because we felt like we needed help in areas and based on the talent, based on what other teams around us were gonna do and based on what we needed, we felt like that was the perfect thing to do."

  • Shurmur insisted the coaching staff is keeping busy at the team's headquarters in Berea despite the NFL's lockout. "Behind the scenes, our coaches are putting our systems in place," he said. "We're doing actually things that in some years you don't have time to do because the players aren't around. So we feel like when it's time to be up and running, we'll get the guys in Berea and we'll be off to the races."

  • With President Mike Holmgren and General Manager Tom Heckert in place, Shurmur said he feels as if he's "one piece to a puzzle that's gonna be great. I can't tell you how long you have to be patient. But I do know this: I've always felt that one of the fatal flaws of an organization is not being on the same page. And with the years I've worked with Tom Heckert, with my history with Mike Holmgren and with the way that we want to do things and with the way the organization is structured, when I was hired Day One, we were immediately on the same page. So there was no learning curve. We didn't have to get to know each other. We didn't have to decide what practice was gonna look like or what our team was gonna look like. We just got to the business of getting that done."

  • The first question from the crowd was about how free agency will be affected by the league's labor dispute. "Once we're up and running in free agency, there will be a plan," Shurmur said. "At whatever time they decide we're up and running, then obviously free agency is the first thing that comes to mind. There will be rules put in place where all 32 teams will be dealing really on a flat playing field. So the one thing that I will say, every team is dealing with the same issues. So we'll be up and running, we'll practice the guys that we have and then we'll get to the business of free agency. We know who we want. We know who we want to go get. We just can't talk about it yet."

  • A member of the audience asked how long it will take for Shurmur to install his West Coast offense. "We're just reacting to what happens," Shurmur said. "I feel confident that whatever time we have, we'll get it taught. If you haven't followed it or haven't seen the details of it, I feel as though we've hired a tremendous coaching staff. We're doing things to keep ourselves sharp. Our systems that we're teaching are proven. They've won multiple Super Bowls, so we feel like that whenever we're up and running, when the players are in Berea, then we'll get it done." Someone from the crowd immediately grabbed the microphone and busted Shurmur's chops with this: "That was wonderful coach speak you just gave us. Now tell us the truth." The crowd broke into loud laughter, and Shurmur's face turned bright red.

  • Does Shurmur expect the Browns' eight 2011 draft selections to make an impact as rookies? "We feel like we've drafted guys that'll have a chance to either come in and compete to start or compete as a role player," Shurmur said. "Football has become very situational, so the 45 guys you dress play. And we feel like the guys that we drafted, assuming they stay healthy through the camps, will have a chance to do that for us."

  • When asked why he's confident that the Browns could draft only one wide receiver, North Carolina's Greg Little, and still get improved production from the position, Shurmur continued to defend the receivers who will return from last season. "I watched every snap of every game of all of our games a year ago," he said. "I feel confident that the guys that we have will compete. We have NFL football players. I feel like given the right situation, (if) we put them in the right circumstances, they'll have a chance to compete. I have confidence in him. As a coach, it's very, very important, I think, that you encourage and you empower the players that you have. I think that's the direction that we're gonna go. Now encouragement comes in a lot of different ways. Some guys don't respond unless they're threatened. Other guys you can whisper to. ... But I feel as though we have a talented group on our team, and I feel like we've added a bunch of new talented players. Once we get to the business of free agency and we fill out the rest of our team, I think I'll feel good as we get going."

  • What should fans expect to see from Shurmur's West Coast offense? "Basically, it is a system of play where it's seen through the eyes of the quarterback," he said. "It's about timing and precision and route running and being accurate as a passer and being able to move your feet and extend plays from the quarterback position. It's about changing plays when the ones that I call aren't good. And it's also about being physical running the football. Most West Coast offenses that have success also are high up there in terms of rushing stats, so that's what we intend to do."

  • What is Shurmur's gut feeling about the character and desire of quarterback Colt McCoy? "I think Colt has everything it takes to be a fine player in this league," Shurmur said. "I got to know Colt a year ago when we were deciding to choose a quarterback in St. Louis. I got to know him very well then, so I feel like I started that relationship a year ago. Obviously, with my brief interaction with him this year, I feel like he's got it. He makes good decisions. He's an accurate thrower. He's mobile. He's got great command of the huddle. He's a leader. He's a guy that I think can be the guy to lead our organization, so I'm looking forward to getting to work with him."

  • Shurmur was asked if McCoy will primarily make short, 5- to 10-yard passes or deep throws. "I would say a little bit of both," Shurmur said. "I think that's the important thing. From a passing-game standpoint, you want to be efficient and explosive. I think it's important that the thrower throws for over 65 percent -- that'll put him here in Canton -- as well as try to find ways to get big plays. We are gonna make an effort to throw the ball. I feel like that is the best way to score points. But keep in mind that we have (running back) Peyton Hillis, and we've got an offensive line that run blocks well, so that's not lost on me, either."

  • Why are the Browns switching to a 4-3 defense? "Tom Heckert, myself, (defensive coordinator) Dick Jauron, Mike Holmgren, we've always been associated with the 4-3 defense," Shurmur said. "We feel good about drafting toward it. We felt as though the 3-4, this year there was gonna have to be some significant changes personnel wise, and so we felt like this was the right time to (make the change)."

  • One questioner asked how Josh Cribbs will be used in Shurmur's offense. "He's one of our best players," Shurmur said. "He's a huge part of what we are. He's one of our finer players. He's terrific in the special-teams game as a return, and last year he made some strides as a receiver. It's important that he touches the football, and we're gonna make sure that he does that."

  • Shurmur drew big laughs after he was asked if he's concerned about some of the Browns' 2011 draft picks surfacing in police blotters? "We did due diligence," Shurmur said. "Now I'm sure there's a few guys in here on police blotters. I'm just guessing. But my point is we did due diligence. Every situation that becomes public has a reason. We checked out every situation thoroughly, and we feel like there's nothing there that's repeatable. We feel like these guys will be good citizens in our town."

  • Will running back Montario Hardesty be able to recover from his torn left ACL and contribute this season. "When I got the job this year, I came in for my interview (and) he was the first guy I saw," Shurmur said. "He was in there attacking his rehab, and we know that he's doing the same thing now, even though we can't visit with him (because of the lockout). We feel confident that when it's time to practice, he'll be in there battling for a spot. He's a very, very talented guy, and we feel like he's on track to come back and compete."

  • USC tight end Jordan Cameron didn't play much or produce a lot in college, so why did the Browns draft him in the fourth round? "You look for a guy that has skills as a receiver and then you train them to block, and I think he's got that," Shurmur said. "We saw a lot more than people might think. ... I watched over 200 plays of him doing different things. So we felt like this guy's got a chance to (develop) into a big-time player, and that's why we drafted him. His ability to run and catch and all of the things that he can do as a receiver, we find it's very rare from a guy of that size."

  • When the lockout was briefly lifted, was Shurmur able to get his playbook to players? "I did," Shurmur said. "As we know for a couple of days there, there was a time when we could visit with our players. As soon as it was lifted, I had a quick meeting with my staff, and we got to the business of talking to everybody. We called everybody. The guys that were in town came to the building, and then we were able to get them playbooks. And there was quite a few that did that. So I was impressed by how quickly we reacted, and I think that was good. It was really good. It's fun to talk to them 'cause there was a couple of guys that prior to the lockout that I did not have a chance to visit with much, and that was a great opportunity to get that done. So we took advantage of that for sure."

  • A few minutes later, Shurmur met with reporters and was asked how many players received playbooks. "A few," he said.

  • Did only players who came to the team's facility receive playbooks, or were the Browns able to ship some to players who were out of town? "The guys that came in, we gave them some coaching materials," Shurmur said.

  • Now that the preparation for the draft is finished, what exactly has the coaching staff been doing during the lockout? "Well, we have projects that we're doing," Shurmur said. "We're working on next year's opponents. We're fine-tuning what we're gonna do in our camps. And we're right now going through a week of coaching sessions, where we're coaching one another. ... We as a coaches always kind of keep a list of things that I'd like to get done. You never do (in a normal offseason), so we're trying to take advantage to that."

  • Shurmur was asked how much the Browns improved their 4-3 scheme by spending their top two draft picks on defensive tackle Phil Taylor and defensive end Jabaal Sheard. "When you're drafting, to be able to get a big defensive tackle and then really an explosive defensive end, that makes you better immediately," Shurmur said.

  • Could starting two rookie defensive linemen be a concern? "I think you put them in there with the rest of the guys, and the best four play," Shurmur said. "And if they can't be a starter, then I think they're an immediate role player. I don't think it's a problem. I think it's like doing anything at any position, so we just get them in there, coach them up (and) let them go."

  • Shurmur said his wife and children are getting ready to move from the St. Louis area to Northeast Ohio. "Fortunately, we sold our home in St. Louis, so that's the toughest piece," he said.

  • Why is Shurmur convinced that McCoy can become a good quarterback? "All the things that I've talked about," Shurmur said. "He's a good decision maker. He's a good athlete. He's an accurate thrower. He's got leadership ability, and he went in there last year and played well at times. And I think that's something that you build on. He has all of the skills that you're looking for in a quarterback to play in our system. I'm just excited about that."

  • In evaluating personnel after the draft, what needs do the Browns still have to address once free agency begins? "Oh, I don't know," Shurmur said. "We have some ideas of where we want to go, and we have to keep those quiet. But we feel good about starting the year with the guys that we have."


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