Browns coach Pat Shurmur met with reporters today to review the 2011 season, his first as a head coach at any level. The Browns finished with a record of 4-12 and own two first-round picks in this year's draft, including the fourth overall selection. Here is a transcript from the 40-minute news conference:
(Opening Statement)- "Good afternoon and happy new year. This will be the last one of these for a while and I've had fun this year with these. As we finish the year, I would say we are two days into the next year, in my opinion. I look back on this season and we didn't win enough games and I realize that. As we move forward, I think what's important is that we take the things that we did well and we move forward. As I mentioned, we are into the second day of the offseason here and we'll go through a thorough evaluation process of the players, the coaches, the process, how we do things, how we coach things, plays we'll run more and ones we'll never see again. We'll go through that process. I feel good as we move forward because I like to be able to structure things, and this offseason will now be structured. I think of this as really my first offseason as we prepare for a regular season and I'm looking forward to that.
"I understand that we need to improve. I have a much clearer picture of what this team is, of who my players are, of how our coaches and players interact and I feel good going forward making some of the necessary changes that need to be made. I will say this, you are probably going to have some questions for me that I'm not going to be able to answer at this point, but shoot away. There are some that I can, but as we go through the evaluation process as I project forward, there might be some things that I just can't quite answer yet. I think that might be the answer as we go forward.
“I think about the fans, as I replay that last game in my mind. The snow was coming down and as we were executing that last drive in the snow, the fans were in it right until the end and I really believed that we were going to win with the last throw and we had a chance. Throughout the year, we've talked about the fans and what they expect, and they should expect a team that wins. That's what we are trying to build here and I'm very confident that we will get that done. All the way up until the end, players, coaches, fans, those of us that are fighting for the Cleveland Browns, were in it all the way until the end. We'll do what we have to do to change those outcomes for next season."
(On if Colt McCoy is the starting quarterback going into 2012)- "As we go forward here with Colt, I feel like he has done some really good things. We'll get him back healthy and get him in an offseason where he has a chance to develop. I would say this, at all positions, other than maybe left tackle with Joe Thomas and one of the corners with Joe Haden, there is going to be some competition. I expect that Colt will improve, just like I expect Seneca (Wallace) will improve and whomever the quarterbacks are here. I think that can be said for all positions. The best quarterback will play when we start the season."
(On if it is an admission that McCoy is not an elite quarterback if they go into training camp with that mentality)- "I'm not admitting anything yet because I want to see these guys develop. Every player that we have here I expect that they are going to improve, develop and produce. That is what I expect from him. If you produce well enough, you become elite. If you don't, then you may end up being average and then if you don't, then you move on."
(On if he needs to add another quarterback for this competition or if it will be just McCoy and Wallace)- "I don't think I said competition. What I said was I'm expecting the quarterbacks that are here to develop through the offseason and we are going to play the best one."
(On if the amount of time already invested in McCoy factors into the situation)- "No. I think we've invested in a lot of players, some of whom will be here next year and some that won't. I think we've invested a lot of time in trying to make the Cleveland Browns a winner and I think that's the way I look at it."
(On if he still plans to hire an offensive coordinator and if there will be any other staff changes)- "At this point, I don't plan any staff changes. I am going to hire an offensive coordinator and he may come from the staff or he may come from outside the building. I want to hire the best coordinator that I can and that's the goal. I went into this season knowing that we were going to do it at this time so that's the goal. At this point, I don't really plan any staff changes. Although I will say this, this is the time of year when coaching staffs change. I had some good friends that were just let go in St. Louis and there are other staffs that are looking for coaches. Even though I don't plan any, there is nothing that says that somebody might make a change in their life and then I'll fill that position."
(On if he will still call plays or if that would be open to discussion with offensive coordinator candidates)- "I think it's important that I get the best coordinator I can for us. I think that's one of the details that will get worked out as we go through the process."
(On if there was a point in the season where he felt he had a handle on his football team in terms of personality, character, what they can/can't do, limitations, etc.)- "I think so. As the year went on, especially around midseason after I watched the guys compete in real games, I got a pretty good feel for what they were as players. You learn about the players all the way up until the meetings I had with them yesterday. I learned some things about guys yesterday as they were exiting for the offseason that I didn't know about them. I kind of feel that I continued to learn more. In terms of having a feel for this team, the 2011 Browns, I think I had a pretty good feel for what we were."
(On what he learned about himself this season and what he could do better next year as a head coach)- "I've always believed that your biggest improvement comes between the first time you do something and the second time. The one thing I learned about myself was that I think it's very important that no matter how you handle things you go right back to the principles you believe in. You have to do a lot of thinking on your feet in this job that I have. You have to be pretty set in your ideals. You have to have rules and then you try to stick by them and then you react to the situations based on the experience you have. I'm thankful for the people that had a hand in getting me to here."
(On if anything caught him by surprise this season)- "Early on I decided that nothing was going to surprise me. In the first practice when (Head Athletic Trainer) Joe Sheehan came up and said, ‘You just lost your punter,’ after that conversation, I really kind of decided that there was nothing that was going to surprise me."
(On if there are starters in place anywhere else other than left tackle and corner such as Jabaal Sheard and other players on the defensive line)- "I was making a little joke. It was a joke and my delivery was bad, I apologize. What I was basically saying was that there is going to be competition at a lot of positions. I think that we can sit here and say that some of the guys you just mentioned performed well enough where they are definitely going to be starters as we move forward."
(On what he wishes he could do over)- “I wish we could win more games, I really do. I think that’s what we’re in this to do. I wish as we had moved through the season, you know win.”
(On if there’s any consolation that at least they were competitive in most of the games)- “I think that’s something you sit around and think about maybe a week or two from now. As we’re developing for next year, I really don’t. I really don’t take consolation in any form of a loss. We analyze everything. We analyze the wins, we analyze the losses and there are always things you could do better. I think the natural reaction is when you lose a game by a close margin, there are maybe one or two things that might have changed the outcome so that’s kind of how I evaluate that.”
(On if they would consider taking a quarterback with their top draft pick)- “I should probably stay away from talking about future draft picks at this point.”
(On analyzing quarterbacks and how involved he’ll be with Tom Heckert and the scouts leading up to the draft)- “We went through that same process last year. This week we’ll finish evaluating our players, kind of seeing where we’re at, we’ll embark on getting ready for free agency and then this year’s draft. We worked closely together last year, not only on the quarterback position, but all positions so we’re just going to repeat that process. Regardless of whether you think you’re going to draft a player a certain position, we evaluate all the good players because you never know how things are going to turn out so we’re ready to move regardless of what position we intend to draft.”
(On if Tom Heckert has expressed to him what the draft class will be like this year)- “We’ve talked about it, but I think it’s like any year we have to go through, decide what our needs are and then hone in on the players that we like.”
(On only having three players with more than 100 yards rushing or receiving this season and if that means they need an explosive playmaker on offense)- “I think we want explosive players at every position. Once we evaluate our needs then we’ll approach it in a way where we try to make this team better. Heck, I’d like to see a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver in every game. I think that would be an indication that you’re doing good things.”
(On if they’ve made a decision on Peyton Hillis)- “I’ll tell you what, Peyton and I had a great conversation yesterday. He’s an all-star player who was dealing with injury in the middle part of the year and then came back, and I really liked what he did at the end of the season. We had a great conversation yesterday. That’s one of those questions I really can’t answer at this point.”
(On what was different about being a head coach that he maybe didn’t envision before stepping into the job)- “I think I had a decent idea of what it was going to be like and I kind of knew going into it that every move you make, every word you say is pretty well scrutinized, every facial gesture at the game. I think I was ready for that, but until you go through it, I think what I’ve learned is that you’re always out front.”
(On if it’s more difficult handling certain game management situations than a first year head coach could imagine)- “I felt like we handled most of those situations in an aggressive way. I have guys on my staff that keep me aware of situations and then we talk them though. I think it’s important that you remain aggressive when the situations are right in any game management, clock management situation. There was a miscommunication, the Baltimore Ravens thing, but I think for the most part I like the way that operated. People sometimes might question what you do and that’s always open for discussion depending on how the outcome is.”
(On if there was too much on Colt McCoy’s plate at the beginning of the season)- “I don’t think so. I think you always do what you have to do to win games. I don’t think I put too much on his plate, but as you go through the year you can see how much a guy can handle. I think he improved this year, I think he did some good things. He’s like a lot of players though, they’ve got to do more good things more of the time, and when you think about some of our players, who are extremely young, they’ll understand that. Some of the players that I talked with yesterday, I asked them what they thought of their first year as rookies. Most of them said, ‘Gosh, the season is long and the preparation,’ and they really commented on how you just have to keep playing, keep playing, keep playing and keep sticking to it and I think that’s important for all the guys.”
(On if he’ll interview Brad Childress for the offensive coordinator position)- “I know Brad very well. He and I worked together for a long time. I think he’s a terrific coach, but I’m going to keep my list of candidates private. That’s one of those questions I won’t answer, but information travels quickly, I’m sure.”
(On what the timetable is for filling the coordinator job)- “We’re going to work quickly, but I’m not going to be hasty. I want to get the right guy and by not hiring a guy this year it’s because I wanted to make sure I got the right one. That’s a relationship that’s very, very important so I’ll make sure we do it right.”
(On why Childress wasn’t interviewed last year)- “Who says he wasn’t? I know Brad. Brad and I are very good friends, we’ve worked together, like I said, and I think he’s a terrific coach.”
(On what he is hoping the new coordinator brings to the staff)- “The coordinator role, obviously, it’s like having another decision maker amongst your staff that has the title of being able to say, ‘We’re going to do this or we’re going to do that.’ I think it’s important that I get the right guy and again, his final role, there are a lot of different models as to how that works. I think, and I might miss it by a team or two, there are eight or nine teams where the head coach calls the plays and they still have a coordinator. Then, there are other teams that have a different model so I’m trying to find the very best guy.”
(On if somebody upstairs saw something when they challenged the catch by Antonio Brown in the finale against Pittsburgh)- “Yeah, upstairs the timeliness of the replays and things happening, we had some information that we felt like it was worth challenging so we challenged it at that time.”
(On if it the coordinator search could be limited if he decides that he wants to call the plays still)- “I think what’s important is I get the very best guy and like I said earlier, we’ll talk about the details of the role. The offensive coordinator is responsible for the offensive coaches, he’s mainly responsible for putting the plan together, directing the offense and doing a lot of the things that I did as the head coach. The gameday thing, calling plays, is a fun thing for all of us to do and I want to get the best guy I can. I want to win games so I’m going to get the guys in here that are going to help us do that.”
(On if the coordinator has to have West Coast experience)- “I’m trying to find the best guy so a guy that speaks our language, so to speak, I think might have a little bit of a leg up.”
(On if he, Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert see Colt McCoy the same way)- “In terms of whether we like him or not? I think we see Colt as a guy that’s improved, kind of like I’ve been saying, and a guy that’s really going to benefit from an offseason.”
(On specifically where he saw progress from this football team)- “I saw a lot of our young players get a lot better, that’s some of the progress I saw. I’m visualizing Phil Taylor yesterday, Jabaal Sheard, Jason Pinkston, Shawn Lauvao, Eric Hagg. I’m visualizing their faces as they left yesterday, eager to have an offseason and build on a year’s worth of work. I think that’s important. I was really pleased with some of the leadership of our other guys in the locker room, they took charge when things got a little bit rocky. I think that was good and I see some guys that can be really good players. I think those are areas that we need to build on. I saw an operation that we were just teaching the guys how to practice and then I saw as we went along, practice got smoother and smoother. We’ve often talked for quarterbacks how the game slows down, as things get smoother and smoother and guys start going faster and faster, then you get better and better. Those are the types of things I saw.”
(On if he said that he, Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert haven’t decided whether they like Colt McCoy or not)- “No, I was just clarifying what he asked, whether we like him or not. The answer to that is we’ve seen a guy that’s improved, we’ve seen a guy that’s really going to really benefit from an offseason as he approaches next season. There’s nothing there I don’t think, we are on the same page.”
(On McCoy and Sam Bradford from last year having their yards per attempt average around 5.9 and if that’s part of the system or if that’s just a young quarterback learning)- “It’s low and I think there are a lot of reasons for average per pass. I think as you get more completions down the field, as you see things better you might take a downfield throw a little quicker than a check down. There are reasons for that that go beyond system because you’re looking for, obviously, an average that’s a little bit higher.”
(On Holmgren saying that it takes three years for a player to play fast in this system and if he agrees with that)- “I think it takes more than one, for sure. I really do. For a quarterback in any system there’s a learning curve and this was a year without an offseason so you’ve got to speed it up.”
(On where McCoy got better at as the year went on)- “The game starts in the huddle with the play call, just being able to direct things, get guys lined up. I saw him become more efficient on just some of the basic progressions. I saw him make some better plays outside the pocket later in the year than he did earlier in the year. Leadership, being able to get guys lined up properly, all the real things you’re looking for from a quarterback.”
(On if he thinks continuity is vital going forward at the quarterback position)- “I think it’s important that the players that are playing there develop and get to a position where they can play at a consistently high level. I think that’s important.”
(On what he liked from Hillis at the end of the season)- “I thought he ran the ball hard, especially at ground level. When he hits it up in there, they’re pretty good collisions and I think he’s a very strong physical runner. That was very obvious when he was in there as compared to when he wasn’t.”
(On how important it is in the running game that they challenge the edge)- “I think it’s important you have runs that attack the perimeter, go right up the middle and then really attack off tackle. I think that’s the typical NFL run game. Having tendencies is good because you’re good at something and I think that’s an important thing, too. You have to always factor in what your running backs can do and what they’re good at as you structure your run game.”
(On if they tried to get Steven Jackson to edge a lot when he was in St. Louis)- “We tried to get to the perimeter. I do think this is a division where with the 3-4, there are a lot of guys standing out on the edges. Depending on who you’re playing, you have to decide on how you’re going to attack them. If you just run in one place all the time they can zero in on it pretty well.”
(On if the unspoken plan was to get the defense established)- “Obviously we were making a scheme change, going from a 3-4 to a 4-3. We had to focus on getting some guys that can play defensive line. With (Ahtyba) Rubin, Taylor and Sheard, we think we solidified those three spots pretty well. That’s the starting point. We try to get better at a lot of positions. We knew we were revamping things a little bit that we had to put special attention on those positions.”
(On if hiring an offensive coordinator will help free him up some)- “I might get more sleep (joking). If I appeared tired up here at times I apologize. I think it will. More than anything I think what it will do is allow me to just step back and look down on some things in some areas that I may be able to contribute more. I think that’s a key piece. Keep in mind this, as the head coach of this team I want to direct a team that is winning games. I have a general philosophy of how that works. You tweek it to do what fits best based on those principles to win games. I think that’s just natural that you have an offensive coordinator.”
(On fans having a low tolerance for incremental building and how aware he is of how they feel)- “I’m made aware of the way fans feel and I’m sensitive to that, I get that. I want to win as badly as everyone does. I do think there is some building that needs to happen and you need to win and build at the same time, I get that, in a division that’s very competitive. We watched the last month some real hard fought games that we were very close in. What I’m going to build on in my mind is those two or three or four or five things in those games that can make a difference as we move forward. I told the players this, if we all get this much better, then the results will be that much better. I think that’s what we need to do. I’m not patient either, I get it. I understand what the fans are going through.”
(On how much accountability the special teams coordinator should take for some of the things that led to losses this season and why he would bring him back)- “We’ve had some bad performances on offense, defense and special teams that contributed to losses. We’ve had some good performances that helped us win a couple of games. Actually this year our return average is better than it was last year. Early in the year when you give up a touchdown on a kickoff, you’re never going to be good, average-wise, in terms of your coverage. We need to get better in coverage, I don’t disagree with that, we need to improve. We were having problems with snap, hold, kick and we made some changes. Those are some specific areas that we can talk about. I think as I mentioned in the outset as players and coaches, we all need to improve. I did see some improvements in areas that make me think we’re going to get better.”
(On if he feels comfortable with Montario Hardesty if Hillis doesn’t return or if they will have to get a running back in the draft)- “I think we’re going to try to look at all options at running back. Again, I’m not going to comment on the Peyton thing as I mentioned as we move forward here. We’re going to try to get as good as we can get at all positions. I want to see a Montario Hardesty that’s healthy. I think he’s hopefully finally getting back. This will be one of the first offseasons he hasn’t had been dealing with an injury. That will really help him develop.”
(On his conversation with Hillis yesterday)- “We had a chance to sit down and really talk about what happened during the year. We had an all-star player, that we had high hopes for, that got injured. I watched him fight back from injury. I watched him compete well at the end of the season. We talked about those things and how a season can be a mini-journey. As we move forward, we’re just hopeful it works out for everybody.”
(On if he could tell how Hillis feels about the Browns and if he wants to here)- “More of our conversation was talking about this past year. That would probably be a better question for him.”
(On how crucial the McCoy decision is in terms of the future)- “We need to develop all of the players with him included. We’ll do what we have to do put the best quarterback on the field for our franchise. It’s critical that he gets better, I think he would tell you the same thing. We’ll move forward with that in mind.”
(On if McCoy throws well enough to be the long term answer here)- “I don’t have a problem with the way Colt throws the ball. I think he throws the ball well enough. There’s so much more that goes into playing quarterback than just pure arm strength. I think you’ve seen through the years, examples of guys that, number one, have had extremely strong arms and couldn’t succeed. On the other side, guys that have been very efficient and not had very strong arms and won lots of games.”
(On if McCoy threw the ball accurately enough this year)- “I would say that’s one of the things that improved as the year went along. There are a lot of components to accuracy; getting used to the receivers that are in there, being comfortable with the progressions and the timing of the throws. A lot of that comes with practice. It really does. It didn’t surprise me that as time went along and we continued to run 72 X Shallow Cross that he became more efficient executing it. That just confirmed for me to just keep practicing.”
(On how valuable Joshua Cribbs is to the team)- “I really like Josh. He’s tough, he’s competitive and he finds a way to get things done. He tackles guys covering kicks and then he runs back kicks. A lot of times it doesn’t look real flashy, but he gets things done. He finds a way to make plays in big games. I have a strong appreciation for what he is. He’ll be back next year. I think that’s good.”
(On if Cribbs as a wide receiver is still somewhat of an unknown)- “I think Josh improved as a receiver. His workload on special teams is large. He finds a way a way to get production on the snaps that he is in there and he showed up. There were games where he’d catch a couple of balls and like we saw the other night, he had a huge impact on the game. I think he made improvements just playing receiver, for sure.”
(On if there were guys that they had to play this year to find out what they had in certain players)- “We played the very best guys at all positions throughout the year. That’s what this organization and this city deserves. If we don’t do that than we are selling ourselves short. We didn’t just play guys to see what they can do, that didn’t really factor into it.”
(On if he watched the Stanford-Oklahoma State game last night)- “I did, well parts of it. I was dozing in and out.”
(On what impact Eric Steinbach would bring if he is back)- “The first thing is, he’s got to come back and get himself healthy. I liked what I saw from him in the preseason. I don’t know much about him since he’s been dealing with his back injury. We had a good conversation yesterday. I talked to a lot of guys, maybe that’s why I was dozing off last night (joking). There was some optimism yesterday amongst the players. I can’t put my finger on it. The ones I talked to were talking about how close we are, if we all get better. I heard a lot of guys, and I haven’t always heard this, I heard a lot of guys walking out of the building looking forward to the offseason and improving. I think that’s good and that’s the challenge. There’s going to be a lot going on and we are day two into this offseason. We have a Browns evaluation week this week then we will get ready for the Senior Bowl, free agency, the combine, the draft, the offseason program, OTAs. I have it scheduled down to the day until the middle of June. That’s reassuring to me because there’s a certain amount of work that needs to get done and we are prepared to do it with a staff that I have a feel for now, and a team that I know. I am looking forward to that process.”
(On if he has a working relationship with Mike Sherman)- “I know Mike very well. I haven’t worked with him before but I know him.”
(On if Sherman is a candidate for the offensive coordinator spot)- “I am going to keep all of those candidates private. That’s important for the process of course.”
(On if Brad McCoy’s remarks will have any impact on Colt McCoy’s future with the team)- “Absolutely none. I addressed that the first day, I understand why. We had a conversation after it and I am sure Colt has talked to his dad. That has nothing to do with Colt as we move forward.”
(On how much teaching goes on in the offseason program compared to training camp)- “There is quite a bit of teaching that goes on. Of course the rules have changed through the years and it’s much more structured, what you can teach. What you would like to be able to do is through the OTAs and the minicamps, be able to really install everything and teach everything in detail that you are then going to do again in training camp. So then training camp isn’t the first time that they see it, it’s the second time that they see it. For the guys that are either new or going through it for the second or third time, you can build. I think it’s a very important time of year. For me, it’s going to be my first offseason and I am looking forward to getting as much out of it as we can.”
(On if he said earlier that he had planned on hiring an offensive coordinator in his second year)- “When I didn’t find the guy I wanted a year ago, I made the decision that the first year that I was going to do both. Part of that is because I feel like I have a strong offensive staff that can overlap on some of those responsibilities and I think they did a very fine job of that. Once the decision was made to not have one last year, I knew definitively I was going to get one this year.”
(On if he didn’t have the time to find the right guy last year)- “We interviewed some guys, but I think it’s important to find the right guy. That’s a very important person and a very important position much like your defensive coordinator and special teams.”