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Marla Ridenour on Sports

Ultimate test for 'In Holmgren we trust'

By Marla Published: January 13, 2011

After a 16-6 loss to Seattle on Jan. 2 that cost the St. Louis Rams the NFC West title, Rams fans wanted to run offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur out of town.

Tthey got their wish. Shurmur's was named Browns coach today.

On NFL Internet sites, Shurmur was blasted for giving star running back Steven Jackson only 11 carries (for 45 yards) against the Seahawks and using a game-plan that put too much pressure on rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, who was making his first appearance at Seattle's Qwest Field. Bradford completed 19-of-36 for 155 yards and an interception for a 52.4 rating in a 16-6 loss.

Naming Shurmur coach is the ultimate test of 'In Holmgren We Trust.'  When it was announced Shurmur would be the first man interviewed in the coaching search, many fans believed Holmgren was merely doing a favor for a family he has been close to for years. Shurmur's late uncle Fritz was Holmgren's defensive coordinator in Green Bay from 1994-98.

Shurmur has been instrumental in the development of Bradford and quarterback Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia. Shurmur spent 1999-2008 in Philadelphia under Holmgren's close friend and former assistant Andy Reid. But the hiring of Shurmur reeks of the machinations of agent Bob LaMonte, who also represents Holmgren and Browns General Manager Tom Heckert.

Perhaps Shurmur, 45, really is the next bright young talent in the coaching ranks. But Holmgren is going to have to convince Browns fans of that.

At the moment, with only three known candidates interviewed -- along with Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell -- it appears  the Browns did not conduct the all-encompassing search most expected. Some still have to believe that fired coach Eric Mangini and a totally new offensive staff might have been a better alternative. Perhaps Mangini wasn't willing to go along with that premise.

When the season ended, players expressed their undying faith that Holmgren would ''get it right,'' as Holmgren said he had to.

"I think we can be like (the Steelers)  and I think we will,'' Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas said. "When you look at a guy like Coach Holmgren, he's a guy who knows how to put together a winning team. He's a guy who knows how to put together a winning staff and that's what he's going to do and that's what we're going to do.''

Linebacker Scott Fujita, who played for the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in 2009, was just as optimistic.

"I have complete confidence that he's going to do everything to get this headed in the right direction -- that much I know,'' Fujita said of Holmgren.

But Fujita added some of that  feeling came from the players.

"The players are the ones who step across the white lines and play on Sundays and I feel good about the men in this locker room," Fujita said.

Excuse me if I reserve judgment on Shurmur. For Holmgren, this could be a tough sell.

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