When Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Brian Daboll looks across the field Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium, he won’t see many familiar faces on the opposing coaching staff.
But there will be four Daboll recognizes. Browns coach Pat Shurmur deserves credit for making sure they didn’t get away.
After the Browns hired Shurmur on Jan. 13 to replace Eric Mangini, the organization began to clean house. The Browns parted ways with Mangini’s three coordinators, including Daboll, and five of his position coaches.
However, in the process of assembling a massive staff, Shurmur retained four of Mangini’s assistant coaches: Gary Brown (running backs), Steve Hagen (tight ends), Jerome Henderson (defensive backs) and George Warhop (offensive line). Their contributions should not be overlooked.
Browns President Mike Holmgren asked Shurmur to meet with the four coaches. Holmgren said he promised Shurmur there would be “no strings attached” if the latter chose to conduct interviews.
Deferring to Shurmur all along, Holmgren also told his new coach, “it’s your call.” Shurmur chose wisely by bringing the four coaches back despite the potential pitfalls.
“You’d probably get an argument from some people that you shouldn’t do it that way,” Holmgren said. “If you have a new coach, retaining some of the old coaches, sometimes it doesn’t work. If they’re tied in too much with the former head coach, you can get a conflict of philosophies.”
In his short time with the Browns, Shurmur has already shown he’s secure with himself. He’s confident in what he believes, but he doesn’t have an ego that prevents him from accepting advice or asking for help. He isn’t paranoid, either.
Keeping Brown, Hagen, Henderson and Warhop proved to be smart, because they helped Shurmur and the Browns’ new coaches learn as much as they could about their players during the NFL’s lockout. With communication severed between team employees and players for more than four months, Shurmur needed a crash course about his new personnel.
Game film allowed Shurmur to study his players. Conversations with Holmgren, General Manager Tom Heckert and the scouting department helped, too. But the four coaches developed crucial roles in making sure their colleagues knew what to expect once the players were allowed to return to work.
“They obviously had very good knowledge of players on the team, offensively and defensively,” Shurmur said. “I felt like they were a big help, at least to me, getting to know the players that we had on this team.”
There’s also something to be said for what the four coaches had accomplished with the Browns before Shurmur arrived. The team’s strongest groups last season were running backs, tight ends, defensive backs and offensive linemen. Brown, Hagen, Henderson and Warhop made cases for themselves by guiding those players to success.
In other words, Shurmur believed the four coaches could help the Browns win. Holmgren did, too, which is why he recommended them in the first place. He also liked the way players responded to them last season.
“We’ve got some veteran guys [playing tight end], and the last thing we want is some crazy coach coming in here,” tight end Benjamin Watson said. “That’s a hard time, so we’re definitely really happy keeping a level of stability with [Hagen] staying throughout the change.”
If there’s another coach who should have been retained based solely on production, it was special teams coordinator Brad Seely, who’s now with the San Francisco 49ers. However, Seely’s ties to Mangini were too strong for him to warrant consideration.
In the end, Shurmur kept the right guys. They have blended with several experienced newcomers to give Shurmur the support he needs as a rookie coach.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://browns.ohio.com. Follow the Browns on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ABJ_Browns and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/browns.abj.