BEREA: For Browns coach Pat Shurmur, rejection never felt so good.
Shurmur’s players turned down his offer to take Monday off in the wake of their 7-6 victory over the San Diego Chargers. Instead of relaxing all day, they reported to the team’s headquarters, watched film, attended meetings and began preparing for their home game Sunday against the AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens.
The Browns are normally off on Tuesdays. When they win, it’s customary for the coach to grant a break on what is known as “victory Monday.” Despite scratching and clawing for most of Sunday afternoon in cold, rainy, windy Cleveland weather, the players saw no need for a two-day hiatus.
“The fact that they wanted to do it the last week in October says a lot,” Shurmur said Monday during his news conference. “I’ve been around a lot of other good teams that will do whatever they can to get a ‘see you Wednesday.’ That shows me that there’s a level of maturity there. It shows me that these guys understand the importance of work.”
Now the Browns (2-6) must figure out how to build off a win instead of relapsing. After they defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 34-24 on Oct. 14, they let their momentum fizzle the next week in a 17-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
The Browns have a chance to begin the second half of the season with a winning streak, something new owner Jimmy Haslam encouraged when he addressed the players after the game Sunday and urged them to become greedy for more success. Upsetting the Ravens (5-2) won’t be easy, but putting in extra time to prepare seems to be a step in the right direction.
“I think it’s a good sign that guys recognize what’s required,” kicker Phil Dawson said. “There’s obviously teams in this league that can have victory Mondays and can come out and still perform well. The one victory Monday we got this year [after our Week 6 win over the Bengals], we didn’t respond the right way. Our first day back on Wednesday, practice was not good. So I think guys recognize that.
“Would we like to get to the point where we can handle it? Absolutely. I think everybody would like a day off. But we know where we are right now and guys want more wins, and when you have the new owner say he wants to get greedy with wins, guys stepped in line and want to do that.”
It’s a safe bet that Shurmur needs to guide the Browns to a strong finish to convince Haslam and new CEO Joe Banner he’s worthy of keeping his job beyond this season.
“Obviously record-wise we’re not where I want to be right now,” Shurmur said. “But I see a team that’s improving. I see a team that’s battling. I see a team that’s with me every step of the way, and they believe in their coaches. I’m hopeful we’re going to continue to make those improvements and win a heck of a lot of games.”
The performance of rookie running back Trent Richardson is a legitimate reason for optimism. He fought through the rib injury that has bothered him for more than two weeks and rushed for a career-high 122 yards on 24 carries (5.1 average) and a touchdown against the Chargers, who had the NFL’s second-ranked run defense heading into the weekend. More important, Richardson didn’t re-injure himself, Shurmur said.
The possibility of starting defensive tackles Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin playing together for the first time this season is another source of hope. Taylor has spent all season on the physically unable to perform list after suffering a torn left pectoral muscle in May. He began practicing last week. Rubin, meanwhile, has missed two of the past three games with a calf injury. Still, Shurmur said “there’s a good chance” both of them will face the Ravens.
Although Shurmur made it clear he believes it would be premature to say the Browns are on the verge of getting on a roll, he has noticed improvement and thinks it can continue.
“I think we function better as a team,” Shurmur said. “Our young skilled players on offense are better, and we’re getting production. We’ve won two games in the last three weeks. So let’s call it for what it is. We’re getting some defensive players back that will help us. If you function better and you’re playing better and you win a couple games and you’re getting some players back that can help you win, that helps me stay positive.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abj