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Simple competence

December 27, 2011 - Zach Baker
In 1966, a film escaped called "Manos: The Hands of Fate."

Many of us probably would have gone through life without knowing this film ever existed. But another show "Mystery Science Theater 3,000," which riffed horrible films, did so with the movie, and people like me can now say we have seen it, or at least, most of it.

One of my favorite lines from the MST3K episode comes when Joel Hodgson (the show's creator) asks to no one in particular, "when is this guy going to start demonstrating some simple competence?"

The line came to me on Christmas Eve, when I was watching Browns' coach Pat Shurmur.

About a year ago, I wrote a column that all but encouraged the firing of then-Browns coach Eric Mangini. My thought process then was that Mangini and team president Mike Holmgren couldn't really work together long term, and that Mangini had made too many questionable decisions.

After 15 games, I'm willing to admit I wish Holmgren had just kept Mangini. Not because I think Mangini is a great or even good coach. I don't. In fact, I think Mangini is mediocre.

And yet, "mediocre" appears to be an improvement over who the Browns have now.

Shurmur may eventually become a good coach. But he's not one now. Let's review a few things that have happened this season:

It's week one and the Browns get caught napping against Bruce Gradkowski and the Bengals, as Cincinnati rushes to the line for a fourth quarter play. Gradkowski throws a practically uncontested touchdown pass and the Browns lose.

It's week 10 and the Browns are driving against the Rams for a go-ahead score. It's late in the fourth quarter and Shurmur (who doubles as offensive coordinator) calls a handoff to the fullback. The problem is that due to injuries, the fullback is tight end Alex Smith, who has never had a carry in his career. Smith fumbles. Browns recover, attempt a field goal that bounces off one of the offensive lineman and fails.

It's week 14, and the Browns are in Pittsburgh. Somehow, the Browns not only trail just 7-3 late in the fourth quarter, but they're driving when Steelers' LB James Harrison lays out quarterback Colt McCoy. McCoy is down awhile, and eventually is replaced by Seneca Wallace, who completes a pass to Evan Moore, and the Browns are at the Steelers 4. McCoy, despite being knocked out just a few plays earlier, comes back in. He runs three plays, and eventually is sacked and then throws an interception. Browns lose.

McCoy is later revealed to have suffered a concussion, something the coaching staff and training staff didn't think to look for. McCoy hasn't been seen on the field since.

And it's two days ago. The Browns are playing the Ravens. Communication between Shurmur and his quarterback is so poor that Wallace calls a running play with about 10 seconds left and the ball inside the Ravens 5. The Browns, with no timeouts, are stuffed and don't score. Later, on a fourth and five and the game on the line, the Browns run a short pass to Peyton Hillis, which gains maybe a yard. Browns lose.

Not all of this can be blamed completely on Shurmur. But a pattern has developed this season of the Browns looking unprepared for certain situations.

Shurmur is in his first season as a head coach. He didn't have much of a training camp due to the NFL lockout. But to borrow a line from MST3K:

"When is this guy going to start demonstrating some simple competence?"

I'm not saying the Browns should fire Shurmur, because it seems that everytime, this organization does that, they hire someone worse than the last coach.

I just keep hoping that Shurmur has taken his lumps this year, and returns next year ready to be the mentor Holmgren thought he would be.

Of course, I am also hoping for the Cavaliers to make the playoffs.



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