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December 4, 2012 - Zach Baker
It must be acknowledged: I find myself softening on Pat Shurmur and Tom Heckert.
This has less to do with beating a horrendous Raiders' team Sunday (though I'll never say I don't like winning, no matter the opponent) and more to do with a few things that have emerged in recent weeks.
1. For the first time since 2007, the Browns are developing an identity on offense. Brandon Weeden isn't great yet, but he's shown himself to be a true NFL starting quarterback. Josh Gordon looks like a steal as No. 1 wide receiver. Greg Little has shaken off a rough start to contribute as a No. 2 receiver, and as a big-time blocker (I've watched his block on Sunday's long pass play at least 15 times). Trent Richardson isn't 100 percent yet, but he's still a force. Mitchell Schwartz looks like a solid lineman.
2. The Browns defense is a cornerback short of being really, really good. I say that because I'm tired of watching Buster Skrine get beat every week. But most everyone else has had moments. Joe Haden, Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard, Billy Winn, even T.J. Ward look like keepers, maybe even Pro Bowlers (let's just assume that title means something for the sake of argument).
What do all those players, as well as the ones mentioned on offense, have in common?
They all were drafted by GM Tom Heckert.
3. There are reports springing from everywhere that Mike Lombardi (the guy on NFL Network who was with the Browns in the early 90s) is a front runner for a top job in the Browns front office.
This is pretty horrifying, actually.
Lombardi was one of the chief architects behind the Browns drafts in the early 90s. There were far fewer hits (Eric Turner, Steve Everett) than misses (Craig Powell, Patrick Rowe, Eric Zeier). Lombardi also was very critical of this year's Browns draft, which may go down as the best in the new era (admittedly, not a real high standard to top).
Lombardi led a Browns team that had better coaching than players. It's a big reason why Bill Belichick had just one winning season in five in Cleveland.
I've been as critical of Pat Shurmer as anyone, and I haven't been as in love with Heckert as others. But over the last few weeks, I've seen some very positive signs.
The Browns are beginning to put it together on defense. The credit for that can be given to Dick Jauron, who's been wonderful this season. But Shurmur is responsible for it all, so he needs credit as well.
And for the first time in five years, the offense looks like it has more positives than negatives.
If the Browns win three of their next four, there should be no debate. If they go 2-2, there should be some debate.
But if Lombardi is the alternative to stability, well, then there shouldn't be a discussion.
Shurmur and Heckert should stay.
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