As we mentioned earlier, today is the day that St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is scheduled to interview for the Cleveland Browns head coaching job.
For Rams fans, Shurmur was a lightening rod for criticism. Some blamed Shurmur for the team's conservative approach to play calling, though it became fairly evident down the stretch, as more and more started to criticize the Rams offensive "attack," that head coach Steve Spagnuolo bore more culpability for the offensive game plan.
Was the conservative approach the right move or not will be debated for awhile, at least until we see what the Rams offense does in 2011. The offense was the subject of an earlier post today, with a special emphasis on the Rams short passing game. In short, the Rams offensive style this year, or lack thereof, was mostly the result of available receivers, a rookie QB and inexperience at offensive tackle.
Let's go back to Shurmur himself. He's not exactly a long shot for the Browns job. First, he's a very well known commodity to Cleveland team president Mike Holmgren. He's also a West Coast offense guy, something that's probably a prerequisite for Holmgren, who is himself likely to have a very hands-on relationship with the coaches.
Personally, I'd like to see Shurmur stick around for one more year. Despite the sting of coming up short in an oh-so-close season, 2010 was all about transition for the Rams, taking those young core pieces of the franchise and molding it into a real contender for next year. Yes, a more complete turnaround like what happened with the Dolphins after their one-win season would have been nice. The Rams just didn't have the pieces in place for that. They might have with a breakout year from Donnie Avery or a full season of Mark Clayton, but that didn't happen.
A productive offseason that brings in some playmakers on the offense and another year of experience for Sam Bradford, the current group of receivers and the offensive line would allow Shurmur to run a more fully featured offense. Don't think it won't still feature plenty of short passes; it is still a West Coast system. However, more talent and experience should translate into added dimension that work together to open the field for the Rams.
If Shurmur does land the Browns' job, replacing him becomes the Rams most important move of the offseason. Straying too far from the system they run now, or would like to run, could risk the development of Bradford and the other players. Maybe that's an exaggerated worry, but given the investment it's a legitimate one. Yes, keeping the other coaches in place would help, e.g. QB coach Dick Curl, but changing the offense is a big risk in spite of that.