Soon-to-be Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, whose $1 billion purchase of Cleveland's franchise is expected to be approved by NFL owners later this month, said Thursday through a team spokesman that he has no plans to make any personnel changes "until after the year."
That means coach Pat Shurmur's job is safe this season. Come Dec. 31, the day after the season finale at Pittsburgh, all bets are off. Unless the winless Browns (0-4) have a major turnaround, Haslam's first change will be to fire Pat Shurmur as coach.
It's hard to defend Shurmur's 4-16 record as the Browns' coach. It's also hard to judge Shurmur as a head coach, although he did make some extremely suspect play calls last season. In his first season as coach, Shurmur didn't have an offseason to get to know his players, much less install an offense, because of the lockout. In his second season, he's starting three rookies on offense, including one at quarterback and running back.
Still, Haslam can't bring back Shurmur because coaches are judged ultimately on wins and losses. The Browns are one of two winless teams in the NFL. The other one, the New Orleans Saints, don't have their head coach because he's suspended. Cleveland has lost 10 straight games, the longest current losing streak in the league. The last win came on Nov. 20, 2011, so the one-year anniversary is quickly approaching.
Haslam said the Browns are improving under Shurmur and team president Mike Holmgren.
"I don't think anybody thinks 0-4 (is acceptable) and certainly Mike Holmgren and Pat Shurmur don't think it is and we don't think it is," Haslam told Fox Business. "But we've got a young team. We're building. I think we're heading in the right direction. We don't officially own the team yet and we've said all along that we're not going to make any comments on personnel until after we own the team. That's in about two weeks.
"And candidly we'll be halfway through the football season then, so any personnel decisions we'd make would be toward the end of the year."
Two months ago, my advice to Haslam was not to clean house and I still believe the Browns don't need an overhaul. The Browns have been in a perpetual state of rebuilding because they constantly change their decision-makers. But with the Browns looking like they're headed for another double-digit loss season, Haslam can't keep the status quo. Change is coming. It's just a matter of when.