|ESPN.com: NFL||[Print without images]|
BEREA, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur still loves rookies Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden, but he would prefer that his starting running back focus on regrouping rather than being critical, and he'd like his quarterback to be more consistent.
Shurmur has directed a young team through a roller-coaster season that included a change in ownership. With a chance to finish strong, the Browns' 38-21 flop Sunday against the Washington Redskins ended their slim playoff hopes, raised more questions about Weeden and had Richardson contemplating his coach's decisions.
Richardson had two touchdown runs, but gained only 28 yards on 11 carries and said afterward that he thought Shurmur abandoned the game plan.
"It's shocking," Richardson said Sunday of his usage in the second half, according to The Plain Dealer of Cleveland. "But like I said, the game's much bigger than me. I've got to let coach do what he does."
Shurmur wasn't pleased by the comments, but said Monday that he is not angry.
"I'm not upset with him," Shurmur said. "I did talk to him. I asked what he meant by what he said. I explained to him that when we're all in a state of disappointment because we lost, it is important to keep our focus and, No. 1, regroup and get ready to play the next game."
All told, though, he will gladly take both of them as the Browns move past the disappointing loss that snapped a three-game winning streak.
"I'm not saying you never go to the backup quarterback," Shurmur said. "But I didn't consider it (Sunday)."
Shurmur has two more chances to make a positive imprint, as new owner Jimmy Haslam III ponders offseason moves. Haslam bought the team during the summer and, together with new CEO Joe Banner, will evaluate all aspects of the organization after another largely disappointing season.
Cleveland began the season 0-5, and even though Shurmur's Browns have persevered through the troubles, they are still just 5-9 with two difficult games approaching -- Denver (11-3) and Pittsburgh (7-7).
Shurmur expects better play from Weeden regardless of the opponent, saying the 29-year-old is not too old to develop.
"I've never thought about his age," Shurmur said. "I think of him as a rookie and he'll be better his second year. I'm looking forward to him having a much better game this week against Denver."
Weeden was 21 of 35 for 244 yards, one touchdown, and two costly interceptions against the Redskins.
"We had two turnovers turned into 14 points and you can't do that," Shurmur said. "On the second (pick), he tried to put it over the linebacker and the ball didn't go where he wanted."
Shurmur said he evaluates every throw by Weeden, but would not reveal his grading scale. Weeden, a first-round pick, clearly was outplayed by Kirk Cousins, whom the Redskins picked in the fourth round. Cousins, making his first start in place of injured Robert Griffin III, threw for 329 yards and two scores.
Shurmur believes the Browns will benefit from Richardson refining his game, too. Picked No. 3 overall in April, the former Alabama star leads the team with 897 rushing yards. And with 11 rushing touchdowns, he already has surpassed Pro Football Hall of Fame standout Jim Brown's 55-year-old team rookie record.
"He's getting the ball in the end zone," Shurmur said. "His yards per rush could be better."
Richardson is averaging 3.5 yards a carry, but Shurmur also noted that has been accomplished while playing injured. Richardson has played with injured ribs since mid-October and missed the preseason after having minor surgery on his left knee.
"I don't think his style has been defined yet," Shurmur said. "He's still learning to play in the NFL."The Browns on Tuesday placed linebacker James-Michael Johnson and defensive back T.J. Ward on injured reserve with knee injuries. Both Johnson, a rookie, and Ward are starters for a defense that allows 22.1 points per game. Johnson made eight starts, played in 10 games and finished with 35 tackles. His role expanded when Scott Fujita sustained a season-ending neck injury. Ward had 68 tackles and one interception. With the available roster spots, Cleveland signed defensive back Prince Miller and linebacker Adrian Moten. The Browns also elevated defensive lineman Hall Davis from the practice squad to the active roster.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.