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Browns' Shurmur not focused on his future

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Browns' Shurmur not focused on his future

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Browns coach Pat Shurmur has already developed thick skin. Now, he's bulking up his record.

With two straight wins, the Browns are showing major signs of improvement in their second season under Shurmur, whose future in Cleveland could hinge on how his team plays in its final four games - if it hasn't been determined already.

On Sunday, the Browns (4-8) snapped a 12-game road losing streak with a 20-17 win over Oakland, putting the Raiders away with a clutch, 94-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, when Shurmur made a gutsy fourth-down call.

The Browns have gotten better and so has Shurmur. He has been harshly criticized by some Cleveland fans for his game management and play calling, and there's a chance he won't be around for a third year once new owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner finish their postseason assessment.

Shurmur won't predict what's ahead.

``I don't want to talk about my future, OK?'' he said. ``I'm trying to make this the best Monday of the year, and I'm trying to get our team ready to play the Chiefs and then after that and so on and so forth. I don't look at it that way. I'm not taking any half-swings here. We'll just play it out and see what happens.''

There's no denying that the Browns, with 17 rookies on their roster, are growing up.

They've been competitive since Week 1, but in back-to-back wins over Pittsburgh and Oakland, they've finally shown the ability to finish games. It's an important step in the development for any team, even more so for one starting a rookie quarterback, running back, wide receiver, right tackle - and with a coach under fire.

Shurmur acknowledges his team's evolution, but he knows the Browns are far from a finished product.

``I feel good about where we're going, we've just got to keep going,'' Shurmur said. ``It's easy to let that momentum stop. That's what I'm guarding against, and I think our locker room understands that it's important you jump right back in the process.

``You'll get tired of hearing me say that. As long as I'm here, you'll get tired of hearing me say, `jump back in the process.' Because I think that's most important. Initially for the season it's 16 processes and how well you get that right. Because that gives you the best opportunity to be successful on Sunday. And that's where we all want to be, at our best.''

Shurmur may be down to his last four Sundays, but he's committed to making the most of them.

Last week, Haslam said in an interview with the Plain Dealer that he believed the Browns were ``very close'' to being a playoff contender. He was noncommittal about Shurmur's future and reiterated that he and Banner would wait until after the season before making any personnel decisions.

Shurmur was pleased to learn his new boss sees progress. That doesn't mean it's time to stop.

``It's always good to hear good things,'' Shurmur said. ``I do know this. What's important to me - and it's very narrow-minded - is this next game, period. And then whatever gets determined gets determined, but what I can control right now with this football team is what happens this week.''

On Sunday, the Browns will host the Kansas City Chiefs (2-10), who pulled together and beat Carolina one day after linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his 22-year-old girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, before driving to Arrowhead Stadium, where he committed suicide in the practice facility's parking lot.

After facing the Chiefs, the Browns will host Washington before closing out the season with road games at Denver and Pittsburgh. Cleveland has already matched its win total from last season, and if Shurmur bumps up his resume with another win or two or three, he could make it very difficult for the Browns not to bring him back.

He's made his share of mistakes, but Shurmur appears to be learning from them. Earlier this season, he was slammed for electing to punt on a critical fourth down against Indianapolis. Two weeks later, his gamble on a similar play against Baltimore backfired in a loss. On Sunday, Shurmur chose to go for it on 4th-and-1 after quarterback Brandon Weeden was stuffed on a sneak.

Following a timeout, Shurmur had Weeden run the same play and the Browns converted to keep alive their game-winning drive.

``Any time you do something more and more, you get better at it,'' Shurmur said when asked if he's improved. ``It becomes clearer. There are things I see better now. There's other things that come in to this now. I know my coaches and players better. I understand how everybody on our team is going to respond in most situations. Yeah, I think there's things we're doing better - me included.''

Browns defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin sees a difference in Shurmur from last season, his first as an NFL head coach.

``He's getting more comfortable and he knows the players more,'' Rubin said. ``He's getting acclimated and has a feel for our opponents. Coming in and playing the Steelers and the Ravens and the Bengals is pretty difficult every year, so this conference and division is hard to get acclimated to.''

With a youthful, talented nucleus, the Browns have a promising future. What's unclear is who will coach them after this season.

Shurmur has his fans and critics, who even find faults when he wins. He's managed to block out the personal attacks and remains focused on winning.

It's not always easy.

``I really believe in this group we have and I really believe this is the foundation of something that could be really good,'' he said. ``Even though I say that and believe in it, until we start winning football games, that's what shows it. That's really my concern. Some of the other stuff about me personally - what more can they say about me?

``I don't listen to it, but I'm told frequently about it. That's where the thick skin part comes in.''

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Barry Trotz's departure reminiscent of Joe Gibbs' resignation in 1993

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Associated Press

Barry Trotz's departure reminiscent of Joe Gibbs' resignation in 1993

The sudden resignation of Barry Trotz as the coach of the Stanley Cup champion Capitals is the most stunning Washington coaching departure since Joe Gibbs retired from the Redskins about 13 months after the team won its third Super Bowl in a 10-year span. 

In the years leading up to Gibbs’ departure, there were some rumblings that he might leave. As early as 1986, John Madden said that Gibbs was a candidate to burn out of the profession early. During the 1989 season, Gibbs said that he was contemplating retirement, but he retracted his words the next day. In 1990, columnist and TV pregame panelist Will McDonough reported that Gibbs would retire after the season. Retirement rumors popped up again in early 1992, just two days before Super Bowl XXVI. Again, Gibbs denied them. The Redskins easily beat the Bills to claim their third championship in 10 years and there was no apparent reason why such a successful coach would think about leaving. 

Redskins fans had become so used to hearing the Gibbs retirement reports that many just started to tune them out. So on the morning of March 5, 1993, when reports of Gibbs’ resignation as coach started to circulate, many were in a state of denial.

That turned out to be wishful thinking. The fans were given a hard jolt of reality when the team announced a noon press conference. 

There the coach was on TV, as promised, confirming the news. He said it was a family decision. 

“Every year, we get away and talk about it,” Gibbs said. “We always reach the same conclusion. This year, it was different. The boys didn’t encourage me one way or another, but they understood when I told them what I was thinking. I think Pat’s happier than anyone. This isn’t an easy lifestyle for a coach’s wife. The coach is the guy who stands up and hears everyone tell him how great he is. The wife is the one waiting at home alone while the coach is spending every night at the office. 

“I wanted more time with my family. I wanted more time with my sons. I look at this as a window of opportunity with them and I couldn’t let it pass.” 

Although he has been diagnosed with a condition that has caused some pain and some difficulty in sleeping, Gibbs said that health was not a factor in his decision. 

Richie Petitbon, the team’s longtime defensive coordinator, was named the team’s new head coach. It had to be one of the shortest job interviews ever. 

“I get a call from Mr. Cooke who tells me Joe has retired and that he wants me to coach the Redskins,” Petitbon said. “After I picked myself up off the floor, I said yes.” 

After hearing the news, most Redskins fans had to pick themselves up as well.  

Petitbon lasted only one season as the head coach and the other eight head coaches who followed, including Gibbs himself in a four-year second stint, have been unable to get the Redskins back to the Super Bowl. Coincidentally, the Caps’ head coaching job is widely expected to go to Todd Reirden, who was Trotz’s top assistant just as Pettitbon was Gibbs’. 

Washington fans hope that the Caps have better fortune with Trotz’s successors. 

More Redskins

- 53-man roster: Roster projection--Offense
- 53-man roster: Best players 25 or younger

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

 

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Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, June 19, 37 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense 

It may still be early to project the roster, but things are coming into focus after the round of practices in helmets and shorts. Here is my look at who I think will make it on defense; the offense was posted yesterday.

Defensive line (7)
Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier, Stacy McGee, Tim Settle, Ziggy Hood

I don’t think that McGee’s groin injury will be an issue, but it seemed that Jay Gruden was very tight-lipped about the whole thing, so we will have to wait until training camp starts. This is one more than they normally carry here and Hood’s presence on the roster could be in danger if injuries force the team to carry more players at another position. 

Outside linebacker (4)
Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Ryan Anderson, Pernell McPhee

Anderson is certain to make the roster, but he was mostly invisible during the offseason practices that were open to the media. The spotlight will be on last year’s second-round pick in training camp. After a zero-sack rookie season, Anderson will be under pressure to produce this season. 

Inside linebacker (5)
Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Zach Vigil, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Shaun Dion Hamilton

The player I have on the wrong side of the bubble here is Martrell Spaight. If he does work his way on, the spot most in jeopardy is Vigil’s. Harvey-Clemons got a lot of reps with the first team in OTAs and the team thinks he can help in nickel situations and perhaps more. And Gruden called Hamilton a potential future starter. So the two younger players seem safe, leaving Vigil vulnerable.

Cornerback (6)
Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, Orlando Scandrick, Josh Holsey, Greg Stroman

As is the case with the running backs that I looked at yesterday, this group seems to be pretty well set. It’s not that it’s an exceptionally strong group, but there isn’t a lot of real competition. Behind these six are three undrafted free agents, and while Danny Johnson, Kenny Ladler, and Ranthony Texada all have had flashes in the offseason practices, they are extreme long shots to make the roster at this point. 

Safety (4)
D.J. Swearinger, Montae Nicholson, Deshazor Everett, Troy Apke

If there are concerns about Nicholson’s health—to be clear, as of now there are none—Fish Smithson could make it as a fifth safety. 

Specialists (3)
K Dustin Hopkins, P Tress Way, LS Nick Sundberg

It looks like the Redskins will have the same trio of specialists for the fourth straight year. I will look it up at some point but for now, I’ll say that it’s been a while since they had such stability here. 


Defensive players: 26
Rookies (5): 
Payne, Settle, Hamilton, Stroman, Apke
New to the Redskins in 2018 (7): Rookies plus McPhee, Scandrick
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster (13): Rookies plus new players plus Vigil (released in the final cut, re-signed later in the season). 

On the 53-man roster:

24 offense, 26 defense, 3 specialists
Rookies: 8
New to the Redskins in 2017: 12
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster: 16

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 37
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 51
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 74

The Redskins last played a game 170 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 82 days. 

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