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Browns are bracing for another coaching change

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Cleveland's Ray Ventrone celebrates with teammates after picking up a first down on a fake punt during the third quarter against the Steelers on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, at Heinz Field.

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Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, 10:41 p.m.
 

Lose to the Steelers, then clean house: It's an every-other-year event for the Cleveland Browns.

It happened four years ago when Romeo Crennel was fired less than 24 hours after losing to the Steelers, 31-0, and again two years ago when Eric Mangini lost his job following a 41-9 loss to the Steelers.

Pat Shurmur is expected to make that a trifecta by Monday morning.

Following the Browns' 24-10 loss Sunday to the Steelers, Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert are expected to be fired by new owner Jimmy Haslam.

Shurmur led the Browns to a 9-23 record in two years. No Browns coach has a winning record since the organization returned in 1999.

Shurmur said he hasn't spoken to Haslam or new CEO Joe Banner “in quite some time” but appeared to be a man who coached his last game with the Browns.

“We really did not win enough games, and we're not competing next week,” Shurmur said. “I have no regrets.”

Shurmur addressed his team afterward, and many players believed a change was imminent.

“To me, he was trying to hold back tears,” linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. “He put everything into it. He is in a tough spot. The players, we appreciate it. We would run through a brick wall for him.”

Shurmur has been coaching through a cloud of rumors about his job security since Haslam, a former Steelers minority owner, bought the Browns from Randy Lerner for $1.05 billion in August, then brought in Banner after letting Mike Holmgren go. Earlier this month, the Browns hired Alec Scheiner to be their team president.

“Whatever (Haslam) wants to do, I am behind him,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “I am just here to play corner.”

Haden hopes that if a new staff comes in, it doesn't change much of what the Browns have. Despite having 26 players with less than two years' experience and rookies at key positions like quarterback and running back, the Browns were 17 points away from putting together an eight-game winning streak during the middle of the season.

Instead, the Browns followed up losing their first five games with dropping their last three to finish 5-11.

“Change happens,” tight end Ben Watson said, “especially when you don't win games. That's the bottom line in this business.”

The Browns have had only two winning records, one playoff appearance and a 72-147 record since returning in 1999.

“But it is different than years past,” Haden said. “People are making plays. It is not like we are losing and we have no shot. It is going to change. You can definitely tell by looking out on the field.”

The Browns have a solid defense led by Jackson, Haden and Phil Taylor, while their offense is young and talented. The Browns became just the second team in the Super Bowl era to have a rookie lead the team in passing (Brandon Weeden with 3,385 yards), rushing (Trent Richardson, 950 yards) and receiving (Josh Gordon, 805 yards) in the same season.

“I've watched how close we were in a lot of these instances to winning these games, and I think with a little bit more time this team will improve,” Shurmur said.

But it is time Shurmur likely doesn't have.

If there is a move, Jackson hopes that the new coach will stay for a while.

“I am a firm believer in continuity,” Jackson said. “All the good teams do it. If there is (a coaching change), I will embrace it. If it does happen, it happens, and we will be ready to move forward.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at mkaboly@tribweb.com

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