Tag:Pat Shurmur
Posted on: October 20, 2011 4:25 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 9:51 am

Peyton Hillis isn't going anywhere

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The trade deadline has come and gone, and still, running back Peyton Hillis remains in Cleveland. It’s unclear what his role will be going forward, but one thing is certain: Mike Holmgren wasn’t going to let him go. After his agent announced that he had told Hillis not to play when he was sick, Hillis hasn’t had much of an impact in the previous two Browns gameplans, and it seemed like he was on the way out.

Obviously, he wasn’t. But why?

What's up with Hillis?
“There was no way I was going to trade Peyton Hillis,” Browns president Mike Holmgren said, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer."Why would I trade one of our best players?"

Yes, whatever would give us that idea? How about the fact Hillis is only averaging eight carries and 30 yards during the past two games? How about the fact that, during a weird sequence in last Sunday’s game, the Browns said Hillis was on the bench because of a coach’s decision before saying he had a hamstring injury before he went back into the game(!)?

Even though it’s appeared that the Browns and Hillis are on the outs, Holmgren still talked about the potential contract extension that started this mess in the first place. He also told Hillis on Wednesday that the Browns want to keep him around.

“No one has called off contract negotiations,” Holmgren said. “Things are kind of quiet right now. Let's let the dust settle and see what happens.''

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Posted on: October 17, 2011 10:49 pm

Shurmur: Hillis not on trading block


Posted by Josh Katzowitz

With Tuesday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline nearly upon us, it would seem that Browns running back Peyton Hillis would be a good candidate to be moved somewhere else. After he missed Week 4 with a supposed sickness -- his agent came out later and said otherwise -- he’s been a forgotten man the past couple weeks.

What's up with Hillis?
Then, he supposedly hurt his hamstring Sunday, but then went back into the game only to block. It’s as if the Madden cover boy is (gasp!) cursed.

Despite all the weirdness, Cleveland supposedly isn’t going to part ways with him. That’s what Pat Shurmur said today, claiming that Hillis was not on the Browns trading block.

"I don't want to talk about trades," Shurmur said. "I don't think that's something that you could ... no, he's not on the trading block."

Which would make sense if the Browns were using Hillis as a guy who rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns. Except they’ve basically been using him as Montario Hardesty’s backup. And if that’s the case, they’re probably better off seeing what they can get for Hillis.

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Posted on: October 6, 2011 9:11 pm

What is happening with Cleveland and Hillis?

HillisPosted by Josh Katzowitz

The Peyton Hillis saga in Cleveland is getting rather sticky.

The running back, as you probably remember, missed Week 3 because of strep throat, but reports soon surfaced that speculated that Hillis actually didn’t play as a protest because of a contract dispute.

Although the Browns apparently are working hard to sign Hillis, he’s still playing for $600,000 this year, and obviously, he feels that’s not enough (after what he accomplished last year, he makes a good point). And to make matters a little more sketchy, his agent cautioned him not to perform if he wasn’t 100 percent, fearing it would hurt his career and his potential free agent value.

“I would give him the same advice to him or any of my clients as if he were my son,” Kennard McGuire told the Associated Press (H/T to PFT). “"The game is physical enough, and the way Peyton plays the game, he needs all the elements of his physical game. Him being sick, and the level of his sickness, is the equivalent of being injured.

"Not only could he have hurt himself but he could have hurt his team. Nobody embodies Cleveland like Peyton Hillis. If anyone wants to point a finger, point it at me."

So, when Hillis returned to action in Week 4 in a 31-13 loss to the Titans, he only received 10 carries. Which meant we could ask coach Pat Shurmur if he was mad at Hillis and we could ask Hillis if he felt like the Browns were trying to devalue his worth by keeping his stats artificially low.

Said Hillis: "Take it up with the coach. I'm just running the plays that he tells me to do. I'm just riding the tide and waiting my chances and opportunities and trying to get things done when I can."

Then, on Thursday night, he tweeted this: “if I could have physically played against the Dolphins I would have. I love this city and hope to retire here.”

Said Shurmur: “It's a non-issue."

 Yet, obviously it is an issue and probably will continue to be an issue until Hillis gets a new deal or leaves for somewhere else (this is the final year of his rookie contract). So, what does it all mean? The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Tony Grossi explains:

“I think the coach is somewhat frustrated by all the attention the issue has received. I think Shurmur did believe Hillis was sick. I think Shurmur's play-calling and use of Montario Hardesty is not about "punishing" Hillis or trying to hype up the value of Hardesty. I think Shurmur simply called a bad game when it came to handling his running backs.”

Maybe so, but this issue might not be settled for a while, particularly if, as Grossi says, that Hillis’ next step could be to demand a trade. And it very well could get even uglier, especially if Hillis continues to listen to McGuire’s advice. But considering Hillis is on his third agent in four months (!), there’s a pretty good chance Hillis’ next representative might have a completely different tone anyway.

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Posted on: September 27, 2011 9:08 am
Edited on: September 27, 2011 9:49 am

Hillis back at work and feeling better

HillisPosted by Josh Katzowitz

One of the more surprising inactives from Sunday was Cleveland’s loss of Peyton Hillis because of strep throat. Although he had to miss practice last Friday, Browns coach Pat Shurmur expressed plenty of optimism that Hillis would be feeling fine by Sunday afternoon.

He was wrong, as became clear when a stadium valet fetched Hillis’ car a few hours before kickoff, and the Browns running back took off for home.

Apparently, he felt better Monday, showing up for work and participating in team meetings.

Shurmur told reporters, including the Cleveland Plain Dealer, that Hillis spent Saturday night at the team hotel and that he hoped a good night’s sleep would cure him of his ills.

"He was in all the meetings,'' Shurmur said. "He was getting better. He got really sick in the middle of the week, then he was getting better, so he was at the team hotel on Saturday night. We were hoping he’d get a good night's sleep and then get better. Then it didn’t happen. We were going through the process of getting him ready to play and he felt like he couldn’t go. I made the comment yesterday, with his illness, I felt like if he couldn’t play, the best thing for him to do was go home and get better.”

Surprisingly, the Browns did just fine without him. Montario Hardesty (14 carries, 67 yards) was solid, and somehow, Cleveland survived the Dolphins for its first win of the season. But yeah, the Browns wouldn’t mind having Hillis back in the lineup anyway, and it looks like that's exactly what they'll get for next Sunday.

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Posted on: September 15, 2011 10:04 am
Edited on: September 15, 2011 3:32 pm

Film Room: Colts vs. Browns preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

Sometime around Thanksgiving, the Indianapolis Colts will be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. By that point, their demise will have been dissected more times than the Roman Empire's. The general consensus will be that the absence of Peyton Manning (neck surgery) did them in.

Is it that simple? Actually, yes. We weren’t kidding all those years when we said this is a 12-win team with Manning and a six-win team without him.

However, many believe that the Manning-less Colts stink because they don’t have a guy audibling them into the perfect play call or throwing darts all over the field. This logic is sensible but also incomplete.
Instead of spending the next two months hashing out how bad the Colts are without Manning, and instead of putting up with all the armchair GM’s who crow that the rest of the Colts organization deserves some of the blame because “There are 52 other players on the roster!”, let’s be proactive and understand why, exactly, the loss of Manning dooms one of the most successful franchises in all of professional sports.

Then, we can move on and worry about the NFL’s 31 other teams.

1. Offensive Line Masking
The Colts have long had a below average offensive line. That comes as no surprise, really; with only a few exceptions (mainly at left tackle) Bill Polian has always turned to former sixth-and seventh-rounders or undrafted players to play up front.

That’s largely why Indy has been able to eat the heavy cost of having virtually all long-tenured first-rounders at the skill positions over the years (Edgerrin James, Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez and Dallas Clark).

Polian knew he could get away with a sub-par front five because his quarterback is brilliant in getting rid of the ball quickly and moving in the pocket. No quarterback over the years has made better use of the three-step drop than Manning, and no quarterback (aside from maybe Tom Brady) has better footwork in adjusting to pass-rushers.

Consequently, Manning has been sacked an average of only once per game in his 13-year career, which is about half the amount of a normal quarterback. When Manning does take a sack, it’s usually a result of execution, not misdiagnosing a defense. Thus, the hits never surprise him, which is why he almost never fumbles.

Last Sunday, Kerry Collins took three sacks and lost two fumbles.

2. The Run Game
Manning’s pre-snap adjustments did two things for the run game: They ensure that the Colts would always run to the favorable side (Manning decides at the line whether the run will be to the left or to the right) and it means the Colts run the ball out of the same personnel packages and formations from which they throw.

This prevents defenses from tracking Indy’s tendencies. It also creates a constant threat of throwing, which instills an inkling of hesitation in linebackers or safeties dropping into the box (hesitation always makes players jittery, which is partly why Manning’s play-action is so effective).

All of this prevents defenses from loading up and taking advantage of Indy’s undersized and ungifted offensive line. This often saves the Colts; when they’ve gotten away from the run-pass threat (such as in short-yardage situations), their futile ground game always has been exposed.

But now, this threat is gone, and there’s no reliable ground game to fall back on. Joseph Addai is at his best running out of passing sets (think draw plays) and Donald Brown is at his best running against college competition.

3. Helping the wideouts
The best kept secret in all of Indiana last year was that Reggie Wayne was slowing down. The numbers didn’t show it, but the film did. Wayne was not the same downfield threat he once was. He didn’t have the same burst in his redirection or tempo changes. Teams with good cornerbacks stopped rotating safety help to his side of the field. This changed the outlook for Indy’s other route combinations and forced the Colts to throw more underneath and inside.

Manning was able to recognize Wayne’s decline and adjust by either spreading the ball around or hitting Wayne earlier in his routes (when awareness and presnap alignment are more prevalent than physical execution). This is why Wayne’s yards per catch dipped to a career-low 12.2. Hitting a receiver earlier in the route isn’t normally an option, but Manning has uncanny chemistry with his wideouts (Wayne in particular).

This kind of chemistry can’t be replicated – no matter how savvy the hoary Kerry Collins might be. It’s chemistry that derives from a quarterback working with his receivers for several years and offseasons, and, more importantly, from working out of the same system all that time. Over the years the Colts have tailored their system more and more to Manning.

Even if Collins were intimately familiar with Indy’s system (which he’s not), it still wouldn’t click perfectly because it’s a system that’s custom designed for someone else. And, as we’ve already discussed, that someone else has pocket movement skills that 99.9 percent of the world’s other quarterbacks don’t have.

Without Manning’s timing and vision, Colts receivers now have to learn a new definition of "getting open."

4. The defense
The Colts have always had an undersized defense built on speed. It centers around the edge-rushing abilities of the defensive ends. Generally, as long as Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney are potent, Indy’s other nine defenders just need to soundly execute basic zone concepts.

A zone-based scheme behind a traditional four-man pass-rush is the type of defense you construct when you plan on playing with a lead. More than that, it’s the type you construct when you plan on playing minimal snaps. The Colts have gotten by with having small linebackers because they’ve had an offense that can consistently sustain drives and allow those small linebackers to always be fresh.

It’s easy to say now that the Colts should have been building a stronger defense in recent years. But the salary cap doesn’t allow for that. Polian probably would have re-signed more linebackers and cornerbacks or brought in more defensive free agents…except he had to pay Manning.

5. Relevance to this week
Indianapolis’ laundry list of limitations may not be as problematic in Week 2 as it will be the rest of the season.

Many pundits peeked at the Browns’ soft early-season schedule and determined that Pat Shurmur’s club would get off to a fast start. But one of the 10,000 or so reasons that pro football is better than college football is that with pro football, you can’t simply look at a schedule and accurately predict what a team’s record will be six weeks down the road. There’s too much talent on every team, and too many dimensions to each matchup.

The Browns are amidst a massive rebuilding project – their fifth one since returning to the NFL, by the way – and might not match up well to Indy’s style. Defensively, Cleveland’s new 4-3 scheme lacks the pass-rushing talent to exploit the Colts’ subpar offensive line. The Browns linebackers also had some trouble identifying underneath route combinations against the Bengals last week – something the Colts, with Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme, can surely take advantage of.

Offensively, Pat Shurmur is carefully managing Colt McCoy’s mental workload. Virtually every downfield pass Cleveland attempted in Week 1 came off some sort of play-action or rollout. In play-action and rollouts, the quarterback’s reads are naturally defined, as he only has to scan half the field. It’s a smart tactic, but it will be dicey to execute against the speed of the Colts defensive ends. Look for the Browns to ram the ball with Peyton Hillis. They’ll have to survive with one-dimensionality.

So who will win? Check our expert picks for all Week 1 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: August 30, 2011 5:28 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2011 5:29 pm

Eric Steinbach's disc will end his season

SteinbachPosted by Josh Katzowitz

Turns out the back injury that Cleveland worried could keep guard Eric Steinbach out for the season will do exactly that.

Browns coach Pat Shurmur, via Rapid Reporter Marty Gitlin, told reporters today that Steinbach’s disc injury has forced the team to put him on the season-ending injured reserve list.

Even though Steinbach underwent surgery Tuesday and Shurmur said it went well, he won’t be back until next season.

As Gitlin writes, it’s serious blow for a team that now has to replace him at the left guard spot. The Browns could try rookie Jason Pinkston in the role, or they might test out newly-signed Oneil Cousins instead. John Greco also could get a shot.

If none of those players work, Gitlin says, Cleveland will head back into the free agent market to find someone to line up on the inside of tackle Joe Thomas.

“He made the decision yesterday, late in the day, that he was going to have surgery,” Shurmur said, via the team’s official website. “We tried to do some treatments to see if it would rectify itself. It didn’t, so that was the next action.”

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Posted on: August 22, 2011 9:09 pm
Edited on: August 22, 2011 9:26 pm

Browns, Thomas agree to 7-year, $84M extension

Posted by Ryan Wilson

We don't know if Titans running back Chris Johnson will point to this as more evidence he deserves to be the NFL's highest-paid player, but either way, the Browns have signed left tackle and 2007 first-round pick Joe Thomas to a seven-year, $84 million extension that reportedly includes $44 million in guarantees, a league source tells the Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot.

Thomas has been one of the Browns' most consistent players since the team returned to Cleveland in 1999, and he is the cornerstone of an offense that finally appears to have a quarterback in Colt McCoy. (Yes, we're aware of similar conversations about Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn.) Thomas was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons, has started all 64 games in his four-year career, and has never missed a snap.

"Joe is obviously one of the finer left tackles in the business,'' coach Pat Shurmur said, according to Cabot. "He's a very, very good pass protector. I guess what's impressed me is that he's a fine run-blocker as well. Typically, you find a guy that's good at one and average at the others, but I think Joe is good in both phases, extremely good.

"He's big, has good feet, balance and body control. He has pretty good power for a guy that's a tackle. And he has a feel for the game. Usually what makes a player good is kind of a combination and he's blessed with a lot of those things.''

The Browns' offensive line has been the least of their worries in recent seasons. In addition to the revolving door at quarterback, the running and passing games fell somewhere between inconsistent and nonexistent. Trading for Peyton Hillis prior to the 2010 season immediately upgraded the rushing attack. And the emergence of tight end Evan Moore, and the addition of rookie Greg Little could give McCoy the downfield weapons he'll need to have any chance at success.

Ultimately, it all starts up front with the o-line, and Thomas has been a big part of that.

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Posted on: August 16, 2011 11:29 am

Colt McCoy worked with Brett Favre this offseason

Posted by Will Brinson

Over the summer, NFL players weren't allowed to contact with coaching staffs. So many of them turned to other tutors in order to beef up on their respective offenses. Nothing weird about that.

But that doesn't make it any less interesting to hear that Browns quarterback Colt McCoy sought out Brett Favre for advice.

"Since I couldn’t get coached, it was a great opportunity to pick the brain of a guy who’s played in the [West Coast] system for 20 years,” McCoy said via a Browns spokesman, per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. "It was a chance for me to get a lot of questions answered. We worked on footwork, progressions, reads and things like that. It was definitely a positive trip."

At this point Favre's name, in any non-retirement context, strikes fear into the hearts of NFL fans and scribes across the land. But McCoy's decision to chat with the future Hall-of-Famer actually makes a lot of sense.

Browns Offseason

For starters, Favre built his legacy under Browns president Mike Holmgren when the mustachioed legend coached the Packers. Favre is Holmgren's guy and Favre knows the system that coach Pat Shurmur is installing under the regime.

Shurmur had tremendous success with Sam Bradford, developing him into one of the more prolific rookie passers in NFL history. That wasn't because Bradford spent the year chunking the ball down the field either; he dinked-and-dunked his way to 3,512 passing yards and an NFL rookie-record 354 completions (on an also-rookie-record 590 attempts).

While McCoy is a different QB than either Favre or Bradford, he's still a talented young man who flashed plenty of promise his rookie year in the West Coast offense.

And if he wants to improve on an already pretty good shot at repeating his 2010 success, he's certainly making a smart move by seeking out the advice of the people who best understand the offense he's charged with running.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com