BEREA - Radio sports-talk hosts need something to stir up controversy, which in Cleveland usually means targeting the Browns coach.
Coach Pat Shurmur is discovering that reality as the Browns are one of two winless teams in the NFL at 0-4. Shurmur was criticized on the "Bull & Fox" show on FM-92.3 "The Fan" Wednesday afternoon for his reaction when asked if he planned to watch "Cleveland '95," a NFL Network documentary.
Shurmur said that he wouldn't have time to watch the show because of his commitment to preparing the players for Sunday's game against the New York Giants. He said the time for reading books and watching movies is in the offseason.
Talk show hosts Adam Gerstenhaber and former Ohio State defensive back Dustin Fox were critical of Shurmur for not taking the documentary more seriously. Both hosts suggested that the documentary, which dealt with the decision by former Browns owner Art Modell to move the franchise to Baltimore in 1995, should be must viewing for Shurmur and the players.
Shurmur defended his comments of Wednesday when asked Thursday about how he responds to criticism.
"A lot of that information I covered with the team when we played the Ravens a week ago," Shurmur said. "I don't talk about what I tell the players behind the scenes. That's when some of the information that was talked about in last night's documentary was relevant. There was a little bit of a history lesson when Art Modell passed away. You put that information in the players' heads on weeks when it's relevant."
Shurmur, like every NFL coach, knows that he will be criticized after a loss. He's bothered by criticism that he's not connected to the team's history, including the move to Baltimore after the '95 season.
Former Browns offensive tackle Doug Dieken said that Shurmur and his wife Jennifer often attend events involving the team's alumni.
"I worked for Nick Saban," Shurmur said of the Browns defensive coordinator in the '95 season. "I know a lot of the guys that were on that staff. I'm well aware of what it means to lose your team. I came from an organization - the St. Louis Rams - whose team went to Arizona.
"I'm not insensitive to it. I believe that history is important. I grew up in a town (Detroit) where their team hasn't won a Super Bowl. I understand it. But as the coach, your focus has to be on keeping your players in the moment, and the moments we're dealing with now are our preparations for playing the Giants. I was told all about that before I got here. I don't know what to tell you other than I get it."
Shurmur received some good news Thursday when he was informed that new owner James Haslam III, in an interview on the "FOX Business Network," said he doesn't plan major changes when his ownership bid is approved by the NFL owners.
"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 changes until after we own the team," Haslam said. "It's in about two weeks, and candidly we'll be halfway through the football season, so any personnel decisions we make would be made toward the end of the year."
Haslam reiterated the company line that no one is happy with the way things have played out.
"I don't think anybody thinks that 0-4 is acceptable and certainly (Browns president) Mike Holmgren and Pat Shurmur don't think it is, and we don't think it is," Haslam said. "But this is a young team; it's building. I think we're heading in the right direction."