BEREA - Try telling an impatient fan base that a 2-6 record is a sign of promise, and you might have a twitter account full of nasty responses.
That's exactly the message Browns coach Pat Shurmur delivered Monday as he wrapped up a 7-6 win over the San Diego Chargers. It wasn't pretty, but that's of little concern to a coach that is trying to save his job for next season.
"Obviously, record-wise we're not where I want to be right now, but I see a team that's improving," Shurmur said. "I see a team that's battling. I see a team that's with me every step of the way, and they believe in their coaches.
"I'm hopeful that we're going to continue to make those improvements and win a heck of a lot of games. That's where I'm at."
A positive sign for Shurmur is the way the players reacted to his suggestion that they take Monday off as a reward for the win. To a man they said they wanted to get to work Monday in preparation for Sunday's home game against the Baltimore Ravens.
That's not a sign of a team that has given up on its coach. It is the sign of a team that has plenty of young players that are concerned about their futures more than locker-room politics.
"The fact that they wanted to do it in the last week of October says a lot," Shurmur said. "I've been around a lot of other good teams that would do whatever they could to get a see-you-Wednesday. That shows me that there's a level of maturity there. It shows me these guys understand the importance of work."
Shurmur isn't about to go as far as to talk about winning the AFC North crown, although it's still within reach because of the sudden mediocrity of the division. It's about seeing improvement each week from a long list of rookies and first-year players that fill vital roles on the roster.
"I think we function better as a team," Shurmur said. "I think our young, skilled positions on offense are better, and we're getting production. We've won two games in the last three weeks, so let's call it for what it is. We're getting some defensive players back that will help us.
"If you function better, you're playing better, you've found a way to win a couple game and you're getting some players back that can help you win, which helps me stay positive."
One of Shurmur's best calls Sunday might have been tossing a game ball across the locker room to new owner James Haslam III. The broad smile on Haslam's face can only make Shurmur feel better as he tries to convince the boss that he's the right man for the job going forward.
"All along here our conversations have been good," Shurmur said. "I've encouraged him to learn everything about our operations and what we're doing because I believe in them. Joe (new president Joe Banner) and I are getting reacquainted. So I'm going to try to keep making that natural. I think it's going right."
Shurmur has been much more at ease at his press conferences since the win over the Bengals 16 days ago. That's an indication that he feels good about the team's direction and perhaps that he's fine with whatever decision Haslam will make at the end of the season.
"Let's face it. Everybody goes to work in Cleveland on Monday morning and it feels better after you win on Sunday," Shurmur said.
No one will question him on that statement.