Shurmur hopes to turn Browns around

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

Pat Shurmur nurtured Donovan McNabb into one of the NFL's best quarterbacks in Philadelphia.

This season he was the man behind Sam Bradford, who had one of the most remarkable rookie seasons of any NFL quarterback.

Now he goes to Cleveland where Browns' president Mike Holmgren is hoping he can do similar good things with Colt McCoy.

Shurmur, an advocate of the West Coast offence Holmgren prefers, was named as the Browns new head coach Thursday.

Shurmur, 45, helped the Rams' resurrection this season as offensive coordinator. Under his guidance Bradford passed for 18 touchdowns and 3,512 yards second-most by a rookie behind Peyton Manning's 3,739 in 1998.

Shurmur had been viewed as the favourite for the position, partly because Holmgren is familiar with him. He is the nephew of Fritz Shurmur, Holmgren's defensive coordinator when he led the Packers to a Super Bowl win. Shurmur also worked with McNabb under Andy Reid in Philadelphia. Reid, in turn, was Holmgren's assistant in Green Bay.

All of which may have helped Shurmur get the job. But it won't help him keep it if he doesn't find a way to make a Browns' team that has won just 14 games in the past three seasons a contender. "Pat is a bright, young man who grew up in football and around the coaching profession," Holmgren said. "I came away from our interview very impressed with him as a person, his extensive knowledge of the game and his track record. I feel he possesses the necessary qualities ... to lead our football team."

A lot of bright, young men have come to Cleveland. All have left older and looking not quite so bright. Now it's Shurmur's turn, facing the biggest challenge of his career trying to turn around a franchise that since returning to the NFL in 1999 has had just two winning seasons.

Labour update

The labour agreement between the players and NFL owners expires March 3.

So far both sides have spent more energy currying public favour than they have trying to please each other. This week players' representatives went on a public bitch session about the difficulties of playing an 18-game schedule and that the league's insistence on implementing one is holding up an agreement.

Players have already been told to plan for a potential lockout.

Thursday, the NFL's chief labour lawyer publicly accused the union not the owners of actually wanting a lockout.

"This is not a union eager to avoid a lockout," Bob Batterman told the Washington Post. "This is a union waiting for a lockout to occur."

There is speculaton that the NFLPA believes that after a lockout is imposed, the union will be able to exert the greatest possible leverage against the league, via political pressure or the court system.

Batterman declined to say what the league will do if March 4 comes without a deal. Meantime the union is bracing for a lockout that wouldn't seem necessary if both sides would spend a little less time bickering and more time negotiating.

Sanchez feeling great

The New York Jets season is riding less on Rex Ryan's lip than it is on Mark Sanchez's arm.

The Jets' quarterback said Thursday that his ailing right shoulder is feeling "the best it has felt in three or four weeks."

But his insistence that he can fight on might be a bit like that knight in Monty Python insisting he's only got a "flesh wound".

OK, that's exaggerating, perhaps. But Sanchez has refused to say what the diagnosis is on his shoulder, how much it bothers him, or whether it has affected some dubious throws in the past month.

"I was full-practice today for the first time in a while and that was huge. We know it's getting better and that's the most important thing is, week-by-week it's getting better, so I'm ready to go."

He better be because the Jets success hinges not just on whether he can throw, but whether he can throw effectively. The outcome of Sunday's division playoff against New England is simple. In his two career wins over the Patriots Sanchez did not throw an interception. In the two losses he was picked off seven times.

If he can capitalize on the Patriots' suspect pass defence, the Jets have a chance. If he doesn't, the main course on the Jets' post-game flight home will be the crow flambe.

Carroll wants Hasselbeck back

Matt Hasselbeck is a free agent at the end of the season but, if Pete Carroll has his way, he's not going anywhere.

He's had a terrific run for us and we want to see what we can do to keep that going," Carroll said during his weekly press conference, Carroll said the team would do "everything we can" to have Hasselbeck return for an 11th season with the franchise.

A couple weeks ago Hasselbeck would've found plenty of volunteers to drive him to the airport on his way out of town. He got booed off the field in Week 15 against Atlanta and was replaced in the third quarter by backup Charlie Whitehurst.

It was Whitehurst, not Hasselbeck who started and won the season finale that got Seattle into the playoffs. But Carroll went back to the veteran in the wild card upset of New Orleans and he left the field to cheers.

So, would he come back? Hasselbeck responded with a definite maybe saying he wants to play on a winning team. When it comes to a winning team, the jury is still out on whether the Seahawks qualify.

Talyor's sad saga

For Lawrence Taylor its been a short ride from the Hall of Fame to the Hall of Shame.

One of the greatest players to ever step on the field in the NFL, Taylor pleaded guilty to two misdemeanour charges for soliciting a 16-year-old prostitute Thursday.

He will receive no jail time and is expected to be sentenced to six years probation. He also was ordered to pay $1,300 in fees. The biggest stain, however, comes to his reputation which is once again tattered.

Taylor led the Giants to two Super Bowl titles, in 1987 and 1991 and was named to football's hall of fame in 1999 but his life off the field is star-crossed. He served time in jail for tax evasion, he wrote in his memoirs of cocaine abuse and partying with prostitutes. At least twice he was in car accidents and left the scene of the accidents and he was suspended several times by the NFL for drug violatons.

Taylor also faces a sexual offender hearing in a few months to determine if he must register as a sex offender.

Taylor was arrested May 6 in Montebello, N.Y. Police said they were led to his hotel room by a 16-year-old runaway who had allegedly been forced into prostitution. In court, under oath, Taylor admitted that he had sex with a 16-year-old and said: "She told me she was 19."

In New York, ignorance of age is not a legal defence. Also, since the girl in the case was 16, by law she was not old enough to give consent.

Fox lands in Denver

John Fox's flight to Denver to interview for the head coaching job with the Broncos was delayed three times this week.

Some people might consider that an omen. Fox, however, didn't take the hint. He did, however, get the job.

After finally making his interview Wednesday, the Broncos announced on Thursday that Fox would be their new head coach. He beat out Houston Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and Jacksonville offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.

The winner (and we use the term loosely) gets to take over a Broncos team that went a franchise-worst 4-12. "He's a dynamic and proven leader," Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway said. The Broncos are hoping Fox, 55, can do for them what he did in Carolina where he took over a 1-15 Panthers team after 2001 and took them to the 2003 Super Bowl.

"He's coached great defences" said Elway, "turned teams around and been to Super Bowls. We couldn't be more excited to have him lead our football team."

Meanwhile, former Vikings' head coach Brad Childress intends to interview with the Dolphins Saturday about their offensive co-ordinator position. "I really don't know what I want to do," Childress said. "I may just sit out this year and maybe two years. But I've coached for 33 straight years and if the right position comes up, I'm going to give it strong consideration. I'm a football coach." Also, Seahawks quarterback coach Jedd Fisch has accepted the offensive co-ordinator/quarterbacks coach job at the University of Miami


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