The Offseason Camps and Practices – How the Browns Get Better
In Pat Shurmur’s exit press conference concluding the 2011 season, he stated that he will be excited for the offseason this year as there will obviously be no lockout. He mentioned he had the schedule marked down to the day, leading up to the regular season. This intrigued me, as I wonder what kind of practices and training sessions he will run so everyone will be on the same page and gain a large understanding of his offense and how it should be run. One question which I keep returning to, is how organized will camps be for the team this offseason? If 2011 is any indication, there is room for improvement.
The 2011 season featured a few gaffes where someone as detailed as Pat portrays should have likely avoided. Running into a referee (garnering a penalty), not knowing the backup tight end was lined up as a tailback and subsequently fumbling, and time mismanagement at the end of the first half late in the season are a few mistakes the coach made in his rookie season as leader of the Browns. However, I’m willing to give Pat the benefit of the doubt and I believe he will learn from his mistakes and be a better coach in 2012.
The Cleveland Browns will experience several camps both with and without pads, four preseason games, and likely a family day at the stadium where the team is on display in the upcoming months. Each of three aspects will feature time where Shurmur will have the opportunity to instill knowledge, training/repetition, motivation, and camaraderie with the coaching staff, players, and management.
Early on in the offseason programs, the Browns personnel will be given playbooks for the West Coast Offense run by the Pat Shurmur (and Brad Childress) and the 4-3 Defense headed by coordinator Dick Jauron. Having a more time to practice than last season, the team should be able to see the intricacies of the offense and defense as well as the strategy for success both on a play-by-play basis and overall. (I omitted special teams as typically these systems are less complex and rely on more simple aspects like tackling, kicking, and most importantly avoiding mistakes). 2011 was the first season where both systems were installed, but after seeing the product first hand there should be film to study showing players what things worked and what did not; a very important step in the learning process in football. At any given time, the eleven men units should be able to take the information they learned previously off the field and implement it on the gridiron.
The team will get to put on the pads and execute what needs to be done to be successful on a weekly basis. Again, with no lockout, the team should be in a position to better implement both systems (offense and defense). The number of repetitions will be exponentially greater than in 2011, and all players will be able to visually see what they must do on every possible play as well as gaining opportunities to improve their techniques. What is very important here, is that the players will be able to bounce off questions to their coaches and can actively correct negative actions or tendencies.
Last season, the Browns had a few team sessions during the lockout known as “Camp Colt”. These trainings were designed to keep the offense on the same page and to build camaraderie. While these two tasks were accomplished last spring, the team was forced to not have contact with the coaches. Therefore, McCoy and other players unfamiliar with the West Coast Offense could only go off what they knew and the periods were essentially spent playing catch and hanging out with teammates.
The bottom line is that although there may have been some improvement from the unit, there will be a larger learning curve this season (no matter which quarterback is the starter). This will definitely be evident, as there were no group sessions for the defense at all. The players had less time than the offense to learn the schemes and adapt their abilities to what is expected by the coaches. Pat Shurmur and his assistants will be able to motivate players (especially when the young members err) and the best way to improve is through experience and learning from mistakes.
2012 is a very important offseason for the Cleveland Browns; I believe this is a period where the team and fans can expect to see a fair amount of improvement. For all the wrongs that occurred the past season, the young team can right them in the next few months. The veterans returning from last season should know what to expect from a coaching standpoint, as the entire staff is retained (sans Brad Childress). They will be able to see a whole offseason with this staff which can only help. Most importantly, the players will be able to teach incoming rookies (which can be several, depending on what happens in April) what it means to be a member of the Cleveland Browns.