Shurmur: 'I'm not worried about saving my job'

201212091449533828749-p2.jpeg

Shurmur: 'I'm not worried about saving my job'

BEREA, Ohio (AP) The Browns are still mathematically alive in the AFC playoff hunt. It's a long shot, but they haven't been eliminated with three games remaining.

And with every win, Pat Shurmur's odds of returning as Cleveland's coach improve.

With his team riding a three-game winning streak - the Browns' longest since 2009 - Shurmur feels good about the progress of his young team, which is finally showing an ability to finish games after so many close losses earlier this season.

But despite the good vibes emanating from one of the NFL's youngest teams, there remains uncertainty about the future.

Swirling around Shurmur are rumors and reports, one on the weekend involving Alabama coach Nick Saban, that the Browns intend to make a coaching change. The clock seems to be ticking on Shurmur, who insists he's not focused on anything but getting his team ready to play their next game.

``Listen, I'm not worried about any of that,'' Shurmur said Monday. ``I'm not worried about saving, I'm worried about doing my job and that's it. I just want to do my job.''

Shurmur will have at least three more games to strengthen his case to return, starting Sunday against the Washington Redskins, who won't know until later this week if they'll have rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. He sustained a mild sprain of a ligament in the right knee against Baltimore and it's too early to know if he'll be ready.

After starting 0-5, the Browns (5-8) have turned their season around, and Sunday's 30-7 blowout win over Kansas City was Cleveland's best all-around performance. The Browns gave up an 80-yard touchdown run to Jamaal Charles on the game's opening play, but responded by scoring 30 unanswered points and posted their most lopsided win since 2003.

It was another positive sign for Shurmur, who seems to be improving in his second season along with his roster of rookies, first- and second-year players. Shurmur was quick to point out during his news conference that Cleveland's rookies have combined to make 72 starts - a league high. Indianapolis is second with 44.

``That's good for the future because we're finally starting to find how to win football games with these young players,'' Shurmur said.

There's progress on both sides of the ball. Cleveland's offense is showing better balance behind rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who is learning to manage games and not force as many passes as he did earlier this season. The defense, anchored by a deep line, is showing signs of becoming a dominant unit and playing with a nasty attitude.

The Browns, who lost at least 11 games in each of the past four seasons, are beginning to blossom.

``I don't want to override my boundaries with, `We're the best team,' or say stuff like that, but we're putting something together here and it's going to be beautiful,'' said rookie running back Trent Richardson, who scored twice in Sunday's win to tie Hall of Famer Jim Brown's franchise rookie record with nine rushing touchdowns.

``We haven't arrived yet, but we're just trying to win to get to the next level and be an elite team.''

It remains to be seen if Shurmur will be around to coach the Browns once they move to a higher tier.

Owner Jimmy Haslam paid $1 billion to buy Cleveland's franchise, and he and new CEO Joe Banner may have already made up their minds to hire a new coach. If that's the case, the Browns' record over the final three games - home against Washington and road games at Denver and Pittsburgh - may not matter.

But if the Browns run the table, finish 8-8 and somehow make the playoffs, it would be difficult to explain not bringing Shurmur back for a third year.

Incredibly, the playoffs are still possible, but Shurmur said he has not raised any postseason possibilities with his team.

``I'm not going to focus on that,'' he said. ``Our energy, our efforts are all going to be directed toward the Redskins and that's where we need to be. It's a little bit easier to be shortsighted and narrow-minded with three games to play and I think we have to make sure we stay in the moment.

``We all know the math changes if you don't take care of business this weekend, so that needs to be our focus.''

In recent weeks, Shurmur has displayed more outward support toward his players. On Sunday, he kicked himself for pulling backup running back Montario Hardesty after he fumbled at the goal line. On Monday, Shurmur explained that he challenged a ruling that Josh Cribbs was down at the 1-yard-line because ``I wanted Josh to have a touchdown and I thought that was worth it.''

Shurmur is fighting for his players, and they're fighting for him - with every win.

It's all jelling for the Browns, and now it's a matter of whether it can stay that way.

``I've always been fond of our team,'' Shurmur said. ``What I like is they're tough, they play hard and when we ask them to do things they respond. They're a very coachable group. There's a mixture of young guys and older guys that have been around here a long time and when you see it all come together and they have success, that as a teacher or a coach, that's where you get your joy.''

NOTES: Shurmur was convinced RG3 would transform whatever team drafted him. He praised the Redskins for maximizing the QB's strengths. ``There was no doubt in my mind that he would be a success in this league,'' he said. ``No doubt. It doesn't surprise me the success, and I credit their coaching staff because they have incorporated things in their offense that utilize his skill and ability and that's smart.'' ... Weeden made an awkward slide on a scramble in the first quarter Sunday, ripping up a huge chunk of turf in the process. ``That was the hardest, roughest looking slide I've ever seen,'' Shurmur joked. ``I thought they were going to stop the game and bring out a dump truck.'' ...The Browns signed TE Brad Smelley from the practice squad to the active roster and waived DL Ronnie Cameron.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

Greg Hardy to Redskins? NFL expert says Dwight Freeney more "realistic"

Greg Hardy to Redskins? NFL expert says Dwight Freeney more "realistic"

With conflicting rumors swirling around the Redskins interest in free agent Greg Hardy, ESPN's Adam Schefter said that Washington's pursuit of veteran sack master Dwight Freeney was more "realisitic."

"That would be a name more on the radar, more realistic than Greg Hardy," Schefter said of Freeney on ESPN980 on Wednesday morning (click here for full audio). 

While 36-year-old Freeney is nearly a decade older than 27-year-old Hardy, the former Colts and Cardinals edge rusher had a much more productive 2015 season than Hardy did in Dallas. Freeney logged eight sacks as a situational pass rusher last year in Arizona, where as Hardy recorded six sacks and seemed to be a constant disruption for the Cowboys.

Hardy's off-field troubles also must be pointed out, while Freeney has always been a defensive leader on a host of playoff teams. 

Schefter went on to say that he believes something will happen with Freeney soon, either in Washington or elsewhere in the NFL. 

Any move to bring in another edge rusher only makes sense for the Redskins now that Junio Galette is lost for the season due to an Achilles injury.

Quick Links

Papelbon's struggles continue, Ramos and Rendon heating up for Nats

Papelbon's struggles continue, Ramos and Rendon heating up for Nats

Leftover notes and observations from the Nats' 7-6 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night…

Papelbon's rough ninth: Jonathan Papelbon crumbled again in the ninth inning by allowing three runs to the Indians, who saw Francisco Lindor single home the winning run against Oliver Perez in the bottom of the ninth. It was a crushing loss for the Nats and their second reminder in as many games that their bullpen may be a problem, perhaps even one worth addressing before the trade deadline.

Papelbon's timing is at least good in that he's not doing this next week, that it's coming before Monday's non-waiver trade deadline. There is still time for the Nats to add a reliever, though if they want to bring in a new closer, the price will likely be high. One has to wonder if the last few days have changed the Nats' thinking when it comes to parting with one of their top prospects in order to shore up the backend of their bullpen for the pennant race.

Papelbon has now allowed seven earned runs in his last two outings. He took the mound on Sunday with a 2.56 ERA, but now has a 4.45 mark after two straight uneven spots.

Ramos hits No. 15: Wilson Ramos appeared to be cooling off earlier this month, but lately has picked up the pace. On Tuesday he not only homered in the sixth inning - his second in as many games - he also doubled and later scored in the fourth. It was Ramos' fourth multi-hit game in his last six outings. He has reached base in 13 straight appearances.

Ramos' homer was his 15th of the year, which puts him one away from the career-high he set back in 2013. This is the fourth time in his career that he's reached 15 homers in a season.

Rendon's No. 12: Despite missing two games last week with the flu, Anthony Rendon continues to swing a hot bat. He went 2-for-4 on Tuesday night with a homer, two RBI and two runs. His home run was his 12th of the season, a two-run shot that scored Ramos in the top of the fourth. After going 0-for-14 in four games split by the All-Star break, Rendon is 9-for-28 (.321) with three homers and five RBI in the seven games since.

Rivero's streak snapped: Felipe Rivero gave up his first earned run in 11 appearances on Tuesday to snap a 17 1/3 scoreless innings streak, the longest for a Nats reliever this season. Rivero found trouble early, as Jason Kipnis led off the bottom of the eighth with a double and Lindor followed with a single. Mike Napoli then brought Kipnis home on a double play groundball. 

Lindor shows his stuff: The Nationals got their first look at one of the best young players in baseball. At just 22 years old, Lindor has become a superstar shortstop in a very short period of time and on Tuesday demonstrated in several ways what all the hype is about. Not only did he single in the game-winning run, he also made a terrific play in the field in the top of the seventh. Lindor fell down while gloving a hard groundball by Ben Revere, got up and threw a strike to first for the out.

Lindor also singled in the bottom of the third on a Gio Gonzalez pitch that came in chin-high. It was a pitch no one should ever swing at, but he smoothly poked a single to opposite field. Vladimir Guerrero would have been impressed. Lindor, who bats .307 on the season, had three hits in the game.

[RELATED: Papelbon again implodes in ninth as Nats lose to Indians]

SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE NATIONALS STORIES

Quick Links

OPEN THREAD: After Galette injury, should Redskins switch Trent Murphy back to LB?

OPEN THREAD: After Galette injury, should Redskins switch Trent Murphy back to LB?

This offseason Trent Murphy bulked up to switch from outside linebacker to 3-4 defensive end. The third-year pro out of Stanford added close to 30 lbs. of muscle onto his frame to take on the more consistent blocking of offensive linemen, but the move was largely predicated on the Redskins deploying Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith and Junior Galette from the outside linebacker spots.

Well, that plan has changed.

Galette will miss the 2016 season with a torn Achilles, and now the Redskins edge rushing linebacker group has gone from team strength to thin on the depth chart. A natural question then would be can Murphy shift back to the outside linebacker spot he played his first two years in the league?

"I have no idea," Ryan Kerrigan said about the move. "Who knows if that would be a possibility."

RELATED: KERRIGAN CALLS GALETTE INJURY 'SHOCKING'

In two seasons with Washington, Murphy's numbers have been pedestrian, especially considering his second round draft status in 2014. As a rookie he notched 2.5 sacks in just eight starts and forced two fumbles. Last year, his sack total increased to 3.5 in 15 starts. 

Murphy may be best suited as a 3-4 defensive end, especially with the added weight, as a run-stuffing defender. Strength has never been the issue for Murphy, where as lack of edge speed became apparent against NFL tackles. 

"He’s carrying it pretty well," Kerrigan said of Murphy's added bulk. "He definitely looks bigger and stronger."

This situation is unique: playing defensive end might be the best position for Murphy, but with the Galette injury, the 'Skins might need more capable if not spectacular outside linebackers. 

What should the Redskins do with Murphy - leave him at DE or move him back to OLB? Let us know what you think in the comments.