After San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh’s infamous handshake with Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, it doesn’t look like the 49ers coach is out to make too many friends amongst coaches. Harbaugh himself has said in the past that he isn’t out there to gather up allies among NFL coaches. But Cleveland Browns head coach Pat Shurmur sees it a little different.
“I would say Jim and I are friendly and professional,” Shurmur said during Wednesday’s media conference call. “I’ve obviously had a chance to watch him and his career. When I see him, we interact and I would say it’s a professional relationship.”
Shurmur has known Harbaugh since his college days. With Michigan State, Shurmur was an offensive linemen during the same time Harbaugh was at quarterback at Michigan. And by being in the Michigan scene, Shurmur has gotten to know Harbaugh father Jack as well as his brother John. Both Shurmur and John Harbaugh worked under the same staff with the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2007.
So does it give him any advantage over Harbaugh this Sunday?
“I don’t know if it gives me any insight on how to attack the 49ers,” Shurmur said.
Despite not having any real insight, Shurmur still understands the tough road that Harbaugh is on. Both Harbaugh and Shurmur are rookie head coaches that lost a lot of time with the team due to the lockout. And both are installing the West Coast Offense for their teams.
“The challenge is that you don’t have as much time during a traditional offseason,” Shurmur said. “But that’s more of a challenge than an excuse. You try to make sure guys are executing efficiently and find a way to move the ball and score points. That’s the challenge.”
Shurmur’s similarities also extend to his outreach to the quarterback. Much like Harbaugh, Shurmur was able to distribute his playbook to his quarterback (Colt McCoy) during the brief period that the lockout was lifted.
“I think anytime you don’t have a chance to practice, obviously you’ve got to make that up somehow,” Shurmur said of the lost time to work with McCoy. “I think the offseason for all of us as coaches kind of went from initially frustration and anxiety to OK, now there’s nothing we can do about it, and when you get them you start working with them and try to get them as good as you can.”
- Shurmur said that he hasn’t ruled out any players for this Sunday’s game. Specifically on RB Peyton Hillis (hamstring), Shurmur said he expects him to practice and to be “full go”.
- There was a lot of praise thrown at 49ers CB Carlos Rogers’ way. Rogers is having his best season of his career and Shurmur has seen Rogers grow. During his time with the Eagles, Shurmur has prepared gameplans to prevent Rogers from making big plays. Now he has to do it again,
“He’s played as well as he’s ever had, and he’s fit into a scheme where they’re so good against the run that they don’t have to be overly heroic in coverage, and that’s helped him,” Shurmur said.
- The Browns will stay at the Westin Hotel at San Francisco International Airport on Friday. Cleveland played in Oakland two weeks ago before hosting the Seahawks this past Sunday. Shurmur said he hadn’t talked to the league about having to make two West Coast trips in a three-game span.
“That would have worked out,” Shurmur said of the idea of playing back to back West Coast trips to save travel. “I’m not sure how we would have handled that. I’ve never done it that way. But that would have seemed to make sense.”
- Shurmur was the offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams for the past two years and he has seen a major improvement in the 49ers’ defense.
“I always thought they were a good defensive team and they took it up a notch this year,” he said.
Shurmur praised the rookies and inside linebackers. After coaching against Takeo Spikes, Shurmur said that NaVorro Bowman has fit in very well this season at inside linebacker.
“They really haven’t skipped a beat there,” Shurmur said of Bowman and Patrick Willis. :That’s a pretty darn good tandem of inside linebackers.”