Three Things I Know About the NFL After Week 14: Pat Shurmur, Tim Tebow (Again), and the Mighty NFC


Halfway through Sunday, I thought my picks were going to be atrocious this week.  Aside from strong showings on Thursday and Friday, it seemed like everything was falling apart.  Alas, dumb luck found me and shined it’s fickle light on the Tailgate Confidential.  A not so stellar 8-8 (147-69) straight up actually held back my 10-6 (96-91) against the spread picks.  If I had the kind of patience it would take to check back through all of my Three Things columns to confirm that this is the first time I’ve been better ATS than straight up, I’d have a hell of a stat for you.

Three Things I Know Today

The Fire Shurmur cacophony is becoming unbearable.  That sentence doesn’t necessarily mean that I disagree with the great outside voice masses, but it means that it’s time to have thoughtful, fact based discussions instead of getting on a cellphone or behind a microphone and screaming like a colicky baby. 

My take on the Browns coaching situation is one of patience and more patience.  Usually.  In the case of Pat Shurmur, patience will only bring more losing, bad play-calling, and inept game plans.  In Shurmur’s two years as offensive coordinator in St. Louis and 14 games into his head coaching tenure in Cleveland, he has ranked 20th or worse in overall offense, passing yards, and rushing yards.  Without making this an episode of By The Numbers, it’s pretty clear that Pat Shurmur has a history of running bad offenses in the NFL. 

If you’re argument for Shurmur’s ineptitude is based on offensive talent, I’m not here to talk you into Colt McCoy, Greg Little, and Peyton Hillis’ NFL Hall of Fame campaign.  I will grant anyone who brings it up the fact that the 2011 Browns aren’t exactly the Greatest Show on Turf.  Hell, they’re not even the Greatest Show on Grass in an Open Air Stadium That Should Have Been a Dome, or At The Very Least a Retractable Roof (What The Hell Were They Thinking?)  But, Shurmur’s St. Louis teams had some very good talent at the skill positions.  The 2010 Rams offense featured Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson, yet still ranked 25th in rushing offense and 21st in passing offense.  Sure, two skill position players don’t make a team, but Steven Jackson is better than any two Browns skill players combined. 

Look, this isn’t about liking Shurmur – or Mike Holmgren or Tom Heckert, for that matter – it’s about knowing that Shurmur isn’t going to magically become a better coach in the next three years.  It’s the Peter Principle

The principle holds that in a hierarchy, members are promoted so long as they work competently. Eventually they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their “level of incompetence”), and there they remain, being unable to earn further promotions. Peter’s Corollary states that “in time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out their duties” and adds that “work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.” “Managing upward” is the concept of a subordinate finding ways to subtly “manage” superiors in order to limit the damage that they end up doing. ~ Wikipedia (It’s good enough for this)

See?  Pat Shurmur is really Peter Shurmur.  The harsh reality for Browns fans, though, is that there’s no way Mike Holmgren is going to fire Pat Shurmur.  It’s not going to happen.  All the bloggers, internet radio hosts, podcasters, crazy morning show guys, irritated Plain Dealer reporters and disgruntled tweeters in the world are going to change Holmgren’s mind.  We have to get used to his bad game plans and terrible play calling. 

I don’t like Shurmur, either, but screaming about it just makes us all sound stupid.

 Tim Tebow is the craziest, most divisive NFL story I can remember.  Not only is it crazy, but it’s incredibly ironic that a guy who works hard to embody morality and discipline would cause so many damn fights.

First thing’s first, just so there’s no confusion about my take on Tebow, here it is:  Tim Tebow is currently an almost average NFL quarterback, who has all the tools to become one of the 20 best fullbacks of all time.  OR he could become a slightly above average quarterback.  He can be decent.  But, frankly, I’ll be surprised if he’s a starting quarterback in three years.  Not that it can’t happen, or that I doubt his work ethic, but I’ll be surprised.

The thing that makes this so crazy is how divisive Tebow is to the fans.  Some people just hate that he flaunts his religion (although he didn’t exactly invent post game prayer circle).  Some people love that he’s not afraid to be open about his faith.  There are fans that hate the Tebow hype train so much that it causes them to bash him and fans that get bent out of shape about Tebow getting bashed just because of the hype train.  I’ve even been in two arguments about him lately, with people I like, for no damned reason.

I don’t understand why people aren’t more willing to concede that judging players (and people) is rarely a black and white issue.  The Tebow supporters are only willing to talk about his leadership and work ethic, while his detractors only talk about his throwing mechanic and how much better Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are playing quarterback.  The truth is, both sides are right.  (What both sides are wrong about is the “Tebow haters need to evaluate their pathetic lives” argument.  Or, the famous “Tebow lovers need to evaluate their pathetic lives” idea.)

Tim Tebow is a hard working leader who doesn’t make very good decisions with the ball or throw an accurate, tight spiral.  Maybe Tim Tebow will be a special NFL quarterback someday, maybe he’ll be Doug Flutie.  Who knows.  I do know that I’m rooting for him to succeed.  Not because I like the Denver Broncos (As a Cleveland fan, I will always hate them), but because I usually root for guys that are willing to wear their emotions and values on their sleeve.  That means there are a lot of guys in the NFL that I root for.  None of them are Steelers.

The Green Bay Packers are no longer runaway favorites to win the Superbowl.  Not because they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs this week (The freaking Chiefs.  Led by Romeo Crennel and Kyle Orton.), but because the NFC is really coming into it’s own.  Of the six playoff teams, five look to finish the season with at least 10 wins, and if the Dallas Cowboys can win out, all six teams will be in double digits.  That’s not exactly a once in a lifetime occurrence, but the NFC playoff teams have more firepower this year than Seal Team Six.  The NFC playoffs teams have a stupid +634 combined scoring differential with three teams (Packers, Saints, 49ers) posting a differential in the triple digits.  That’s more than 200 points greater than the AFC’s combined differential.  Aside from San Francisco – who gets to beat up on the NFC West six times – there isn’t a top notch defense in the NFC.  It’s all offense, all the time.

I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see all of the NFC playoff games decided in the mid to high 30s, and once shootouts like that start happening, there’s no telling who’s going to come out on top.  If the playoffs started today, the two first round NFC games would be Atlanta at Dallas and Detroit at San Francisco.  Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, Dez Bryant, Felix Jones, Calvin Johnson, and Frank Gore.  Holy bet all the overs, Batman.  (A quick comparative aside; the first round of the AFC playoffs would be Ray Rice, Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez, and maybe a healthy Andre Johnson.  *crickets*) 

I’m sticking with my Packers pick to win the Superbowl, but it isn’t going to be as easy as it looked early in the year.  It never is.

Have NFL questions?

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Josh says things. Here and at Josh Flagner {dot} com. #MTAF #CavsZine