But coach Pat Shurmur remains resolute in the belief his young team is headed in the right direction.
“There’s a lot of years around here where I don’t know what it was, but I do think we are building a team that is relevant, and you have to be relevant before you become a playoff team,” he said Monday. “So it’s somewhat of a journey and that’s the way it is and we’ve had to make this journey this year with change, and looming change, and so that’s what you push through.”
Shurmur was referring to the sale of the team to Jimmy Haslam, Joe Banner coming on as CEO and president Mike Holmgren being jettisoned. Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert are expected to be fired next week.
The Browns lost 38-21 to Washington on Dec. 16 and 34-12 Sunday in Denver following the first three-game winning streak since 2009.
“You’ve got to look at the season in its entirety and we’ve lost two (straight),” Shurmur said. “But there was a period there where we won three in a row and we’re working a lot of young players that in my opinion are going to provide a great foundation for this team, and you’ve got to start somewhere.
“As a coach what I look at is these individual players getting better, working together and fighting through injuries.”
Shurmur, in his second season, said the team is further along than it was after 2011.
“I believe that we’re a better football team, more ready to make the next jump than we were last year,” he said. “I believe that, just by the way I see the team functioning.”
The blowout losses provided a measuring stick.
“The Washington Redskins (game) we were (up) 14-10 at halftime,” Shurmur said. “Against the Denver Broncos we were down 14-3 and took the first series of the second half and scored and went 14-6. Then it got away from us in both situations.
“We can talk about finishing and all those things. And maybe that’s what comes with these guys having a little bit more experience, add a few more players, everyone functions a little bit better together.”
Shurmur met with special teamer Joshua Cribbs to discuss Cribbs’ profane tweet following the loss.
“Of course, that’s not acceptable,” said Shurmur, who doesn’t like Twitter. “You know we had a little conversation about why I don’t like that, how he shouldn’t do that and I think he’s remorseful and I added to that he shouldn’t be reading tweets after the game.
“Emotions are raw when you don’t win a game and I think he understands that and it’s very important that you try to gather yourself and gain composure. We’re all competitive people but it’s also important that we use good judgment.
I think part of using good judgment is don’t read that stuff. You just don’t because that won’t infuriate you more.”
Cribbs was ripped on Twitter for muffing a punt that led to a Broncos touchdown. He responded.
“I see all the negativity on twitter after I gave my life to this (expletive),” he tweeted. “So 2 all u who are against me (expletive) all y’all. I’m still gonna do me!”
Cribbs later deleted the tweet. Shurmur wouldn’t say if he fined Cribbs, calling it a team issue.
Cornerback Sheldon Brown sustained a concussion when Broncos receiver Brandon Stokley leveled him with a shoulder to free up Demaryius Thomas on a crossing route. Stokley was called for pass interference and Brown was sent to the locker room.
“In third-down situations, sometimes obvious man situations, you try to rub routes — they’re not picks, they’re rubs — and sometimes there’s contact like that,” Shurmur said. “I don’t think anybody was trying to hurt anybody.”
Shurmur said Brown returned with the team. His streak of 175 straight games is in jeopardy.
• Left guard John Greco hurt his thumb, but Shurmur said he’ll be OK.
You take it
Shurmur prefers to defer when he wins the coin toss, opting to get the ball at the start of the second half. He stuck to his guns Sunday, even though Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning would open with the ball.
He made Shurmur pay by going 80 yards in 2:50 for a 7-0 lead.
“I like having the ability to get the ball in the second half,” Shurmur said. “I trust our defense.
“Unfortunately, they went down and scored.”
The Browns finish the year Sunday in Pittsburgh and have the chance to sweep the season series for the first time since 1988. The Browns won 20-14 on Nov. 25.
“We all know how important the rivalry is with the Steelers, so it would be a big deal,” Shurmur said.