BEREA – The sound was definitely worse than a purr, but maybe not quite a roar.
The offensive line coach for the Eagles heard a wild cat behind his desk, sprinted out of his office and slammed the door. Mere feet away were fellow assistants Pat Shurmur and Brad Childress, dodging the cats chasing the rats in the bowels of Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium.
“We had to call animal control to come in,” Childress said Wednesday. “It was like somebody dropped a lion in there.”
That’s the setting in which Shurmur and Childress, the Browns’ offensive brain trust, formed their bond.
“We logged a lot of time together there, seven years,” Childress said.
He was introduced to the local media Wednesday for the first time since Shurmur hired him as offensive coordinator last month.
“I’ve got great respect for him as a teacher and a coach,” Shurmur said. “He’s very detailed in his teaching, and I think he’s a fine addition.”
Shurmur, who served as offensive coordinator last season in his first year as a head coach, will continue to call the plays. Childress will sit in the press box on gamedays and communicate with Shurmur through the headsets.
During the week Childress will run the offensive meetings and direct the unit at practice. He will collaborate with Shurmur on the game plan.
“During the week, you decide what the plays are gonna be,” Shurmur said. “That’s what you write on the card, and then you call them. There’s constant interaction between the play-caller and the other people on offense.”
“It really is all collaborative,” Childress said. “It’s not like somebody’s gonna pull something out from 1965 and everybody goes, ‘What the heck is that?’ It’s all about the game-planning.”
While the media and fans immediately asked after the hiring who would call the plays, Shurmur and Childress were concerned with other issues while being annoyed by the questions. They quickly put their heads together to review an offense that ranked 30th in points scored (13.6 per game) and 29th in yards (288.8) and devise ways to improve it.
“I’d like to think our players are gonna get better and will execute better,” Shurmur said. “And then there’ll probably be a thing or two that looks a little bit different.
“He can make decisions, direct it and put it all together. But basically, you’re talking about putting it together with guys that have worked together and speak the same language.”
Shurmur and Childress were hired by Eagles coach Andy Reid on the same day in 1999 and proceeded to learn the West Coast Offense. They lived in the same neighborhood, jogged together every morning in training camp and commiserated in the less-than-ideal working conditions of The Vet.
“There’s numbers of nights when you’d sit in there late and you’d hear …” Childress said, making a purring noise. “It had a drop ceiling with beer stains on it. It was a different smell every day when you came off the elevator.”
Shurmur was tight ends/offensive line coach then quarterbacks coach with the Eagles. Childress went from quarterbacks coach to coordinator, before leaving to become head coach of the Vikings in 2006. The relationship was built to last.
“I have a long history with Brad, and when you’re trying to build something that’s why typically guys hire guys that they’ve worked with,” Shurmur said. “Because not only are they good but you know how they’ll react when things might get a little stressful.”
Childress won two NFC North titles with Minnesota and advanced to the NFC championship game in 2009, but was fired in the middle of 2010 when things went south and he cut receiver Randy Moss without consulting ownership. He was out of coaching in 2011 and a candidate for the Tampa Bay head job this offseason.
The hiring of a coordinator should ease the burden on Shurmur, who wore a lot of hats last season, including running the offensive meetings and practice.
“Yeah, do I still look tired?” he said. “The good part of that is it will allow me in some areas to back away and watch it and then come back in on it.
“I trust Brad, and I think that’s an important piece. We experienced a lot of winning together. We fought out of losing holes and finished the year well. We were in the Super Bowl together.”
Childress didn’t feel comfortable evaluating Cleveland’s offensive roster, including quarterback Colt McCoy. He’s watched some film but not enough that he doesn’t still refer to the numerical roster.
Childress said it won’t be any problem going from head coach to taking orders from Shurmur.
“I think to be a good leader, you’ve gotta have good followers,” he said. “I know what I’m charged with here and how I’m gonna go about doing it.”
“We’re trying to create an environment behind the scenes where there’s a flow of information and ideas that are shared,” Shurmur said. “Brad’s here to help us win games.”
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