Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 12/11/12
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.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Byron Scott: D’Angelo Russell’s immaturity ‘at times’ a problem

Kevin Love: Shoulder injury ‘just a stinger’

Nets’ Joe Johnson would ‘welcome’ a trade

Report: Grizzlies want Kevin Durant in free agency

WATCH: Karl-Anthony Towns throws down monster dunk

Dos Anjos: McGregor will 'break like a girl' at UFC 196

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

WATCH: D'Angelo Russell hit in groin by LeBron pass

Kobe Bryant has great response to Tyronn Lue story

Report: St. Louis Blues no longer interested in Jonathan Drouin

Doc Rivers: Warriors have 'swagger' of defending champion

Damian Lillard added as a finalist for 2016 U.S. Olympic Team

Celtics legend Paul Pierce prepares for what ‘could be’ his last game in Boston

Seven teams that must target a quarterback in 2016 NFL draft

Fighter says sex before fight partly to blame for loss

Kevin McHale: James Harden being out of shape hurt Rockets early

WATCH: Kevin Love re-injures left shoulder

Johnny Manziel’s grandpa on ex-girlfriend: ‘The girl has her problems’

Andy Dalton reunited with missing luggage thanks to social media

Chad ‘Ochocinco’ Johnson used to soak his ankles in urine

Why Tom Thibodeau needs to be in New York

Defensemen in high demand as NHL trade deadline looms

Thank you Daniel Bryan

The timeless greatness of Jaromir Jagr

Security guard indicted for assaulting University of Houston football fan

The LeBron-Kobe rivalry and Finals matchup that never was

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Thank you Daniel Bryan

The timeless greatness of Jaromir Jagr

The NCAAB power rankings

Report: Kings to keep coach George Karl

Was Alain Vigneault right about NHL's lack of punishment towards Wayne Simmonds?

Report: Knicks fire coach Derek Fisher

The best and worst commercials from Super Bowl 50

Best and worst from Super Bowl 50

Six best plays from Super Bowl 50

Eli doesn't look thrilled as Peyton wins Super Bowl

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker