The Browns (5-8) have won three straight games for the first time since the end of the 2009 season. Cleveland is coming off its most convincing win under coach Pat Shurmur.
So, is Shurmur on his way to saving his job with the Browns? All any observer can say with certainty is this: Shurmur is finally making a case for him to stay. This is more than just winning. It's how the Browns are winning.
Shurmur delivered a creative spark to the Browns' offense Sunday, when he broke out the Wildcat, the pistol formation and the wrinkle of using wide receiver Greg Little in the backfield. Two of the trick plays paid off in the red zone: Josh Cribbs' 12-yard run out of the Wildcat set up a 1-yard touchdown, and Little's 17-yard run after taking a pitch led to another 1-yard touchdown. The only move that didn't work out as planned was the pistol formation (quarterback Brandon Weeden lines up 5 yards behind center with a back behind him), which resulted in a pass knocked down at the line.
This was a drastic change from the coach who seemed to make all of the wrong choices when it came to converting third-and-1 and deciding whether to go on fourth down.
"We did some fun stuff," Shurmur told reporters after the game, "and it worked out."
All of this "fun stuff" came out on the same day a report in The Boston Globe linked Alabama coach Nick Saban, Oregon coach Chip Kelly and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to the Browns. According to The Globe, all three could surface on the Browns' coaching radar if the Browns hire current NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi to replace Tom Heckert as general manager.
There have been a handful of reports suggesting Lombardi is the front-runner for the job. Browns CEO Joe Banner called the reports "wild speculation" before adding, "They could be right or they could be wrong."