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BEREA, Ohio — Browns coach Pat Shurmur has already developed thick skin. Now, he's bulking up his record.
With two straight wins, the Browns are showing major signs of improvement in their second season under Shurmur, whose future in Cleveland could hinge on how his team plays in its final four games — if it hasn't been determined already.
On Sunday, the Browns (4-8) snapped a 12-game road losing streak with a 20-17 win over Oakland, putting the Raiders away with a clutch, 94-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, when Shurmur made a gutsy fourth-down call.
The Browns have gotten better, and so has Shurmur. He has been harshly criticized by some Cleveland fans for his game management and play calling, and there's a chance he won't be around for a third year once new owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner finish their postseason assessment.
Shurmur won't predict what's ahead.
"I don't want to talk about my future, OK?" he said. "I'm trying to make this the best Monday of the year, and I'm trying to get our team ready to play the Chiefs and then after that and so on and so forth. I don't look at it that way. I'm not taking any half-swings here. We'll just play it out and see what happens."
There's no denying that the Browns, with 17 rookies on their roster, are growing up.
They've been competitive since Week 1, but in back-to-back wins over Pittsburgh and Oakland, they've finally shown the ability to finish games. It's an important step in the development for any team, even more so for one starting a rookie quarterback, running back, wide receiver, right tackle — and with a coach under fire.
Shurmur acknowledges his team's evolution, but he knows the Browns are far from a finished product.
"I feel good about where we're going, we've just got to keep going," Shurmur said. "It's easy to let that momentum stop. That's what I'm guarding against, and I think our locker room understands that it's important you jump right back in the process."
Shurmur may be down to his last four weeks, but he's committed to making the most of them.
Haslam said in a recent interview that he believes the Browns are "very close" to being a playoff contender. He was noncommittal about Shurmur's future and reiterated that he and Banner would wait until after the season before making any personnel decisions.
On Sunday, the Browns will host the Kansas City Chiefs (2-10). After facing the Chiefs, the Browns will host Washington before closing out the season with road games at Denver and Pittsburgh.
He's made his share of mistakes, but Shurmur appears to be learning from them. Earlier this season, he was slammed for electing to punt on a critical fourth down against Indianapolis. Two weeks later, his gamble on a similar play against Baltimore backfired in a loss.
On Sunday, Shurmur chose to go for it on 4th-and-1 after quarterback Brandon Weeden was stuffed on a sneak.
Following a timeout, Shurmur had Weeden run the same play, and the Browns converted to keep alive their game-winning drive.
"I really believe in this group we have, and I really believe this is the foundation of something that could be really good," he said. "Even though I say that and believe in it, until we start winning football games, that's what shows it. That's really my concern. Some of the other stuff about me personally — what more can they say about me? I don't listen to it, but I'm told frequently about it. That's where the thick skin part comes in."