June 30, 2016

Partly sunny

Heckert expected to be fired

Scott Petrak

The Gazette

BEREA — General manager Tom Heckert was fired Monday in a quick meeting at about 9 a.m.

He saw it was coming months ago. Ever since new owner Jimmy Haslam brought in Joe Banner as CEO.

“As soon as Joe was hired, I knew it was not going to work out,” Heckert told The Gazette on Monday afternoon. “I was not going to stay without final say. Personally, I’m fine with that.”

Coach Pat Shurmur was also fired Monday after two years and a 9-23 record. He was hired by Heckert and former president Mike Holmgren and didn’t survive the regime change.

“I am extremely proud of the players on this team, who I felt made tremendous strides and helped to make the Cleveland Browns relevant again,” Shurmur said in a news release. “This group of players will achieve success soon, and there will be a part of me that will feel very good when that happens.”

Banner and Heckert worked together for eight years in Philadelphia. They left at different times, but both because they wanted more authority over football decisions.

Banner will have that with the Browns. He’s already started the search for a coach and head of the personnel department.

Banner disagreed with the notion he and Heckert couldn’t have coexisted, but didn’t give details as to why he made a change.

“I don’t think to dissect it is really going to be a constructive purpose,” Banner said. “If I even gave you an honest answer with even the smallest amount of criticism, I think it would be an unfairly negative portrayal of Tom.

“I just think as we looked forward and where we want to be two or three years from now, that we felt a change is what would put us in the best position to get where we want to go.”

Heckert is expected to be a candidate for GM jobs across the league, as five came open Monday. He was fielding calls much of the day.

“Some things are set up already,” he said.

Andy Reid was fired as coach of the Eagles on Monday and Heckert said they could reconnect somewhere.

Heckert may not have found a franchise quarterback — the jury’s out on rookie Brandon Weeden —  but he gained acclaim for infusing youth and talent into the roster.

“He’s a great general manager,” said cornerback Joe Haden, Heckert’s first draft pick in Cleveland. “I can tell by the way he drafts players. You can look and you see his draft picks are out there on the field just basically balling for the team.”

Heckert thinks the Browns are set up for a strong future.

“I really do think they’re gonna be a good team,” he said. “We — not anymore — the Browns are on the way to having a lot of good players. The chemistry in the locker room is unbelievable. As long as they don’t screw that up, they’ll have a good chance.

“One of the things I prided myself on was finding good people.”

Shurmur briefly addressed the team after the news, then spent time with his family. Shurmur said Sunday he will continue coaching. He will be an offensive coordinator candidate across the league.

“Coach Shurmur was very emotional and that’s what I would expect from somebody that pours their heart into it,” receiver Greg Little said. “You pour all of what you had into a season and to come up short you obviously are going to be emotional.

“I’m sure it’s like being told you have been cut from a team. I’ve never had that feeling, but I’m pretty sure it’s the exact same feeling: You didn’t have what it took.”

Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden will have a new coach and GM when he begins his second season.

“It’s part of this business, it’s an unfortunate part of this business,” he said. “It’s not on Pat, it’s not on Mr. Heckert. It’s all on us and we all feel a sense of responsibility. It’s just very unfortunate news.”

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.