Reporting Daryl Ruiter
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – When Jimmy Haslam III was introduced as the new incoming owner of the Cleveland Browns on Aug. 3, one thing was abundantly clear – changes are coming.
But when, and where?
The futures of the current regime – president Mike Holmgren, general manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur are now in doubt.
Haslam has spent countless hours talking to all 3 – especially Heckert.
“We’ve had great conversations,” Heckert said. “He’s new at this so he’s just kind of asking questions. He wants to know how things go. It’s been fun talking to him about it because it’s almost like he’s just day-to-day and just how we do certain things like the practice squad. He just wants to know all about it and he’s been a really impressive guy because he remembers a lot of stuff.
“From one time I talk to him to the next time I talk to him, he’ll bring up the same stuff we talk about so it’s been fun.”
It’s expected that Holmgren will be the first to go with the reported, but unconfirmed involvement of former Eagles president Joe Banner. Banner reportedly still maintains an office in Philadelphia with the Eagles and remains an adviser to Lurie on non-football issues.
Until the other 31 NFL owners approve Haslam as the new owner of the Browns, he is not permitted to make any decisions related to the team.
That doesn’t mean that Heckert isn’t keeping him in the loop.
“I think he would tell you, right now he’s not the owner,” Heckert said. “He’s the guy in waiting. Do I talk to him about stuff? Yeah.”
For now, Heckert remains in control of the 53-man roster with input from Holmgren and Shurmur – but not Haslam.
“No, it’s not like that at all,” Heckert said. “Even before we did, have I talked to him about stuff? Yeah. No, he’s never said one thing like, ‘We should do this.’ I don’t want to go down that road because he hasn’t.”
Haslam has been picking Heckert’s brain to get an understanding of his philosophy when it comes to personnel and assembling the roster.
“He wanted to know how we think about keeping receivers versus tight ends versus running backs,” Heckert said. “He just wants to know and I think he has a little bit of an idea from what happen in Pittsburgh and I think he’s mentioned to you guys about that he’s been going around a little bit to some other owners. I think he’s asking them about a little bit of stuff so I think he just wants to know.
“I think he’s going to find out most teams do things a lot alike, but there’s going to be differences and that’s good.”
Prior to the preseason finale against the Chicago bears, Haslam and Heckert visited for nearly an hour down on the field while players warmed up.
“His memory must be great,” Heckert said. “We were standing on the field before our last game talking about stuff and guys were walking by without helmets or jerseys on and he knew who they were. That was amazing, it really was. He knew a lot of our players without their jersey numbers so it was impressive.”
In July, the Browns gave up their 2013 second round pick to select receiver Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft.
Heckert denies the impending ownership change had anything to do with taking the chance on Gordon.
“It really didn’t at all,” Heckert said. “To be honest with you, I don’t think I knew [the team was being sold]. When was the supplemental draft? July? When the whole [ownership change] started, I didn’t know about it. To answer your question, not at all.”
The Browns, who are coming off of a 4-12 season, are even younger than they were a year ago – 15 rookies are on the roster entering week 1 – but Haslam expects them to compete and win.
The only question is how soon does Haslam expect the big turnaround to come?
“I don’t know that any more than you do,” Halslam said on Aug. 8. “I think the Browns are headed in the right direction. They were 4-12 last year and they’ve had 2 really good drafts in a row.
“I think Tom [Heckert] and his team have done a nice job.”
It’s the third year for Holmgren and Heckert with the Browns while this is only year 2 for Shurmur.
Only 3 players are no longer with the Browns from Heckert’s first 3 draft classes and they were from his first draft in Cleveland (2010) – DB Larry Asante, WR Carlton Mitchell, and DL Clifton Geathers.
2012 Seventh round pick FB/TE Brad Smelly didn’t make the active 53-man roster this season but he was brought back to the practice squad.
Unfortunately for Heckert, instead of being able to focus on continuing his current plan for rebuilding the team, he along with Shurmur and Holmgren are instantaneously on the hot seat.
Haslam has been more visible since the announcement was made than Randy Lerner was in 10 years.
Only time will tell if it’s a good or bad thing.