Reporting Daryl Ruiter
BEREA (92.3 The Fan) - Cleveland Browns general manager Tom Heckert is very excited about the Browns starting to win again.
Whether or not he will actually be here to see it happen on a much larger scale remains to be seen.
Friday afternoon during an informal sit down with beat reporters, Heckert certainly did not sound like he expects to be allowed to see his 5-year plan come to fruition.
“I would love to [stay] and if it doesn’t work out here hopefully I will do the same thing somewhere else,” Heckert said.
If he’s not back, Heckert is very confident that he’s “going to get a shot somewhere else” but denied that he has already begun the process of searching for a new job.
Despite rampant speculation about his future, he sees the Browns as a contender next season in the same division in which they’ve been a doormat since it’s inception.
“I really believe that – and that’s whether I’m here or not,” Heckert said. “It sounds bad for me to say that, but I really believe that. I think this is a good, young team and you guys see these guys, the type of team we have, I like it. Everybody gets along, it’s just a good atmosphere, it really is. You don’t find that all the time.”
The Browns have had 72 starts made this season by rookies – most by far of any NFL team – Indianapolis is 2nd with 44 and enter this weekend’s game still mathematically alive for the playoffs despite an 0-5 start to the season.
“We thought there was a chance we could make the playoffs,” Heckert said. “Obviously you wish it would have happened a little quicker in the season and we won a few more games. It’s obvious a credit to Pat [Shurmur] and the players. We were in almost every game. We were up on the Giants and we ended up getting beaten pretty bad. Something would happen offense, defense, special teams. We were winning a lot of those games in the fourth quarter. Pat says it all the time. It’s about finishing. We finally figured out how to do it.
“We’ll see these next three games. Hopefully those guys are learning from it. But I do believe you can see the maturity on all these guys go up. They aren’t rookies anymore.”
Although change is part of life in the NFL – especially where the Browns are concerned because they have gone through presidents, GMs and coaches like water since 1999 – Heckert conceded that not getting to see his plan through would be disappointing.
“Yeah, you know it’s going to be disappointing,” Heckert said. “But I do get it. It’s just one of those things. I think there’s a variety of reasons why that could happen, but I’m OK with that. I don’t know how else to react. If it doesn’t work out, I can’t just sit around and pout about it, I’ve got to go try to do it somewhere else. And we’ll see what happens.”
The thought of replacing Heckert at a time when the Browns are finally showing they are close to turning a corner would be a significant step back and Heckert knows it.
“Anytime you make changes its going to effect some things,” Heckert said. “It’s not going to be smooth, it’s just not.”
Heckert has final say and control over the 53-man roster built into his contract and that is something that new CEO Joe Banner is trying to change by having football operations – i.e. Heckert – report to him.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s important. It’s why I came here,” Heckert said. “I’ve said it before, everywhere I’ve been I’ve kind of been the personnel guy even though I didn’t have final say. I’m not saying it’s an end-all, but it’s very important to me.
“For me it’s the who picks the players and who makes the trades, all of that stuff. That’s the stuff that I think is important.”
Heckert expects to find out soon after the season whether or not he will return in 2013. As to if he wants to come back, he said that he does.
“Uh, you know what? Yeah, I do,” Heckert said “I’m sure we’re going to sit down and talk and talk about after the season. But right now, of course, I really enjoy the city and I really enjoy this team and so that would be the ideal situation.”
Heckert didn’t want to predict if he’d be back in 2013 but wouldn’t be surprised either way.
“I don’t think I’d be surprised [if I'm back next year],” Heckert said. “But I really don’t have an idea. That’s the honest truth.”
The honest truth actually is that if Heckert isn’t back it’s because of Banner.