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As Season Ends, Players Come To Grips With Expected Change

By DARYL RUITER, 92.3 The Fan Browns Beat Reporter
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Head coach Pat Shurmur of the Cleveland Browns talks with new Cleveland Browns team owner Jimmy Haslam prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 23, 2012 / (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Head coach Pat Shurmur of the Cleveland Browns talks with new Cleveland Browns team owner Jimmy Haslam prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 23, 2012 / (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

DarylRuiter_300 Daryl Ruiter
Cleveland Browns beat writer and member of the Pro Football Writers of...
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PITTSBURGH (92.3 The Fan) – As another season comes to a close in disappointing fashion, all the Cleveland Browns can do is look to the future.

As of Sunday evening, that future is very clouded as the speculation about who will lead the team in 2013 remains unclear.

Following Sunday’s 24-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, coach Pat Shurmur gathered his team for a final post game address.

“To me he was trying to hold back the tears,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “He put everything in to it. We were trying to do something that hadn’t been done since 1988, and with everything looming over his head, it’s tough. He’s in a tough spot.”

The veterans have been here before – some more than others. For the rookies, this will be a first.

Change is a part of life in the NFL and the Browns are about to go through it again, much to the chagrin of several players.

Kicker Phil Dawson, who is eligible for free agency when the new league year begins in March, has seen this movie over and over again since 1999.

“Change is never fun,” Dawson said. “It’s been a difficult season from day 1. When the team gets sold the first day of training camp, that’s adversity.”

With Shurmur all but out the door, there is no reason or motive for players to support him publicly. Typically in the NFL when players sense a change on the sidelines is coming, they pile on.

But not this Browns team.

They wanted to win one last game for Shurmur. Heckert too. But they came up short in Pittsburgh to end the year at 5-11.

“As players we appreciate him, we would run through a brick wall for him,” Jackson said of Shurmur. “And it’s just too bad we couldn’t get a win for him.”

Returner Josh Cribbs is also eligible for free agency. A fan favorite, Cribbs has been frustrated over the years with the constant turnover in Berea. He’d like it to stop. He’d also like to be back.

“A lot of things are inevitable, a lot of things with our team,” Cribbs said. “It’s been an honor for me, personally, and I would love to come out here next year and prove that I’m worthy to be on this team, the orange and brown, and be a high contributor.

“This is the NFL, this is a business. I don’t have any control over that, I can’t worry about things I can’t control.”

Shurmur is the 3rd head coach for Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, who sees the writing on the wall now that the season has ended – he’ll have a 4th coach next year.

“It was a little bit emotional,” Thomas said. “We’ve come a long way and a lot of people have seen the progress. No matter what happens he got the team moving in the right direction, I think he’s got a lot to be proud of [that] no matter what happens.”

Shurmur isn’t expected to be the only casualty.

General manger Tom Heckert is also expected to be shown the door.

“It’s definitely not because he didn’t do a good job, it’s because there was an ownership change,” Thomas said. “Sometimes they like to bring in their own people. I think Tom’s done an outstanding job, flipping the team from little talent to having a lot of good young talent and a bright future.”

Within the next 24 hours, the Browns are expected to announce they will be hiring a head coach and general manager.

It’s the reality that the players have come to grips with.

“If there is change I will embrace it, as long as we’re all on the same page with a common goal that’s all that matters,” Jackson said.

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