(Berea)- Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur were relieved of their duties as general manager and head coach, respectively, of the Cleveland Browns Monday.
“We felt that these moves were in the best interests of the Cleveland Browns and our future,” said Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam. “I enjoyed getting to know Tom and Pat over the past several months, and want to thank them, not just for their contributions to the Browns, but also the insight they were able to provide. They are both fine men and hope they have the best of success as they move forward with their careers.”
“This decision was not an easy one because of my relationship with Tom and Pat and the fact that they are both quality people,” said Browns CEO Joe Banner. “Ultimately our objective is to put together an organization that will be the best at everything we do. On the field, our only goal is trying to win championships. I have a great deal of respect for Tom and Pat, and I want to wish them and their families nothing but the best.”
“I leave the Browns feeling very good about many of the things we accomplished here and the direction in which I believe this team is headed,” Heckert said. “Having been around this franchise growing up, I was really excited for the opportunity to come here three years ago, and I want to thank Randy Lerner and Mike Holmgren for making that possible. I also want to acknowledge many of the hard-working people in the Browns organization, especially our player personnel staff, who are outstanding at what they do and supported me immensely in my role. I wish the team nothing but the best as they move forward.”
“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. “I want to thank them, as well as my entire coaching staff for making the past two years enjoyable. My coaches are outstanding teachers and even better men. They helped me lead these players through a unique time of transition. This group of players will achieve success soon, and there will be a part of me that will feel very good when that happens.
“I want to thank Randy Lerner, Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert for bringing me in and having the faith in me to lead this football team. I am disappointed that we did not win more games, but I do know the Browns are on their way to becoming a consistent winner. I appreciated the time spent with Jimmy (Haslam) and Joe (Banner), and wish them all the best as they provide a new vision for the Cleveland Browns.”
The moves came soon after a morning team meetings in Berea.
"It's the NFL, this is business," receiver Joshua Cribbs said after the 5-11 season ended Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Cleveland's third-string quarterback, Thaddeus Lewis, passed for 204 yards with a touchdown and an interception in his first NFL start. But the Browns dropped their third straight.
Shurmur insisted Sunday he had not spoken to owner Jimmy Haslam or CEO Joe Banner "for quite some time" and that he planned on conducting routine season-ending meetings and exit interviews with his players on Monday.
Shurmur pointed and said, "The future is bright for that group of guys," at one point.
The Browns were 9-23 under Shurmur, the lone highlight a three-game winning streak spanning late November and early December that had some in Cleveland doing the complicated math necessary to put the Browns in the playoffs.
The optimism died just as quickly as it arose. Cleveland came back to Earth in a 38-21 whipping at the hands of the Washington Redskins two weeks ago, followed by a blowout loss in Denver. Given a chance to sweep their biggest rivals for the first time in 24 years, the Browns instead lost to the Steelers in the regular-season finale for the fourth time in the last five seasons.
"You just wish you could go out with a win for him," linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said.
Many of the players also auditioning for jobs next year, the Browns played a lively, chippy game against their rivals that included plenty of pushing and shoving after the whistle and during play.
Shurmur, injecting a bit of risk-taking in a tenure filled with playing it safe, called a fake punt from the Cleveland 25 early in the third quarter that Ray Ventrone turned into a 35-yard gain, equaling the team's longest run of the season.
Cornerback Joe Haden said Shurmur's postgame remarks "didn't feel like a goodbye." But by all accounts, they held a heart-felt tone.
"To me, he was trying to hold back tears," Jackson said. "He put everything into it, and we were trying to do something that hadn't been done since 1988. With everything else that's looming over his head, it's tough. He's in a tough spot. The players appreciate it. We'll run through a brick wall for him; it's just too bad we couldn't get a win for him."
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