By: Will Burge
Tom Heckert sat informally with small group of reporters on Friday and seemed resigned to the fact that his fate in Cleveland has already been decided. He claimed to have no feeling whether he will be back or not, but the conversation felt much more like a message to the fans: Don’t believe for a second that I want to walk away from this.
With rumors swirling that NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi might be replacing him at the end of the season Heckert said all the right things.
“We all know its part of the business and we still have to do what we have to do,” said Heckert. “If it doesn’t work out here hopefully I’ll go do the same thing somewhere else.”
What they still have to do is win three games to have a shot at the playoffs. What he has already done is build the core of a team he feels will compete for the AFC North crown next season.
“Yes, I really believe that, whether I’m here or not,” said Heckert.
So if the team is on the fringe of competing for the playoffs now and will compete for the division next season then why would Joe Banner get rid of Tom Heckert?
The answer is power.
If Banner makes a change in the front office, he can no longer spin it as Heckert wanting to leave. Heckert made sure that his desire to stay was very well known.
“Yeah, I do (want to stay),” said Heckert. “Right now, of course, I really enjoy the city and I really enjoy this team so that would be the ideal situation.”
The power that Banner would be trying to obtain would be final say over the 53 man roster. He was the main cog in an ugly and public power struggle within the Philadelphia Eagles organization. Andy Reid had the power over the 53 man roster, so Banner set out to find his own domain.
Now that “football reports to (Banner)” in Cleveland, as Jimmy Haslam III has stated, that part of Heckert’s responsibility is in jeopardy.
“I’m not going to lie, (final say over the 53 man roster is) important. It’s why I came here. I’m not saying that’s an end all but it’s very important to me.” Heckert then elaborated by saying, “The 53, I don’t think that’s an issue…that’s never an issue. Now, who has the say in the draft and free agency and all that other stuff…for me (the 53) wasn’t it, it was the other stuff. It’s who picks the players, who makes the trades and all that stuff.”
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier in the season that Heckert’s power to make trades had been taken away by Joe Banner. If this is the ability that Heckert covets, who can blame him for feeling like his time in Cleveland in nearing an end?
The fans can feel it too. They have started Facebook pages and drafted petitions to help save the first competent GM the Browns have had since their rebirth in 1999. It must be working because Heckert said fellow employees have teased him about the public outcry.
“I don’t read a ton of stuff but just being out and about a lot of people come up (to me),” said Heckert. “I appreciate it. I really do.”
Jimmy Haslam III should listen too. Just because you purchased a team does not mean you have to make drastic changes. Continuity for the sake of continuity is a poor decision, but so is change for the sake of change.
Results should dictate the future and Heckert’s picks are creating results.
The Browns have won three straight games, five of their last eight, and are doing all of this with a roster littered with rookies and second year players.
The only reason to jettison Heckert now is for power. Haslam has 100% of the power while Banner is trying to scrounge up as much as possible. Let’s hope Haslam remembers that just because he hired Banner to run his organization, it does not mean that he has to surrender his power and common sense as well.
|Will Burge covers the Browns for ESPNCleveland.com and hosts 3 Deep, Monday - Friday from 7pm-9pm.|
Follow Will on Twitter @WillBurge
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