With new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner still expected to clean out the front office and the coaching staff, rumors persist that Banner could choose to replace G.M. Tom Heckert with former NFL executive Mike Lombardi.
According to Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com, Banner has declined to comment on the situation in response to mounting rumors that Lombardi is the target. Though that approach should in some situations be regarded as a non-denial denial, Banner isn’t talking about anything at this point when it comes to the coaching staff or the front office.
Still, if he’s thinking about dumping Heckert and hiring Lombardi, who currently works for NFL Network, there will be resistance in the local media. Grossi previously argued that Heckert is a better option than Lombardi, and a pair of Plain Dealer columnists — Bud Shaw and Terry Pluto — agree with their former colleague.
On Tuesday, Grossi came out strong against a Heckert-for-Lombardi swap: “[I]t would be a regrettable decision that would kill the credibility of Haslam and Banner as a formidable management team in the NFL. It would sap the positive energy of the ownership change. It would remind us in Cleveland that as bad as it’s been, it could always get worse. What the heck are they thinking?“
The reality is that new ownership typically wants their own people to run the show. But the fact that the Browns have been competitive in every game this year and have won two in a row (including a rare victory against the Steelers) and have a promising young nucleus of players makes us wonder whether the locals will make enough of a push for consistency and continuity to keep Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur in place.
Though the choice between Heckert/Shurmur and the unknown may result in a preference for Door No. 2, the Cleveland media seems to be lining up against the idea that Heckert should be replaced, if replacing Heckert means hiring Lombardi.