Sources: Browns GM thinks he is next to go

By Zac Jackson and Pat McManamon

New Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s immediate announcement Tuesday of Joe Banner as the team’s new president and CEO didn’t come as a surprise in league circles. 

Haslam said Tuesday that Banner will take over on Oct. 25 and that current team president Mike Holmgren will leave at the end of the season, but those working under Holmgren in Berea, Ohio, have been bracing for these moves, and a domino effect, since Haslam’s ownership bid was announced on the first day of training camp. It became official with a unanimous approval at Tuesday’s owners meetings in Chicago.

Multiple sources told that Browns general manger Tom Heckert has told people close to him that he believes he’ll lose his position with the team at the end of the season, and that Heckert was making calls to friends around the league as early as August about potentially landing on another team’s personnel staff in 2013. 

Heckert worked for the Miami Dolphins before working nine years for the Philadelphia Eagles and has connections throughout the league. Heckert and Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson worked together with the Eagles before landing in their current roles, Heckert in early 2010 and Grigson early this year. Grigson was the Eagles’ director of college scouting from 2006-09, the same four years Heckert served as the Eagles general manager. At a news conference during this year’s draft, Heckert called Grigson one of his best friends.

Banner’s NFL experience comes with the Eagles, too, but NFL administration changes usually mean sweeping changes, and those on the personnel side of the Holmgren/Heckert administration have been preparing for a shakeup, sources said. Heckert’s relationship with Banner is not known. 

Heckert cleaned out the Browns’ pro personnel department upon taking his current job and brought on a number of ex-Eagles employees into prominent roles with the Browns, including director of college scouting John Spytek and director of player personnel Jon Sandusky. 

The Browns’ front-office roster lists eight people with the title of vice president or something comparable who were brought on to the business side of the operation under Holmgren. The man who has essentially run the day-to-day business operations during that time, executive vice president of business operations Bryan Wiedmeier, represented the team at Tuesday’s owners meetings, during which the sale of the team to Haslam was approved.

Haslam said Tuesday that he “had a great visit with (Heckert) and then (Wiedmeier) and his team on Sunday. So everybody is aware of the situation. I didn’t tell them any different than anything I said today. This is the only change we’re making. We’re only making it so that we have a good transition. And everybody else will be evaluated the end of the year.”

Asked if Banner would be involved with football decisions, Haslam said “it depends on how deep you go. But, yeah, Joe’s the CEO of the organization, and generally that means you’re going to be involved in all phases of the organization.”