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Nothing left for Browns but to start fresh

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By Steve DiMatteo

Two weeks ago, the Browns were playing well enough to make CEO Joe Banner’s offseason decisions much tougher than anticipated. All of a sudden, head coach Pat Shurmur had the Browns playing as a cohesive unit, and GM Tom Heckert’s recent draft picks were leading the way toward NFL relevance.

Fast forward to today, and Banner’s decision has never looked easier.

The Browns have been obliterated in their last two games, losing 38-21 to the Robert Griffin III-less Redskins and 34-12 to the red-hot Broncos. The full regression of the entire team is now complete, and the Browns are right where they usually find themselves: stumbling to the finish line of yet another disappointing season.

Shurmur is most certainly gone. Though he has dealt with the youngest roster in the league, a continued lack of direction and a multitude head-scratching decisions have done him in.

Heckert still could make a strong case for his job. His transformation of an aging veteran-laden team into a young, at-times-exciting group of players should be applauded. But his two first-round picks of 2012 — QB Brandon Weeden and RB Trent Richardson — haven’t completely lived up to expectations. While Heckert has been solid in drafting vital role players, he has yet to select true playmakers (though it should be noted that Richardson has played through multiple injuries this season).

Banner and owner Jimmy Haslam III are standing at the precipice of what could be a better, more promising future for the Browns' franchise. Despite the recently sustained beatings (and the one that might be coming against the Steelers), there is a young core of players that makes things seem anything but hopeless.

But all of that might only be achieved through a scorched-earth demolition of the organization this offseason. While some people have done enough to keep their jobs or even get a chance at a promotion (Heckert, defensive coordinator Dick Jauron), these certain firings have more to do with a mindset than anything else.

A fresh start allows Banner and Haslam to approach everything from the perspective that they implemented every key piece of the organization. Top to bottom, it will be an installation of their philosophies, ones fully bought into by the incoming staff. In other words, a clear plan will be in place with no outliers.

That is why Heckert— despite all the reasons why he should stick around — will be let go after Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh. He initially came to Cleveland because he would be given final say over the Browns’ roster. But Banner doesn’t agree with that principle, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason for Heckert to stay if he has to relinquish that power.

Why bother turning things into a mess so early? It’s just as easy to find a replacement for Heckert, despite his relatively strong record dealing with personnel. Browns fans don’t want to go through yet another regime change, but if the last two games have proven anything, it’s that the team still has a long way to go.

Steve DiMatteo is a freelance writer based in Cleveland who currently serves as the editor/lead writer of Dawg Pound Daily. You can follow him on Twitter at steve_dimatteo.

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