- Associated Press - Monday, December 31, 2012

BEREA, OHIO (AP) - Before the ball dropped on a new year, the Browns said goodbye to another coach.

The same thing happened after seasons in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2010.

One day after another dismal, double-digit loss season ended, the Browns fired coach Pat Shurmur and GMTom Heckert, the initial offseason moves by new owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner, who intend to put a stop to the franchise’s never-ending cycle of change. The Browns‘ next coach will be their sixth since 1999.

“We’re well aware that this has been a carousel,” said Haslam. “It’s our job to find the right coach and the right GM and bring stability long term for the organization. That’s our role. Our goal is to get the best person.”

Haslam was matter of fact when asked what attribute he was looking for in a coach.

“Strong leadership,” he said.

Shurmur went 9-23 in his two seasons with the Browns, who were still in the playoff mix before closing the season with three straight losses to finish 5-11. Shurmur, who followed Eric Mangini into Cleveland, developed one of the NFL’s youngest rosters this season despite an undercurrent of change.

His first season was made more difficult by the lockout, preventing him from learning about his players. The bottom line, though, is that he didn’t win enough.

“I’ve never seen a coach with that much on his plate in two years,” linebacker Scott Fujita said. “To handle it the way he did and to manage it day-to-day the way he did and to not let the distractions from outside come in and infiltrate the locker room, you couldn’t have asked for more out of him.”

Haslam said the decisions to dismiss Shurmur and Heckert were finalized in the “last week or two.” It’s expected both men will quickly find jobs with another teams, and it’s possible they could be reunited with coach Andy Reid, who was fired Monday in Philadelphia. The trio worked together with the Eagles.

Haslam and Banner will immediately begin their coaching search.

During a 35-minute news conference that turned into a sales pitch for a new coach, they did not disclose any potential candidates. However, Banner is confident the Browns, who have lost at least 11 games in each of the past five seasons _ the second-longest streak of futility in league history _ will land a quality coach.

“Most of these coaches are focused on finding a place where they think they can win,” Banner said. “We think we can make a very good case why this is the best opportunity in the league right now.”

Already, the list of possible candidates to take over for Shurmur includes Alabama’s Nick Saban and Oregon’s Chip Kelly, college football’s two hottest coaches who both have bowl games ahead. One of them could be lured to Cleveland with the promise of having complete control of the roster.

Saban worked as an assistant in Cleveland under Bill Belichick in the `90s, and although many believe he’ll retire at Alabama, that doesn’t mean Haslam won’t try to hire him.

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