As most of you know, Cleveland Browns team president Mike Holmgren met with the local media Thursday afternoon. We have already covered a few of the topics he talked about, which were his intentions on being more available to the media moving forward, wearing brown jerseys at home, and his relationship with Jim Brown.
In this post, we take a look at everything else Holmgren talked about, which includes the following:
- Evaluating Brandon Weeden
- Name a Starting QB
- Backup QB Situation - Wallace & McCoy
- Challenge of Having a Rookie QB and Rookie RB
- Fixing the Dropped Passes, the WR Situation, and Massaquoi
- Getting Better This Season and in the Division
- Talking About Pat Shurmur
- Dick Jauron and the Defense
- Selling the Team, and Listening to the Fans
I have organized the remainder of the press conference transcript by these topics after the jump.
Evaluating Brandon Weeden
(On his impressions of Brandon Weeden and if he is the franchise quarterback)- "Well that term, and Tom (Withers) you know this better than anybody, that term is a tough term. Franchise quarterback, are you talking about a Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Joe Montana or whoever. He’s a rookie. Does he display his talent on the field, his ability to throw the ball? I think you’ve all seen that. He’s gifted that way. There is a maturity level because of his age, he is a different rookie because of that. I think lastly, if you pick a player in the first round, you are saying something. You’re telling everybody something. Now having said that, nothing gets handed to anybody and that’s essentially what I told him, but if he’s the player we think he is and can be, I think he has the chance to have a fine career in this league, but he’s going to have to show us now. We believe that that can happen, but he has to come in and play. Keep in mind everything we have done so far is in shorts and t-shirts and so on. It’s a little easier to play the position when you know you’re not going to get hit, but right now it’s a healthy competition. It’s going to be Pat’s decision and at some point moving forward, you have got to name one. I think he was asked the other day why he didn’t he do it now. Well we aren’t ready to do it now. Well Washington did it now, I don’t care. I don’t care what they do. I do know this, you can’t get too close to the first game and still have it going on because of the reps involved and how you have to get that guy prepared to play so it becomes fairly obvious I think as we approach, who’s getting the most time in practice and that’s going to be the guy that’s the guy."
(On what he sees in Weeden that makes him a potential starter)- "I think those of you who’ve had a chance to visit with him, first of all, his skill level is excellent. He passes the ball very well. He does it easily, good velocity. He has the things necessary, I think, to play the position that way, which is the most important thing is to be able to pass the ball and pass it accurately. The second thing is, and you can’t discount this, he has a maturity about him because of what he’s been through first of all, and then his age, and the fact that after baseball he came back to play football. If you’ve talked to him, you sense that, you get a feel for that, his teammates do. He is as prepared to come in and start as a rookie as any quarterback I’ve seen in a long time because of his maturity level and his age. He’s already been through a whole bunch of competitive situations."
(On how Weeden is adjusting from the way they did things at college)- "His big adjustment is taking the snap from center, they didn’t do that in college, but he seems to be doing fine with that. In our offense, it’s absolutely necessary that you do that because of the timing factor. We’ll still run the shotgun. I think in the passing game, there are a lot of similarities between what he did in college and this passing attack. The last thing I would say is, he seems to be a fast learner, a quick learner. He has absorbed the playbook very, very well, which means he studies. In minicamps, they throw a lot of stuff at him. Sometimes it looks a little reckless out there, as you know and he’s been handling it very well."
(On how he knows at this point that Brandon Weeden is going to be successful)- "You don't know for sure. You are not going to go and bet the ranch on it. You base it on experience, you base it on guys you’ve coached, you base it on instincts, you base it on physical ability. The other thing that has to happen is that the supporting cast around the quarterback have to play and protect him. You have to do those things. If you look at the Browns history, the number one draft picks, where you swear, and you look back and it didn't work for whatever reason. You can do that for every team, draft picks that didn't work. You go how did that not work? I just think this young man has a great upside. It's a feeling. It's an experience."
Naming a Starting QB
(On at what point do you have to name the starting quarterback)- "I don’t know. It’s a good question, but as you go through this I think they both have had a lot of chances to throw in our minicamps and our OTAs. I don’t know and I don’t think anyone could tell you exactly when. When the time comes you kind of know. There’s a practice, you’re approaching the preseason games or the regular season and you go to get whoever it is ready for that first game, we better make the decision and again that’s the coach’s decision."
(On if he has had a change of heart regarding quarterback competitions)- "I have not had a change of heart. The situation I came into here, as you remember, neither one of those guys were rookies. They had played and done some stuff. It was my impression and it still is my impression, if you get to see a guy for three or four years, you have to know. You’re not still going, ‘Well can the guy do it?’ You have to know by then and be willing to make a decision. In our situation, you have really young people. Colt hasn’t played very much. Seneca (Wallace) has played the most or been in the league the longest. (Brandon) Weeden comes in as a rookie, but an old rookie, so it adds a little something. I think that will sort itself out and the quote unquote, ‘quarterback competition,’ will go so far and then a decision will be made and that’s the way we’ll do it."
(On Tom Heckert saying he expects Brandon Weeden to win the starting competition)- "Spoken like a true draft selector right there (joking). You know what, I am more of the mind to let it play out. You’ve watched football for a long time, you’ve all covered games for a long time. Normally speaking, it falls a certain way given a certain set of circumstances, but let’s let it play out. Tom has certainly like all of his draft choices to start and I understand that, but Weeden is our first round pick. As I mentioned earlier, when you draft a quarterback in the first round, you are drafting him to play. When he starts to play and when he starts, that’s a little different thing. Look at Aaron Rodgers, drafted in the first round and it took him four years to start. That set of circumstances, and you can go to a lot of teams when they didn’t start, Joe Montana in my experience in San Francisco. Of course he wasn’t a number one pick, but he didn’t start right away so every team has to do what they think. Would it be nice if we all of a sudden knew we have a franchise quarterback and those types of things? That’s what we’ve been looking for since we got here and certainly that’s what this franchise has been looking for a long time. It would be one of the great things if it worked out that way."
Backup QB Situation - Wallace & McCoy
(On if the team plans to move either Seneca Wallace or Colt McCoy before training camp)- "Right now the plan is not to. I think that position, heck the first two years we’ve had to go to the third quarterback because of injury, so that’s not to say we might change something, but right now, no. Right now they are all practicing very hard. Our quarterback position is a strong position, in my opinion and something might happen as we approach training camp or during the training camp season, but that’s how we’re looking at it right now."
(On if there is any awkwardness to having all three quarterbacks on the roster)- "I don’t think so. It’s probably fun to write about. You guys kind of like it, but as far as the individuals involved, but say we have to deactivate whoever the third quarterback is, there’s a rule where we might not have to deactivate him, but that guy gets his feathers ruffled a bit, which is understandable. They are all competitive. They all have played in games, but that’s the business. They are big boys and that is how they have to handle it."
(On how he can avoid a messy situation with the quarterbacks)- "I think you just make decisions. There’s a way you can prevent that, in my opinion. First of all, you have to understand the people involved, the players involved. You have to be very upfront with them, you have to be making coaching decisions for the right reasons and you should be able to avoid that, you really should. If you even think that it’s starting to get a little squirrelly, then you have to make the big decision. Then that ends that."
(On if he thinks Colt McCoy had a fair shack last year with no offseason)- "I’ve been asked that before. I said it was tough last year. Essentially, we lost our running game early on, and we had some things to deal with there. We dropped too many passes, that’s another thing. It was hard. He got knocked around, he got banged pretty good. But a lot of times, it’s not fair, it’s not always fair, but what he did get, he got a chance to play a whole year. You learned how does he deal with this, and then as a coach or a teacher then you have to take the things that I just mentioned into consideration, that it was hard maybe harder than we thought it was going to be, but, how did we handle it. Did we get better? Did we handle it well? Those types of things are the things that you have to answer, be very honest about how you feel about that. That’s how you move forward I think. I like Colt McCoy. I’ve made no secrets about that. I think he’s a wonderful young man, and a good football player, and if you are asking me to say was it fair last year? He had a tough go and he didn’t get as much help as I thought he was going to get, but heck, that’s football."
(On if the team would be open to listening to a trade for Colt McCoy or Seneca Wallace)- "With the quarterback situation, right now, I think I said right now, right now we have three quarterbacks that are going. Between now and the time we play our first ballgame against the Eagles, I would ask you, you shouldn’t be surprised by anything, but right now they are all doing fine. We are going to be talking to teams about a lot of different things, not just the quarterback situation. That’s what happens and then as you approach the regular season, when you get to final cut down, there is a lot of action that takes place. I think you are open to listen to every phone call, you talk about stuff. If we think it’s a good thing to make the Cleveland Browns better then we would consider it."
(On if he feels a special allegiance to Seneca Wallace when going through the decision making process)- "The decision making process, the coaches will make that decision, but Seneca, I know him very well. He played for me, he did some wonderful things for me, and so as a person, I’ve seen him grow up. When it comes time to making a decision for the football team, those types of feelings, you have to put them on the back burner, and you just have to do what you think is right for the Cleveland Browns. He knows that so we’ll make those decisions like we make all the decisions upstairs after a lot of thought and talking to each other about it."
(On the factors he considers for the backup quarterback)- "The number two quarterback has to be able to prepare himself and get ready to play a game without much practice. Whatever that is that allows a player to do that, whether it's intelligence, whether it's just athletic ability or whatever. He has to get the game plan, be prepared to go in the game without any practice time. Not everyone can do that. Second, I've always felt that it helps to have a quarterback who can maneuver and get a first down running and put some pressure on the defense that way if he hasn't been able to practice as much of the game plan as your starter. Thirdly, I think the backup position, he is usually one of the more popular guys on the team. The guys like him, he has a pretty good sense of humor typically, the guys I’ve had, goof balls, but good players. You have to trust them. It's not a scientific thing, a lot of it is gut feeling and reaction. Physically, he has to be able to do that without much practice time."
Challenge of Having a Rookie QB and Rookie RB
(On if there any concern over possibly starting a rookie quarterback and a rookie running back and how you get them through that process)- "It is somewhat a unique situation, but if you have to do it, these are the two young men I would do it with. Trent (Richardson) as a runner, I think the transition for a running back to come into this league as a runner, is maybe as easy as any position on the team because running is running and it is kind of instinctual. He got hit a lot in college, he is going to get hit in professional football. The learning curve there is not so great. Now, his challenge is as a pass blocker. That’s the big deal. That’s the big change. But he certainly can handle it and I like our depth at running back. The quarterback position, to have a rookie quarterback, even if he’s 28 years old is a challenge because he’s going to see stuff he hasn’t seen before and it just is. There’s a learning curve there. What you can do as a coaching staff, you understand that the runner certainly helps the young quarterback, absolutely helps the young quarterback. We have a good running game. It did two years ago if you remember. It helped Colt (McCoy). That’s a positive, but you certainly can help young players with your play selection, with your game plan, with the volume that you’re putting in and you can help them that way and our guys are smart and they will do that."
(On what else he has learned about Trent Richardson)- "Other than his football ability, which I think we saw and I believe he’s the player that we saw on film. I’ve gotten to know him a little bit and talk to him. I enjoy him as a person a lot. I think his story is one of those great stories, and I don’t think there’s any way you can go through the things he went through as a young man, he’s still a young man but a young young man, and emerge the way he’s emerged without being profoundly affected and have it make up who you are. They talked about us moving up in the draft and was it too expensive? Heck, I think it’s going to be a bargain. When all is said and done, I think we’ll look back and it’ll be one of the great bargains we ever did."
Fixing the Dropped Passes, the WR Situation, and Massaquoi
(On if they tabulate dropped passes and if he’s concerned that they are still happening)- "We do, and I asked that very question on the practice field today, Tony (Grossi). Yes, they keep track of that stuff, and yes, we had way too many last year and it hurt us tremendously. We are catching the ball better this year. Just take Greg Little as an example of one player that, while he had in my opinion a good rookie year considering all the stuff that happened prior to him coming here, but he dropped too many passes and he is better than that. He’s made a marked improvement, he’s not doing it. It’s a concentration thing as much as anything. The receivers that you see catch the ball, again you watch practice, and you see the receivers catch the ball easily. Some guys are easy catchers, it’s very natural. When you are a kid, playing baseball or catching with your friend, some guys can do it and some guys struggle. They slap at it, it’s just how it is. If you see a receiver able to do that and then all of a sudden he drops one, there’s a reason, and analyzing why he did that, there’s usually a very good reason why that happened. He took his eyes off it, he started to run, he didn’t concentrate, there’s a reason, and the good receivers are willing to listen to you as a coach and change that. We still drop one and it still happens. There are a couple young guys out there that struggle a little bit catching it. They’re not easy catchers, it’s a battle. You can almost see the balls in the air and you can almost see wheel going, and you know it’s a big adventure when it gets there. But most of the guys that we have at wide receiver are good receivers. Now we just have to get them the football. We have to get them the football and give them chances."
(On what makes him think the receivers will consistently get open this open)- "That’s a good question, but you are working on a tremendous assumption there that last year they weren’t open. Where I would say they were open probably more than you thought and we just didn’t get them the ball, but I think you’re right. I am playing with you a little bit here. I think our offense is based on timing and it has to be taught right, the receivers have to be disciplined, you need right what we’re doing right now, to get it done right. This is important and I think it hurt us as much as any team. There were other teams that struggled because they didn’t have the lockout, we weren’t the only team, but it hurt us because of the nature of what we were asking the team to do. I just think getting open isn’t just a matter of being the fastest guy on the field. I think our receivers have good speed, not a sprinters type speed, but good speed. When you couple that with the teaching they are doing right now. They’re more familiar with what we are asking them to do. I just think you’ll see a better group this year. I really do. I like the fact that we have that little guy from Miami (Travis Benjamin). The speed helps. It always helps and he has come in and done a nice job and we’re going to try and figure out ways if he’s with us, which we assume he will be, that he can get on the field and kind of help us that way."
(On if he sees a specific receiver who can make a significant jump from last year)- "I have already said (Mohamed) Massaquoi and I’ve said that all along. Not today, but I have said that before. I think he’s ready to have a breakout year. I think he’s healthy for one. Now he denied this as I would expect him to do, but I think when he got bumped in that situation with (James) Harrison I think it probably took him a little while to get back from that. Again, he and I might argue about that, but that’s my feeling. In talking with him all during this minicamp, having Nolan Cromwell as a part of the coaching staff who is very, very precise and on those guys to do the right thing, that a receiver like Mo who has good size and who catches the ball easy, smart. There is no reason to think that he shouldn’t be fine. There is nothing there to tell you this shouldn’t work. Now we have to pass him the ball. I talked to him the other day and I was at a practice and I charted, we went through the whole practice, he had one ball thrown to him. One and he ran a thousand routes, he was out there and he was running and running and running, but he had one ball thrown to him. So I go to the coaching staff and I said, ‘Hey,’ and they, ‘Well we’re working on these routes.’ I said ‘I don’t care, you have got to figure out a way in your scripting, he’s got to get some touches otherwise no wonder they get ticked off, no wonder they lose interest, no wonder they drift for a little bit.’ They have got to feel a part of it so that’s why. I think he’s going to be fine and then (Joshua) Cribbs, you factor Cribbs in there in specialty situations as an offensive player. Then his special teams stuff and we’re counting on him so much for the special team’s stuff that I think it’s an overload. He can’t do it all."
Getting Better This Season and in the Division
(On saying a 5-11 record wasn’t unacceptable then the team going 4-12)- "I shouldn’t have said that, honestly. Of course it’s not acceptable, 4-12 is even worse, it’s not acceptable. I will say the same thing now. I’m not going to give you a win-loss record, but I will say what I’ve told the coaches and what I’ve told the team. I expect us to take a good healthy jump this year on the field. Of course I’m talking about the record, and what that is I won’t make the same mistake I made last year, but that’s what I expect. I know we’re a better football team. We’re a more talented football team. There’s more continuity on the coaching staff. We’ve had the offseason program. I believe we are a more talented football team. We’ve added some things, we’re coming together nicely. That’s why I said what I said."
(On how he will measure the improvement for this season)- "I think the things that we did poorly last year, like dropping passes, I want to see a big improvement there. I would like to see a vast improvement in our running game, our productivity of our running game. I don’t want to see as many sacks from the offensive line. I want to see more interceptions, all the measurable that you would use to tell you if your team is doing the right thing. That should equate. If those things are happening it should equate to a better record, which ultimately is what you are judged on."
(On the perception of the fans that the offense would always go for a short passing patterns especially on third-and-long)- "You take any pattern, I could put a couple patterns up on the board for you and part of the pattern is an underneath route of some kind, but there are other places to go. Sometimes it looks back because it’s third-and-eight and you throw a four-yard ball. If the defense is doing their job then sometimes you’re hoping on the four-yard pass that the guy can break a tackle or do something. At times I felt the same way, but then I know a little bit more about it so it didn’t bother me quite as much. It seemed like that was happening a fair amount. Some of it, I think, had to do with our protection, we had protection issues. If you hold the ball too long he was going to get hit so you’ve got to deliver the ball quickly. You count on receiver on those shorter routes to break a tackle or make somebody miss, which happened, but it didn’t happen enough. I think there’s a conscious effort going on right now to expand our passing game to different routes and we’ll see. I understood the frustration because I would get a little frustrated at times myself."
(On if there is still a gap in talent between the Browns and the rest of the division)- "I never have, although I know some people do, you take your division opponent and you stack up and that always was a scary thing to me. I knew I always had a really good quarterback and I could be maybe, ‘lose this one, lose this one, lose this one,’ but I got the big one so that gave me a lot of points. I think all three teams in our division, Pittsburgh and Baltimore are the most obvious, and Cincinnati has improved in my opinion. They have set a pretty good bar in our division. They are pretty good teams and have been very good. What I was encouraged by last year and I think, we were very competitive in all of those games. Now, we fell short, but we were very competitive. Everyone is trying to get better, but our team compared to those as a very young team. We’re in different eras of the building process if you will. I saw it when I came into the league in the NFC North. I saw it when I was a coach for the 49ers in the NFC West and then when I went to Seattle. Things change, in Green Bay Reggie White retires. That changed my whole program. That happens. You get a great player, a couple of great players retire, a player gets traded, so you can’t worry too much about that. What you are trying to do is build your core and stay steady and you keep getting better and then the other guys have to worry about the other guys."
Talking About Pat Shurmur
(On how Pat Shurmur is different in his second year as head coach)- "As we’ve talked about in here before, he went through a lot of things his first year that a lot of times you don’t even get for three or four years. I think he emerged scarred but healthy and raring to go. He just told me today, it’s made such a difference having an offseason program and having minicamps. He’s much more comfortable in his role. He understands and knows the players and they know him. We managed to keep the staff together pretty much, but added some really good coaches. I think like every good young head coach, you learn every year. He just had a lot of things to deal with last year that you don’t always have that many things in the first year. I still believe in him very, very strongly and he’s going to be fine."
(On if he has second thoughts about putting Pat Shurmur in the head coach position with too many responsibilities)- "Pat had been a coordinator. I think if we had kind of a normal year, by normal I mean without the couple of unusual things that happened. I think you might not even be asking me the question. I think looking back on it, which you do about everything, you look back on your season and you correct. You start with yourself and you correct everything you think you could have done better, then you move forward. I think when Pat looks at it, there was a lot on his plate. There was a lot on his plate. He was in essence, his own coordinator. We wanted to get the right guy. We wanted to hire the right coach. It’s a very, very important position. Every coach I’ve ever met believes he can do everything all the time, whenever. Pat was a very effective coordinator for the Rams, he was, with a young quarterback, so that’s what we did. Now, we hired Brad Childress and that will make Pat’s life a lot better. It will free him up time wise to really dive into things that head coaches dive into. That should work out well. Should we have hired a coordinator a year ago? Maybe, but we didn’t have the ability to hire the guy we wanted. To look back, you make the corrections then you move forward. Pat is a smart guy, and he can handle a lot of stuff, but I think sometimes you ask the impossible of some people."
Dick Jauron and the Defense
(On Dick Jauron having the players work on tackling in training camp and his philosophy on that)- "Dick’s a wonderful coach and has been coaching a long time. He has a real good idea of how to coach defense. I think when you’re teaching tackling, it’s hard, and you’re a little bit nervous about doing too much of it in training camp because of the injury factor. So how do you do it? I think you have to be really smart in what drills you use. You have to talk technique a lot. In this day in age, it’s my feeling, that the technique, often times if you watch a game there’s not as much wrapping up using the arms as there used to be when I first came into the league. There’s more of a knock you down type of thing instead of tackling. That works fine sometimes, but sometimes you miss and that’s what leads to those numbers. I will say this, for some of the defensive backs to wrap up, it’s a little more painful. It’s a little easier to just go for the legs and tackle that way. You just you have to have guys that are willing to use the technique that you teach. I think the one thing I’ve noticed in a year is that they listen to Dick, they listen to Ray Rhodes, we have Timmy Hauck now coaching the secondary as well. They are great communicators and our defense shows that. Our defense did a nice job last year. Now we’ve got to figure out how to score some points."
Selling the Team, and Listening to the Fans
(On reports on the Browns being for sale and if he and Randy Lerner talked about that at all)- "No, the Browns are not for sale. I talk to Randy (Lerner) all the time, and I assume he’d tell me. We have a very open, honest relationship. No, there’s no truth to that."
(On balancing listening to fans criticisms and doing what is right for the team)- "The sensitivity came from the question of, ‘Am I leaving?’ or ‘Is this short term?’ or ‘I don't care,’ and those kind of things. As far as making decisions for the Browns on players, on coaches, I don't listen to too many people on that. We are going to do what we do, the way we think we need to do it, to be consistently good at some point for a long time. That's my message. Either in the draft, the character issues with players, how you formulate the team, how you do free agency, how you practice, all those things. We have great fans, I've learned that in a very short period of time. The team has been struggling for a long time, yet they come to the games and they care. They care a lot. In my dealings at the supermarket where a guy would come up and go, ‘You know, why didn't you do this?’ I'll talk to them and I'll say this is why I didn't do that. Or I'll ask them, ‘What do you think I should have done?’ I'll say, ‘I appreciate that you are a fan, where do you sit in the stadium,’ and we talk. I said, ‘Understand and trust me that I'm doing what I think is best for the team.’ I'm not asking you to agree with me necessarily because there are a lot of opinions out there. I believe we know how to do this and even though I speak and I ask for patience and the people say, ‘I've heard that before please don't go there.’ The fact of the matter is we are building it a certain way and that's how we are going to do it. Like I said, I expect to have a good jump this year."