New Cleveland Browns general manager Tom Heckert met with the media for the first time today to introduce himself and answer questions. Joining him were team president Mike Holmgren and head coach Eric Mangini, demonstrating how there will be a lot more heads involved in the decision-making process this year. Here are some of the highlights from the press conference...
The Decision Making Process
“Before we start the questions I just want to say a couple things. First of all, there’s a lot of curiosity as to responsibility. You’re ready to ask questions right now, I know, about who’s to do what, who’s going to make the call on draft day, [who’s in charge of] the 53-man roster, [who is going to negotiate with] Josh Cribbs. I know you’re dying, you’re ready. Just relax. Just relax for just a second here (joking).
What we’re going to do is, and I mean this, it was my hope and it will continue to be my hope that the decisions this organization makes going forward will be handled by these fellas right here. I trust them. I believe in them. They’re good football people. Responsibilities will be defined. They will be defined, but right now we’re working that stuff out. At the end of the day, however, if we pick a player in the draft, if we make a decision on releasing a player, whatever it happens to be, it’s a decision that has been thought through, come to a conclusion by a lot of discussion, maybe some arguing, but at the end of the day that decision is not a Mike Holmgren decision, an Eric Mangini decision, Tom Heckert decision. It’s a Cleveland Browns decision and I want you to believe that and that’s how we’re going to do business from now on. Hopefully then we make enough good decisions to get it going in the right direction. I know now you won’t have to ask any of those questions that you were going to ask (joking)."
Thoughts: I still don't have a clue what George Kokinis contributed as our general manager, and soon his name will be long be forgotten. It'd really be refreshing to see all three individuals -- Mangini, Holmgren, and Heckert -- continue letting their voices be heard and letting everyone know that they are working together to make the best possible decisions for this team.
Thinking Ahead to the Draft
(On how excited he is about having 11 draft picks and his draft philosophy)- “First the picks, the more picks you can get, the better we are, so that’s great. The philosophy is, everybody says ‘the best available player,’ and that’s the ideal situation, is to not have a need. Obviously, Eric and Mike and I will get together and we’ll figure out what our needs are and see if we can solve something in free agency. That’s the best case scenario, is to get some of your needs done in free agency and then worry about the draft and then take the best available player, because that’s the last thing you want to do, is force a pick in there just because of a need. That’s our goal, is to hopefully build this team where you don’t have to do that. You can draft the best player that’s available and then you don’t have to worry about reaching for somebody.”
(On how much of the draft he did in Philadelphia and how it will work here)- “It’s going to be very similar to that. I’m going to do the same thing, I’ll get the scouts in and I’ll set the board along with Mike and Eric. It’s like what Mike and Eric said, ‘It’s going to be a Cleveland Browns’ decision.’ I’ve had this question asked over the last 10 years, it’s never going to be one person saying, ‘I want this guy,’ when five other people don’t want that guy. That just never works. We’ll come up with a player that we think fits our scheme, our organization and that’s the kind of guy we’ll take.”
(On if someone will spend more time on the draft than the others)- “That’s my job, to watch everybody, set the board and give Eric and Mike, and try to weed it out a little bit. To have them look at the players we are going to take or the guys that we feel, as scouts, are good for this football team.”
(On if he brought scouting and draft information he had done in Philadelphia with him here)- "The stuff that I've already done this year? I've got to be careful about that (joking). Yes, I have the stuff that I've done this year. I have that with me."
Thoughts: Mangini's trades last year certainly set up the new staff with the ability to find a lot of new talent and even take some risks on some players (or trade up at certain spots). Heckert has already been preparing, so there's no reason to believe our staff will be behind in the draft department.
More on Quinn's Injury and QB Situation
(On what he has concluded about Brady Quinn)- “Brady hurt himself of course and I was asked yesterday, about [it]. He saw his doctor in Carolina and then he will be in town next week to see our docs here. I have not studied him enough to make a good judgment on that. I know quarterbacks pretty well and I want to meet him in person and talk to him. I haven’t done that since the combine, when he was coming out. I will say this, for a team to do well, the quarterback has to play well.
How they won games at the end it wasn’t the quarterback but the ratio of runs to passes in the last four weeks of the season were remarkable. Normally you can’t win that way. You can have the greatest running game in the world and play good defense, but if you only throw six balls a game you are not going to win. We’ve got to look at that. I want whoever is playing quarterback for the Cleveland Browns to be the right guy, and I want him to succeed because when he succeeds the team will do well. I’m going to reserve judgment on that.”
(On if Quinn’s doctors concluded that he does not need surgery)- “That is my understanding, yes. Now again, he has another meeting next week.”
Thoughts: It should be a given that Brady Quinn has more upside than Derek Anderson, but Quinn didn't do anything to show the new staff he should be our starting quarterback next year. I'd like to see him remain under center and focus on other areas, but perhaps we sign a veteran free agent in an attempt to compete right away. It worked with Kerry Collins for at least one season in Tennessee, although Quinn's probably past the time to 'sit and develop.'
Shifting Offensive and Defensive Strategies
(On if he sees his offensive and defensive philosophies changing with input from Holmgren and Heckert)- “I think one of the most important parts of my philosophy is flexibility. That’s something that I know we’ve talked a lot about in here and that’s what has driven the types of players that I’ve always liked coaching and looked for. You want to be able to take new ideas and fuse those ideas into, whether it’s the playbook or game planning and that becomes the Browns’ identity. There are a lot of different things that you can do and there is a lot of studying that you do in the offseason as to how you can improve the system.
What is unique for us and really good for us is to be able to pick Mike’s [Holmgren] brain and build on the things that he has done very well for a long time. I’ve talked a little bit about Bill Callahan in the past and Brian Schottenheimer, and the different groups that they came from and the ideas they brought in, and that became the Jets’ philosophy. It was a fusion of all those different ideas. If you don’t look into those things and try to improve every year then you stop growing and you won’t have that opportunity. This is a good situation.”
(On if he will keep his staff intact)- “Right now everybody’s in place. Tom Myslinski, the strength coach, his contract is up and we won’t be renewing that. Besides that, I don’t foresee anything in the immediate future, but I’d be open to looking at things and seeing what other opportunities are out there.”
Thoughts: We shall see (regarding the coaching staff).
Cribbs Going Public on Contract Situation
(On if he is okay with Joshua Cribbs going public with his contract talks)- “I’d rather that not happen. We’ve been at this a long time haven’t we? Is anyone surprised? No. That’s just the way it is. I said what I said, I’ll say it again. We as an organization will not negotiate in the press. We will not do that, but, I love Josh Cribbs and I’m hopeful things work out and everyone is happy at the end of the day. It is what it is as they say, and so, we’re going to keep trying though and hopefully they keep trying. We want him to be here and we want him to be successful because he is a good player for us.”
Thoughts: The positive news of keeping Mangini and getting Heckert on board have calmed the Cribbs frustration temporarily, but it'll be a hot topic as the date to begin trading a player approaches.
What Does Holmgren Think of Jerome Harrison?
(On his thoughts on Jerome Harrison)- “I love him as a player. I thought what he did at the end of the season was remarkable. The fact that it appeared as though the teams that Cleveland played knew that’s kind of how it was going to go and still they got it done. 286 yards, is that what he had in that one game? That’s a lot of yards. Again, that’s a decision. I know Eric was happy with him, who wouldn’t be? Someone had to step up and get that done. [With the] weather, when it gets cold and you can have a good running game and you can control the clock, all those things, it’s nice to have a guy you can give the ball to like that. I like him a lot, clearly.”
Thoughts: We've got our starting running back for the 2010 campaign. Besides being able to hit the hole quicker than Jamal Lewis, Harrison can thank FB Lawrence Vickers and the offensive line for that.
A Quickie on Donte Stallworth
(On if they have made any final decisions on Donte’ Stallworth yet)- “Not yet, Tony (Grossi), not yet, but soon we will. We will let you know what’s going on, but not today.”
Thoughts: This will be an interesting one. I think I'd be willing to accept Stallworth back, and he would probably move right into the starting lineup (although I still prefer him as a 3rd/4th receiver). It might be a moot point down the road since he never seems to stay healthy anyway.