Cleveland Browns Executive VP of Football Operations Sashi Brown spoke with the national media Thursday morning at the NFL Combine. Listed below is a transcript of the press conference, as provided by Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland and Scott Petrak of the Chronicle-Telegram.
(Opening Statement): "Great, productive month and a half here of our offseason. A lot of change. Really pleased at being able to add Hue (Jackson) and Paul DePodesta, Andrew Berry to our senior leadership group. Off to a tremendous start in terms of getting the group together and aligned on the same page. We talked about the collaborative alignment that we sought from our senior leadership group and that's certainly off to a great start. We have spent a lot of time on the searches and so we're playing catchup a little bit in terms of making sure that we're prepared for the draft and free agency coming up. Really kind of starting free agency now with respect to some of our players that are getting ready to be extended or getting ready to be rising free agents and have done some good work there. Obviously for us as we move forward, the key thing for us is to understand what our coaches need to be successful and the schemes that we'll be running on Sundays in the fall. We've had some good meetings with them as soon they were able to get in and hire Hue's tremendous staff and educate us exactly on what the schemes look like and what each position's going to be doing, so I'm pleased with that as well. And then being able to hire Andrew, bring our scouts back for draft meetings, which we initiated about a week after the Senior Bowl and sit with them for about 10 days and understand this draft class and talk about the needs of our roster, team, make sure that we identify players that we feel will be able to help us and contribute in impact fashion in the fall. So we're off to a great start."
(On the 2014 QB study that was ignored and will they do it again?): "Not going to talk a lot about, respectfully, what has happened in the past. We will always, as we talked about, look at every possible way to identify the players who we feel like are going to be successful for us in the fall. Part of that will be, and most of that will be, the traditional methods of evaluating talent. We'll rely on our scouts to do that certainly. We will look at ways to innovate and we've talked about being strategic and innovative in our approach and we do feel like we've got some information that we want to incorporate into our process as we set our board and we do hope to follow."
(Is it fair to say that none of the prospective free agents will be re-signed?): "Working through the process with all of them. Alex Mack came in last week, met with Hue, myself, Hal Hunter. We were able to have some conversations with all of our rising free agents towards the end of the year in our meetings to discuss that back in Berea at the transition -- lay out kind of our plan and vision and where we saw them fitting in and we are currently in discussions with a number of our free agents. Not going to be able to talk much in detail about that, but there's a possibility that we'll have a few back. We won't be panicked on any one player but there's some guys we feel like can contribute for us in the fall and we absolutely want to do everything we can, see if we can reach a deal that works for them and us and keep them as Cleveland Browns."
(Any contact with Josh Gordon?): "We’re very limited in terms of what we can do in terms of communication and contacting Josh. Josh we know is working out and by all signs he’s on a path to come back and be reinstated. That’s a process that the team’s not involved with, at the NFL ... we will leave that and I’m not going to comment on that. But josh is a tremendously talented young man. I’ve gotten a chance to know Josh over the three years that I’ve been in Cleveland and know him to be generally a good young man. He understands that he’s made some mistakes in the past, I think he’s accountable for those and everything that we see and hear in talking to his representation and those that have been in communication with him is that he’s eager to get back and contribute. And we feel like if he’s accomplished those things, there’s a spot for him on the roster, could certainly help."
(How important to retain your potential free agents): "We’ve identified the guys that we feel like really can help us and fit within the schemes that we’ll be running. And so it is important for us to keep our own, I think it says something to the locker room when you reward guys that do it the right way and make sure that they understand that being here in Cleveland we want to build through the draft certainly but we also need to retain our guys when we get to free agency. And it’s been tough to do that, largely because there’s been so much transition. So we talked to them about the continuity moving forward that we’re aiming for. Hue’s been a big benefit, because a lot of players want to play for Hue, so he’s been a tremendous asset to us being able to reignite some of those conversations."
(You interviewed Matt Patricia. What attracted you to him? what impression did he make?): "A very good one. Matt’s a talented young coach. Passionate, relates well to players, similar to Hue. Very innovative in his approach, tough, holds players accountable, comes out of a tremendous system that has had unparalleled success really in New England under Belichick and the Krafts. And so for all those reasons, his experience in a successful organization, his ability to relate to players, his toughness, accountability, intelligence, raw intelligence off the charts, I think Matt’ll be a head coach here shortly in the league. We thought Hue was the right choice for us, but he was"
an impressive young guy to meet."
(How important was it to get a guy familiar with AFC North. what elements hope hue brings from Cincinnati?): "Yeah, their success and record for sure. But Hue is a guy that does understand the league, understands the defensive coordinators, understands the personnel, that was an advantage. It wasn’t a decisive factor for us, but it was a factor that we thought about. I think he understands the brand of football and how you can be successful in different divisions for us. We’re going to have our own brand in Cleveland, in terms of how we go about attacking defenses, but his familiarity with Ozzie and John down in Baltimore and Mike certainly and Kevin up in Pittsburgh and certainly the Bengals organization will help us. And we’ll put a lot of effort organizationally on how we win our division, that’s where it starts for us. He’s talked about it, it’s a focus of the organization. So we think that’s an asset for us."
(What Andrew Berry brings, people wonder can you guys identify talent and can you touch on his role): "Sure, Andrew's going to lead our player personnel department, and he's obviously very young, but he's tremendously talented. I don't think it will take long for you all to sit down with him and get a sense of his maturity, his intellect, his knowledge of the game. Although he's spent less time in the league than others, he's learned a tremendous amount. He's a great leader and person, tremendously high character, really competitive and hard working. So these are themes that you're hearing in a lot of answers and responses I'm giving about Hue and our vision, and he aligned very much with where we want to be. He's an out-of-the box thinker, but he also understands traditionally what's been successful in the league. He spent a lot of time here with Ryan Grigson and Bill Polian and seen a lot of success here, so it brings that knowledge to us, starting with Jimmy Ray and others who are really experienced. The other thing is our scouting staff has a lot of experience on it, and Andrew's wise enough to know that, like anyone in this seat, he doesn't have to have and doesn't have all of the answers. We will tap into that experience and make sure that we're making the best possible decisions for the organization and each opportunity."
(Expect clarity about gordon’s reinstatement before free agency): "I don’t expect that one way or the other. it’s really, I won’t say it’s a black box, but it’s a process that we don’t have a lot of insight into, and I think properly in support of the league they want to take their time and make sure that they understand where josh is and where he’s heading, and we will be in communication with the league around this and have been, but let the process take its course. we hope that first and foremost Josh is in a place where he can be successful moving forward as a person, and then obviously we’ll deal with the football field afterwards. good young man that I think’s got a bright future and we hope on the field in uniform, but the first thing’s first is just to get him reinstated and make sure he has his life in a place that people are confident he can be successful in the league."
(Do you have a date on which you expect to learn whether he will be reinstated): "We don’t at this point."
(When you talk about Josh coming back, yesterday Hue emphasized high character, how do you balance high character with a guy who's been suspended 27 of the last 32 games): "I think we hold him accountable, set the expectations and make sure he understands exactly what that means, that you're going to come out and compete in practice, you're going to be reliable and accountable to your teammates. I think Josh is wise enough to understand that if he comes back, he's going to have to prove that a bit and eyes will be on him. But I'm confident he can do it. I know him well enough. He's a good, young man, means well. He's just got to get past a few things and hopefully has learned. If he hasn't, he won't be part of the organization. But I trust that he'll have learned enough that he will give himself an opportunity to do that. But we'll see. I don't want to get too much into Josh. He's got to get reinstated first."
(Status of Johnny Manziel): "Not going to comment again on Johnny. I think respectfully we want to give the young man some privacy as well as the organization has spent enough time talking about him and we need to focus on moving forward. I'll let the statement speak for itself.
(QB visits): "Our scouts will be the lead dog in terms of all personnel evaluations but Hue will have a big say in that. He obviously has a tremendous amount of experience about what it takes physically and mentally to play the position and we've had a lot of conversations so far and we'll have a lot more over the next 60-plus days."
(Expect to use franchise or transition tag?): "We don't expect to. We know those are kind of tools in the toolbox here but we don't expect to do that. I think there a couple players that you would say we might at those positions, Tashaun in particular. We would hope to come to a long-term deal with Tashaun, so I don't expect it at this point."
(Turnaround): "It starts with leadership and it starts with myself, Hue, Jimmy, Paul DePodesta breeding the confidence -- you talked about it. I think, making sure that we're building a system not so focused on results, not so focused on one position or one player, but really setting an expectation of a work ethic so that every day we're getting better and it's going to be hard to know that ice is forming, but by the time we get there, you know the water is getting colder and through our processes we're getting better so we're taking a systematic approach to it and daily we're going to expect a lot from our players and make sure that by the time we get to Fall and Sundays, our expectation going into every game will be to win."