BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Please disperse. Nothing to see here.
That was the tone set Monday afternoon by Cleveland Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown, who presented a united front about the state of the team that appears dysfunctional and in disarray following a 1-23 start to their regime and a failed trade last week with Cincinnati.
“In these builds and in these moments, there is a lot of adversity that will put pressure on people and we have to stay united internally,” Brown said. “We are working together.”
Brown acknowledged that the first half of the season and their 0-8 start has been “disappointing” and although it is easy to “get lost in the losses, there have been some positives.”
Brown pointed to the positive contributions of free agents JC Tretter, Kevin Zeitler and Jason McCourty as well as progress made with several young players who are gaining valuable experience every week.
But the primary issue Brown needed to address was last week’s botched trade with Cincinnati where they failed to acquire Bengals backup quarterback AJ McCarron because the Browns failed to get their paperwork filed with the league office in New York prior to the expiration of the trade deadline last Tuesday.
“That’s wholly untrue,” Brown said of reports and speculation that he sabotaged the trade.
Brown added that head coach Hue Jackson was “in the room” and “witnessed” the negotiations.
“We were all in there together,” Brown said. “I’m not worried about that internally. Externally, I can just put it to bed. That’s just not the case. Nothing we would ever do, to try to make up a trade to sabotage a trade. Just wouldn’t make any sense.”
Brown blamed the failed trade on, “a matter of getting to a deal too late in the process. I think both sides, both Cincinnati and us tried our damnedest to try to get the paperwork in at the last minutes, and we are talking about minutes and seconds before the trade deadline ended. We were on the phone with the NFL at the time to try to make it happen. It did not happen. I do think Cincinnati in earnest tried. I know we did everything humanly possible to get it done. It just didn’t happen. It is truly that simple.”
Brown vehemently denied a bevy of national reports about the internal struggle between the coaching staff and front office and the 2 sides being at odds with each other.
“A lot of this stuff that has been said and written has been made up,” Brown said.
Brown also doesn’t fear the snafu, which was a complete embarrassment for the organization, will ultimately cost him his job.
“I don’t [worry about it costing me my job],” Brown said. “I think we’re in good communication with both Dee and Jimmy on these things and they’re well apprised of what we’re doing and why and how things come together. I think they’ve seen our track record in terms of being able to perform and pull off some of the more creative deals in the league and a host of just simple, straightforward transactions, whether they’re in season or on draft day.
“I don’t have that concern. I think they understand we’ve been as aggressive as any team trying to churn this roster and improve it.”
Quarterback – or lack of one – remains at the root of the Browns problems and the hallmark trade that epitomizes Brown’s tenure in charge of the football operations was the decision to trade down in 2016 with Philadelphia instead of picking Carson Wentz, who continues to win games and stuff box scores with touchdown passes weekly for the Eagles.
Then there was Deshaun Watson in Houston, who was re-writing the rookie record books prior to tearing his ACL last week in practice, but the Browns traded the No. 12 pick earlier this year, which could’ve been used on him, to the Texans too.
That’s 2 franchise quarterbacks and 2 trade downs after failing to recognize that either one could’ve solved their 2-decades long conundrum.
“I think whenever we look at an opportunity in the draft, first you come knowing that there are going to be opportunities that you miss on to add talent to your roster,” Brown said. “I think good organizations do go back and look at those decisions and those evaluations. What did we miss? We are perpetually doing that here internally. What is all of the information we had? How do we gather it? Was it accurate? How did we analyze the information and put it all together to make a decision? Some of those are more strategic and tactical, and some of those are purely in terms of the actual operational issue of evaluating the player.
“We look at it both ways. I think we have some really good processes in place. I am pleased with the guys that we have pulled out of the draft. I think that they are performing well almost to a man. At the end of the day, we always can get better and we will always look to get better certainly, including at the quarterback position, absolutely.”
Jackson has recently lamented a lack of talent to work with, which is crippling his team’s ability to win on Sunday’s. Brown took responsibility for that Monday.
“It’s my responsibility to deliver a roster here that is talented enough to win week in, week out,” Brown said. “And we haven’t done that, yet. We have a very aggressive plan as we move forward to bolster this roster in a huge offseason, probably the most important we have coming up.
“We’ll plan to execute on it.”
Assuming he’ll still get that chance come Jan. 1.