One of my favorite segments when I co-hosted 'The Bruce Hooley Show' on ESPN Cleveland radio was when Hoolz and I did an anatomy of a press conference.
It's not only listening to the words that come out of the mouths of the coaches, players, or executives...but also diagnosing what they mean in a larger sense.
Wednesday's pre-NFL Draft press conference by Browns Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Browns, and Vice President of Player Personnel Andrew Berry ran for nearly 30 minutes. Reporters tried hard to get the duo to tip their hands as to the Browns' intentions with the first overall pick, whether they will take a quarterback, and so on.
I'll say this about Brown and Berry: They really worked hard to try not to give any clues. But they gave me enough for me to do an anatomy of what I saw and heard. So I have come up with 5 takeaways from Wednesday with Sashi and Andrew:
1. Myles Garrett is not signed or sealed, but you may as well deliver him to Cleveland
Sashi Brown did admit that the Browns have fielded calls for the first overall pick. And at first, he and Berry were somewhat tepid with their remarks about Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett. But as the press conference continued, the duo heaped more and more praise on Garrett.
For example, when Berry was first asked about Garrett, here was his response: “We are not going to comment extensively on players specifically. Myles obviously has had an outstanding career at Texas A&M and is very talented. Look, we do like the player.”
But as reporters continued to hammer away, the responses were more glowing about Garrett. From Brown: “Bright young man, competitive. We spent a lot of time with him, No. 1. We learned a lot about what makes him tick, what motivates him, how he spends his down time, how he spends his time with his teammates. You can learn a lot. He is an enjoyable young man, very bright. Whatever team gets him, particularly if it’s us, would be proud to have him.”
Towards the end of the press conference, Sashi Brown was asked if the decision about who to take No.1 is easy or hard: "We feel good about where we are going to be and who we are going to pick there.”
2. I'm not sold that the Browns will take Mitch Trubisky, or any quarterback, early in the draft
When the Browns executed the trade for Brock Osweiler and the 2nd round draft pick in 2018 from the Houston Texans last month, I like many assumed that Osweiler's time in Cleveland would be short-lived.
Now I'm not so sure.
There was this tweet from The NFL Network's Ian Rappoport on Wednesday afternoon:
On #Browns QB Brock Osweiler: Before he had a child, he was working to organize throwing sessions for the team’s WRs. Doing the right things— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 19, 2017
When the Browns put out a release announcing the trade last month, the words 'Brock' or 'Osweiler' didn't appear until the 43rd word in the statement. On Wednesday, Sashi Brown seemed much more open to the idea of a future in Cleveland for Osweiler: "We expect Brock to be here. He is in and has done a good job coming in the first couple of days. He is a positive young man who has some ability and talent. We look forward to him trying to establish himself here and have a chance to compete to be the starting quarterback.”
So that's interesting. Brown and Berry were both asked about Trubisky, the former Mentor High and North Carolina standout. Brown said of Mitch: "A positive young man, bright, very competitive and brings kind of a lunchbox, blue-collar mentality to the position. We were impressed by him.”
Then when asked about comments that Arizona Head Coach Bruce Arians made about Trubisky's number of starts at North Carolina 'bugging him' and if it 'bugged the Browns," Brown answered: “Not going to comment on Mitch’s history. We appreciate Bruce’s expertise. First, let me say that. Certainly, I think you would like to be able to look back on as many games as you can, and it is no mystery that Mitch hasn’t played in a lot of them.”
I just don't think the Browns are going to move up from No. 12 to get Trubisky. I could be wrong, but when I read between the lines, it's feeling more and more like the Browns' plans are to move ahead with Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler, Kevin Hogan, and perhaps a rookie quarterback they would take somewhere from Round 3-7 on Friday or Saturday of the draft.
And with that said....
3. Jimmy Garoppolo is not coming to Cleveland
All throughout this process I've felt that the more time passed, the less likely it would be that New England would part with their backup quarterback. I just don't think Bill Belichick wants to go through a season with Jacoby Brissett as Tom Brady's backup. Remember, the Patriots do not have a pick until the third round this year.
The last questions Sashi Brown fielded on Wednesday had to do with veteran quarterbacks. When asked if he envisioned the Browns trading for one on draft weekend, he gave a one-word answer, "No."
When asked if the Browns could trade for one...BEFORE draft weekend, Sashi's response was, "I wouldn’t… Could we in theory? Yes, but are we planning on it or is that the plan? No.”
4. Gregg Williams' voice is being heard
As Andrew Berry delivered his opening remarks, I thought it was interesting that he went out of his way to praise new Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams. From Berry: "Gregg (Williams) and his staff came in and really hit the ground running, fit in seamlessly with the process and they have bean able to add additional outstanding insight. We are very pleased with the level of cooperation and alignment within the entire process."
It's one of the reasons why I'm convinced that Myles Garrett will be a Brown. I also wouldn't be shocked if the Browns draft at least seven defensive players (out of 11 total picks).
5. This regime understands the pressure is on
Look, I'm tough on Browns owners Jimmy & Dee Haslam, along with executives Brown, Berry, Paul DePodesta, and Head Coach Hue Jackson because they at times act like the smartest people in the room while their track records would speak otherwise. I'm tough on them because like all of you, I want to see this franchise turned around because I know what this town is like when the Browns are a winning team. You as fans deserve to enjoy winning Cleveland Browns football.
Despite the morass that was 1-15 in 2016, no heads rolled in the offseason, and I had absolutely no issue with that. Brown, Berry, and DePodesta deserve another chance to get it right with their draft and free agent decisions, and Jackson deserves a shot to coach with a cupboard stocked with more talent. But this is it now, the Browns have to start turning things around.
And to listen to Sashi Brown when asked if this is a make or break draft, you feel a good degree of urgency coming from the one in charge of the 53-man roster, "“We view every single decision, whether it is free agency, cutting the roster down, draft opportunities, as critical. This league is too competitive to waste opportunities. Every time we go into a draft, for us, we view it as we put the pressure on ourselves regardless of what is going on outside. This is an important draft for us. We can get some players that can transform our franchise, and the way we are positioned, it is to some degree the volume of players that can help us. We want to get those right.”
And when asked if he's confident that the Browns won't be picking in the top-five next year, Brown added: "I would have a few more gray hairs, and I have a number that I didn’t have last year when I was sitting with you. We do think our roster will move in the right direction. It has been an exciting offseason, both in free agency and now as we head into draft a number of players in the amount of talent we will be able to add to the roster. I think we are positioning this team to be young and good and they will be together for a long time.”
I hope he's right.