EVP of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry (11.4.20)

Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry:

Opening statement: 

“Midway point of the season, 5-3. The way I would describe our feeling organizationally is that we are feeling encouraged but incomplete. Certainly happy with the progress that we have built upon since last year, but really,–(Head Coach) Kevin (Stefanski) would be the first to tell you this, we still have a lot of work to do. That being said, really pleased with the work that Kevin and his staff have done in a year that has really forced them to deal with unprecedented circumstances. They have done a nice job of getting our team and getting our players ready to play on a weekly basis. Our players themselves, they have been a resilient bunch, both in games and dealing with just the ebb and flow of everything that they have had to deal with during a very difficult 2020. I am pleased with the progress that we have made on the field and also pleased with the progress that our guys have made off the field, whether it is the donation to at East Cleveland School districts, getting all of our players registered to vote and then them using their voices to get others registered to vote and also working with state officials and local law enforcement. Encouraged but incomplete organizationally, and we are looking forward to the second half of the year.”

On how close the Browns came to making any moves at the trade deadline:  

“We explored a number of different possibilities. Really for us, the trade process is really every week. It is not even just about the deadline. We did explore a number of different possible transactions. I would say maybe a couple of things got perhaps within striking distance but either moved away from us or we moved away from it for various reasons. We are really happy with the team that we have in place, and we are looking forward to the next eight games.”

On if the Browns looked to make any trades to bolster the defense:  

“I would not go into any specifics with any trade discussions that we have with other teams. Needless to say, we look for any opportunity, whether it is offense, defense or special teams, that can help us in the second half of the year.”

 

On the building blocks the Browns have on defense to build around in the offseason, including DE Myles Garrett and CB Denzel Ward, given the unit’s performance and number of one-year deals signed last offseason:  

“I understand the question, and I think quite honestly on the defensive side of the ball, we have had our moments, but we still have to make more plays. We just have to make more plays really at every level of the defense. I know that that is something that Kevin and (defensive coordinator) Joe (Woods) are working on during our self-scout week during the bye. That being said, we have had guys that have stepped up in key moments throughout the first half of the season. Certainly, we have had some standout performances – you mentioned Myles – but have a resilient group on that side of the ball that I think will continue to improve as we go throughout the season.”

On evaluating QB Baker Mayfield’s first half of the season, expectations for Mayfield in the second half of the season and how that will impact Mayfield’s contract situation in the offseason:  

“I think Baker has done a nice job. He has done a nice job of putting us in a position to win games in the first eight weeks of the season. I think we have all seen him progress on a week-to-week basis. He has done a nice job of learning the system and getting more comfortable in the system, and again, ultimately putting the team in a position to win. We are certainly pleased with him from that perspective.”

 

On what a playoff appearance this year would mean for the Browns and the team’s fan base, given the team’s postseason drought:  

“I am not naive to the fact that really a playoff appearance for any franchise is special because each season really is sacred and the chance to compete and ultimately get in the tournament. That all being said, our focus is really on attacking our opponents one week at a time and taking care of the little things on a weekly basis because if we are able to successfully accomplish that, the big things will take care of themselves.”

On if Mayfield is the Browns’ QB of the future and if the final eight games of the season are crucial to that evaluation, given Mayfield’s contract situation following the season:  

“Honestly, I really do not get too caught up in that type of narrative. All I know is that I think Baker has played well and he has done a nice job during these first eight weeks. He has allowed us to play winning football. We have had winning football from that position. Expect him to keep doing that over the second half of the year. Look, we are going to be in a good place as a team and organization if that is the case.” 

 

On if Mayfield has met his expectations set before this season:  

“Really, again the season is halfway through, but Baker has done everything that we have asked of him during these first eight weeks. He has shown weekly improvement and done a really nice job within the system, and again, put our team in a position to win.”

On his team-building philosophy on the defensive side of the ball, given external perspective is the Browns took a short-term approach to addressing the unit for the 2020 season with several one-year contracts:

“I would say really again up and down across the roster, our goal is to add talent and as much talent as possible, whether it is offense, defense or special teams. Certainly, in a given offseason, you have a certain number of resources, whether it ends up being cap dollars or picks, and it is your responsibility to allocate them as you think is appropriate in a given offseason. That all being said, I would not necessarily read too much into all the one-year deals. I think we do have a number of young players on that side of the ball that we are excited about, as well. Again, our goal is to add talent up and down the roster. I do not know that there needs to be too much read into perhaps the specificity of our approach this past winter.”

On confidence the Browns will be able to maintain salary cap flexibility to make improvements during the 2021 offseason, given the current uncertainty of the 2021 salary cap figure:

“You hit on an important theme because there is a fair amount of uncertainty in terms of what 2021 can look like from a salary cap perspective across the league. That being said, I do think that we have retained a fair amount of flexibility, both in terms of again a big part of our long-term goals as an organization is retaining as many of our core players as possible, in addition to continuing to add talent as we go.”

On Mayfield’s inconsistency this season and if it is concerning at all:

“Really, I think you can probably make that case with a number of players that are on the team. I think a big part of it is this has been a really unprecedented year within the NFL. I think it is a credit to our players and I think it is our credit to our coaching staff that with the very limited offseason, the nonexistent preseason and then we are going off of playing with a lot of new faces that we have been able to get to the midway point with a chance to have all the year-long goals that we set out to meet et right out in front of us in the second half of the year.”

On if the playoffs were a goal to start the season and balancing the goal of wanting to win a championship every season with long-term sustainable growth:

“I should maybe back up and say that for us, we always want to compete and we always want to make sure that we give ourselves a chance to get into the tournament, so to speak. You are right, part of the general manager’s job is to have a bit of a foot in the present and a bit of a foot into the future, as well. Sometimes balancing those perspectives can be challenges, but at the same time, I like how we are positioned. I like what the team has done during the first eight weeks of the season, and I think that we have a lot more to do and potentially accomplish over these next eight weeks.”

On if he views the Browns’ 5-3 record differently with the two losses in the division by a substantial margin and if there is a sizable gap between the Browns, Ravens and Steelers:

“The answer to maybe the first part of your question is I think 5-3 is nice, but I do not think that anyone in our organizations views it necessarily like an accomplishment, just because the season is incomplete. It is not like we set out a goal to say, ‘Hey, we are going to be 5-3 in eight games.’ We want to try and compete and win every game. To your question specifically about Baltimore and Pittsburgh, from my perspective, I think it still is very much incomplete. We obviously did not play well against either of those opponents during the first two months of the year. That all being said, we are looking for improvement over the second half of the season. We are fortunate enough that we get both of those opponents again, and that is something that we will look at in broader strokes once we get to the offseason.”

On the decision to trade for S Ronnie Harrison Jr. prior to the season and Harrison’s performance this year:

“In Ronnie’s case, Ronnie was attractive to us for a couple of reasons. No. 1, it always starts with the on-field performance and the on-field profile. We thought Ronnie was a big, long, athletic, versatile, play-making safety and could help fill some of the void that was created when (S) Grant Delpit went down with the Achilles injury. In Joe’s defense, big, versatile safeties really allow him as a coordinator a ton of flexibility in both the run and pass game. Other considerations that come into play with Ronnie, he was 23 years old when we traded for him – super young but already had two years of starting experience or probably more of a year and a half of starting experience under his belt. We felt the on-field profile, where he was in his career and then also the fact that he had two more years on his deal could help us both immediately in the short term and next year in 2021 made him an attractive target to pursue. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention obviously losing Grant in August made it even that much more of a clearer decision for us. Obviously, we are very pleased with how he is progressing and acclimating to the defense since he has been here.”

On the Browns DL:

“I think the D line has had games and weeks where they really have been dominate and they have been a big factor in us being able to win and perform well on that side of the ball. I do think that over the first eight weeks of the season, we probably have seen a few more injuries in that position group than certainly we had hoped at the beginning of the year. It has been nice to see OV (DE Olivier Vernon) get healthy, and obviously, he made an impact for us this past Sunday. It will be good to see (DE) Adrian (Clayborn) get back to full speed after the Bye. Obviously, Myles has played incredibly well – just as simple as that. Really, he has played at a high level for the past three years, and I think he has probably another step forward this season. We are obviously very pleased with what he has done over the first eight games.”

On evaluating Browns players who are in their first year with Stefanski and the coaching staff and how the Browns coaching staff has done through eight games:  

“I will start with the second by your question first. I think the staff has been fantastic. I could not be more pleased with what Kevin, our coordinators, our position coaches and our QCs have done with the team and getting the players ready on a weekly basis.

“In terms of your question about evaluation with the new staff, it is a good one. Typically, we really do deal with it on a case-by-case basis. For instance, the quarterback position takes a lot of nuance and it is a much different offense than perhaps we have seen here in the past couple of years. That is always taken into account when you are evaluating a player there. (G) Wyatt Teller for instance had throughout his whole career played in more of a gap-oriented run scheme, and now we are going to the wide zone, which is something completely different than he has ever done. Through his hard work and (offensive line coach) Bill Callahan, he has really flourished in it before getting hurt. You do have those moments where you say ‘Hey look, we do have a player that may be doing something a lot different than what he has done throughout his career,’ but there are others that are probably a bit cleaner transitions because there is some overlap with really any offensive system or any defensive system, which is really why you have to deal with it on an individual basis.”

 

On how the Browns have weathered RB Nick Chubb’s injury and what Chubb’s absence showed about how much Chubb means to the team:  

“No. 1, Nick Chubb is one of those players that no one person replaces. He is an outstanding football player and a big part of what we do and what we will continue to do over the course of the year. That all being said, I am really pleased with what (RB) Kareem (Hunt) has done shouldering the load and playing banged up and tough and what he has done both in the run game and the pass game. I think the offensive line has done a good job of really continuing to open holes in the run game and then really take it as a personal challenge to make sure that we are still productive in that phase even with Nick out. Over the past few weeks, I think the offense has done a nice job of weathering this storm, but we are certainly looking forward to getting Nick back whenever that occurs.”

On WR Odell Beckham Jr.’s future with the Browns following the injury:  

“Honestly, our focus with Odell, Odell is one of the best receivers in the NFL. He played really good football for us before he was injured. He has done a fantastic job with his teammates and at practice. He has embraced the organization. He is under contract for multiple years. Our focus with Odell is making sure that he recovers from the ACL tear. We want him to be healthy and ready to go next year, but we are pleased with him.”

On if he views Beckham as a long-term player with the Browns moving forward, given the outside noise around Beckham and external individuals questioning it each year:  

“I feel like this is a question that I have literally addressed every week since I took the job. Really at this point in time, I really do not see a difference.”

 

On dodging a bullet with Garrett not sustaining a long-term knee injury and expectations for Garrett moving forward:  

“We anticipate Myles being ready to go with full force through the second half of the year. He is obviously a big part of what we do defensively. Really, he is an elite playmaker in this league. We are excited that it really was not anything of major significance, and we are looking forward to having him back on the field.”

On when Beckham will have knee surgery:  

“It will be early next week.” 

 

On clarifying his view that Beckham as a part of the Browns future has not changed with his response of not seeing a difference when answering the question about Beckham as a long-term player with the Browns moving forward, given the outside noise around Beckham and external individuals questioning it each year:  

“I would say to me, and respectfully, I feel like I have answered this question enough. I can’t control what the outside noise says.” 

 

On T Jedrick Wills Jr. through the first half of his rookie season:  

“He has done a nice job. I think it is a credit to the work that he has put in, and it is a huge credit to Bill Callahan and (assistant offensive line coach) Scott Peters with the work that they have done there. That is not an easy task in an abbreviated offseason. Jed still has work to do, and he will be the first to tell you that. He is by no means a finished product. In terms of transitioning as really any rookie left tackle, let alone one who had not played left tackle really ever for a significant period of time, we are pleased with… I would have to say this, like kind of the theme of the first half, encouraged, but it is still is incomplete. Expect him to continue to make strides.”

On if the salary cap played a factor in the Browns not making any deals at the trade deadline and if draft-pick compensation played a role:

“I will answer your question a little more broadly. I think there are a couple of reasons why you probably saw less overall trade volume in the league as a whole. I think No. 1, there were just in general fewer sellers this year than past years. I think a big part of that is just the addition of the seventh playoff spot in bother conferences where you will have more teams actually in the mix for the playoffs. I think really the second piece of that – you hit on this – with the uncertainly of the salary cap entering 2021, it does make certain transactions and certain trades a lot more difficult for teams across the league. To us specifically, we did explore a number of potential transactions. At the end of the day, we want to make sure it is the right match for us. Then for whatever reason, we did not necessarily feel any of those deals fit with what we were trying to do on the roster, and we feel really good about the guys we have on hand entering the second half of the season.”

On if there is a big void left by not having Beckham as a deep threat or the team can replace that with the players currently on the roster:

“I think it is a little bit like what I discussed with Nick where Odell is one of the best receivers in the league. A loss of a player of that caliber, you do not just realistically fully replace [with one player]. It will take a bit of a committee approach. I like the guys we have in the receiver room. I thought we saw their potential with their ability to step up against Cincinnati two weeks ago. It really will take a next man up mentality and guys playing to their strengths and continuing to step up and produce because Odell is not coming back this year.”

On how well the Browns OL has lived up to expectations with the investment in the position group this past offseason:

“I think that position group has been outstanding. I can’t say this enough but I would also to throw in terms of additions Bill Callahan into that group. I can’t overstate his impact on that position group. It is going to be a part of our DNA. That is a group that we want to make sure is strong and deep for the long term because it really does set a foundation for your offense. If that group is not at a certain level of performance, it is really hard for your quarterback or your skill guys to function. That is something that is and will continue to be a priority. We are really pleased with how that group has settled together and ultimately how that group has performed.”

On what else is part of the team’s DNA for position groups, in addition to the OL:

“I definitely understand the question. I think to be honest, that is probably a bit more of an offseason question or discussion. We are focused on the season and we will talk about the big picture and big picture strategy after.”

On other Browns position groups that have been impressive, in addition to the OL:

“Sticking on the offensive side of the ball, have been really pleased with our tight end group, both run game and pass game. Our backs have played well. We have talked about Baker. We have talked about the receivers stepping up. On the defensive side of the ball, obviously Myles is having a fantastic year. I think our corner group is playing good football, and we are certainly excited to see how are young linebackers progress in the second half of the season. I think there is a lot to be encouraged with across the roster. We are by no means a finished product, but I think there are bright spots about these first eight games in every phase.”

On alignment within the organization and what has impressed him most about Stefanski during the first half of the season:

“I think the most impressive part about Kevin is his poise. He is genuinely the same guy every single day, regardless of what has happened on Sunday and regardless of what we have dealt with during the day – even keel, same quick wit and sense of humor. I think that is the most impressive part because I think all of us on this call realize how hard and how stressful his job can be. I think our team is in about as good of hands as we can ask for with Kevin at the helm.”

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