Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry (11.2.22)


Opening statement:

“Good morning, everyone. Good to enter the bye week with a big win on Monday night against the defending AFC North champions, a good division rival and a good team with the Bengals. Thought we really played really quite honestly our best game of the season. With that being said, we enter the bye week at 3-5, and the bye comes at a good time for us in the middle of the season where we are able to get healthy, reflect on the first half, kind of reassess the areas where we have done things well and where things we haven’t done quite as well and ultimately continue to plot a path moving forward into the second half of the season. We are fortunate that we have nine more games, and they provide us nine unique opportunities to end the year strong. Hopefully, we put ourselves in a good spot at the end of this season. This week, the focus will really be on improving areas where we have been a little bit weaker through the first eight games, and quite honestly, leaning into strengths and our team’s personality, even if those areas may be a little bit different than what we thought coming into the season. We are excited to go into that process. Excited to get healthy. Excited for what lays ahead of us in the second half of the year. We will move forward from there.”


On what has been lacking in terms of the team not closing out tight games during the first half of the season:

“I think you make a good point. The margins in the NFL are so small, right? There are a number of talented players and coaches across all 32 teams, and you never know which play can determine the outcome of the game. I think probably just the biggest thing from the first half of the season is consistency. Every organization and every team has guys who can make great and can do really good things, but it is the teams that do it consistently and lean in to their strengths, those are the ones that play well week in and week out. We had a rough October, right? We had a rough October. Fortunately, as we look at Monday night and going into this bye, I think it provided a picture of the team that we can be. We were by no means perfect, but we played our most complete game of the season. We are hopeful that that will be a nice springboard going into the second half of the year.”


On if Monday’s win changed the team’s approach or decisions related to yesterday’s trade deadline:

“I would say that candidly it probably maybe had a little bit of a mild influence. I wouldn’t say that it moved the needle significantly in one direction or another. I had probably a pretty good idea in terms of how we wanted to approach obviously yesterday with a couple of different opportunities, but to suggest it didn’t have some type of mild impact I think would be disingenuous.”


On the identity of the Browns offense, given the emphasis on the run game with also the upcoming return of QB Deshaun Watson:

“I don’t think that let’s say running the ball or passing the ball has to be mutually exclusive. Realistically, you have to do both to be an effective offense in the NFL. I think over the first half of the year, both phases have performed well on that side of the ball. Look, I think we are one of the top scoring teams in the NFL, we are one of the most efficient offenses and we have been able to throw the ball and run the ball proficiently. We obviously have who I think is the best back in football with (RB) Nick Chubb and one of the best offensive lines, and (QB) Jacoby (Brissett) has played really, really well for us, as have (WR) Amari Cooper and (TE) David Njoku. I think we can have a well-rounded attack and we can be versatile enough to attack opponents based on their weaknesses from week to week.”


On the Browns being 3-5 despite the talent on the team:

“This may be a little bit to what I mentioned earlier where every team has talent, but we still do have to be more consistent, whether it is being sound with our assignments, communication and things of that nature. Those things matter because the margins really are so small. Playing good situational football. Ultimately, it is not just about one phase. It is about playing complementary football offense, defense and in the kicking game because it really is a team sport. Leaning into those strengths and allowing those strengths to ultimately drive winning, that is ultimately what we have to do in the second half.”


On indications for optimism in recent and opportunities to improve with the Browns defense:

“I think we have just played cleaner on that side of the ball, whether it is mental assignments or communication. I think our tackling has improved over the last two weeks, as well. That is where I give (defensive coordinator) Joe (Woods) and the defensive staff a lot of credit for really kind of focusing on and kind of ironing out some of those areas where we didn’t do them quite as well through the early part of the season. That side of the ball seems to be rounding into form, but we still have work to do. Ultimately, the biggest thing again is consistency there.”


On S John Johnson III’s statement earlier this season that everyone needs to be 100 percent committed to the task at hand, including when not in the building:

“I don’t want to speak for John in that area. I do see how our guys work and prepare in the building. I do know that our guys do take their craft seriously. Honestly, it is really just being a little bit more disciplined with some of the controllables, if you will. The guys have done a nice job of that over the past couple of weeks.”


On the identity of the Browns defense:

“I think what we saw on Monday night is certainly a defense that was really strong at the line of scrimmage. Was really pleased with how our front seven really won the line of scrimmage pretty consistently on Monday night. Then I thought our back end, they really covered their tails off against a really good skill group against Cincinnati. Look, I mention this pretty much every year that every year is unique. Sometimes, whether it is through personnel, injury or just guys kind of growing and evolving in their career, things can look maybe a little bit different than you think coming into training camp. I think certainly through the back half of this month, our defensive staff has done a nice job of continually leaning into things that we have done well in the early part of the season. I think that will continue to progress as we get into this half.”


On the Browns prioritizing speed on defense and some external criticism that the unit’s size has made it susceptible in some areas:

“I think that it is no secret that our scheme and our defensive philosophy in how this system is designed is more predicated on speed than size and largely because of what we will ask the defensive line or the second level to do in coverage or how we really kind of move the front. Look, I think quite honestly there are just different philosophies in terms of how you can defend. There are some teams that prioritize size and more of like a two-gapping model, but I think it is probably less about how you do it but more do you do it well and do you do the details well. I think that is really what has probably changed a little bit over the last couple of weeks on that side of the ball – I just think we have been a little bit more fine tune and consistent in those areas.”


On balancing what the Browns offense looks like now compared to when QB Deshaun Watson returns to the field:

“I actually don’t think that is maybe quite as… One, I should say this, our focus is really on the present week and making sure that we can maximize the opportunities for the upcoming opponent. It is pretty easy to keep the blinders on there. That being said, we spend a lot of time – as (Head Coach) Kevin (Stefanski) calls it, ‘in the lab’ – in the spring and throughout training camp understanding that every offense has to be designed around the starting quarterback’s strengths. Look, I think everybody realizes that can look a little bit different when Deshaun eventually takes snaps under center. That being said, the core package of the offense will be consistent. That is not to say that there may not be modifications based on his skillset, but I don’t think that transition will be quite as challenging as maybe some are anticipating.”


On if the Browns came close to trading any players or acquiring any players via trade ahead of yesterday’s deadline, including related to RB Kareem Hunt:

“We came close to one deal in terms of acquiring a player. It didn’t come to fruition from a compensation package. We feel really good about the team we have and feel really good about the guys in the locker room. To Kareem specifically, I would actually give Kareem a lot of credit because I think for an individual going through what he went through the past couple of months realizing that his status was in some level of flux, and all Kareem did since August has worked hard and really put the team first. I think that type of mindset and that type of attitude is exactly what allows you to battle through difficult challenges and difficult circumstances and ultimately what you  need to win games as you go from week to week in the second half of the year.”


On if he had conversations with Hunt about potentially being traded:

“We always have open dialogue with our guys so none of that necessarily happens in a vacuum, just to be clear. Kareem has been excellent every day that he has been in the building since August. I think you all know how passionate he is, how much he cares about this team and how much he cares about this city. We know he is going to have a really strong second half and are looking forward to [him] helping us continue to win games, like he did on Monday night.”


On if young Browns players are performing at the desired level and if the team is optimistic about their development:

“I would say that for any young player, you wish the progression was just kind of standardized for every young player. The reality of it is guys mature at different frequencies. Quite honestly, with any young player, not all of them will necessarily reach their peak. You realize that when you have draft picks or young players across your roster and having kind of reasonable expectations. That being said, I do think we are pleased with the team and we are pleased with what we have. We think we have enough talent in most of the spots to play competitive football and win games. We are looking forward to the second half of the season.”


On the Browns retaining cap space rather than potentially spending more to acquire additional veteran depth this season:

“I think all of those decisions from year to year are kind of just dependent on where you are with your team. In terms of the cap space ask, we always look it over like a multiyear period. There are some years you will be relatively tighter. There are some years where you will have a little bit more room. That is probably the simple way to say it without being too technical.”


On the significance of WR Jakeem Grant Sr.’s on special teams:

“I think anytime you acquire an All-Pro returner and you lose him in camp, that obviously changes what you are able to do maybe at that spot in the return game. That is one of those players where you are not going to necessarily easily replace him. That being said, our responsibility is to adjust accordingly. That is one phase or in Jakeem’s [case], that is two of the six phases on special teams so that certainly is something we have to be able to adjust and adapt for. Look, I think that as we look at special teams, we realize we can play cleaner there. We can play a bit better situationally there. I know that is certainly a focus for Prief (special teams coordinator Mike Priefer) during the bye week, and he has been working tirelessly to make sure that we can play good football in the kicking game. I will give a lot of credit, he has done a really nice job with (K) Cade York and (P) Corey Bojorquez, and we are looking forward to more consistent football there in the second half.”


On the Browns having two FGs blocked through the first eight games:

“That is an area obviously of focus for us. On some of those, were probably a little bit of a lower on launch point, and some of those can be a little bit on the protection. Obviously, we don’t want to have multiple blocked kicks in the first half of the season, and we want to give our guy an opportunity to make kicks.”


On his reaction prior to the season if he was told then that the Browns would rank No. 7 in scoring at the midpoint of the year:

“I would ask you, ‘What are we doing in the other areas?’ because it is not just about the offense. Obviously, we are pleased that we are putting up points, but football really is a team game. It takes offense, defense and special teams to win. That is where we have to make improvements over these few weeks.”


On if prior to the season he would have signed up for being No. 7 scoring at the midpoint of the season:

“Would have signed up for it. Would have signed up for it for sure.”


On what has led to the team being 3-5 from a personnel standpoint:

“Look, the reality of it is the first eight games of the year were not where we want to be. I think that responsibility really falls on all of us within football operations, but the good thing is we have more than half of our season left, and we have nine more opportunities because ultimately, it is how we end the year. This is a snapshot in time. The reality is we have to improve the consistency of the team from week to week quickly. That is really going to be everybody’s focus during the bye week.”


On QB Jacoby Brissett’s comment that ‘no one is giving us a chance’ and the organization’s mindset heading into the second half of the year, based on his statement about the opportunities in the next nine games and the team’s decisions around yesterday’s trade deadline:

“Our mindset is we take it one week at a time because we do have nine games left. There is plenty of season to go. Our job is to go out there, win games and put forth a good effort from week to week. That is really our focus and that is our mindset. Ultimately, that is what we can control. Our focus is on doing everything we can to control what is within our control and not worry about the rest. If we can continue to put one foot in front of the other and play consistent ball, then we will look up and see where we are at the end of the year.”


On if the landscape of the AFC North is helping fuel that the team is not out of contention yet:

“I think it is less than that because a lot is going to change over the next nine weeks with teams and across the league. I think if you are more focused on just the external environment, you lose sight or you take your eye off the ball in terms of what we can fix and what we can do because it won’t matter what happens everywhere else around the league if we do not do our jobs.”


On the impact of LB Anthony Walker Jr.’s injury and of Walker remaining engaged with the team after sustaining a season-ending injury:

“It is fantastic to have A-Walk around the building. He is an energetic presence, and his ability in the locker room can’t be understated. We obviously miss him on the field. We would like to have him out there with us, but having him back and with the guys has been important. It has been good.”


On what has it been like with Watson back in the building, including given Watson can return to practice soon:

“Deshaun, it has been great to have him back in the building. He has been focused on working on himself. He has stayed in great shape. He has been part of the meetings. He has done everything and more that has been asked of him. We will be excited to have him when he can continue to ramp up football activities and get back on the practice field.”


On if the team has to guard against external perceptions that Watson may be viewed as the person who can potentially save the team’s season upon fully returning to the team:

“Honestly, that is not something that we can necessarily control internally. That is not really our mindset. Our mindset with him is when he is available and back, we will welcome him back and get him ramped up appropriately. Until that point, it is really to focus on the guys who are playing and obviously at the quarterback position getting Jacoby prepared to play and putting our best foot forward against the upcoming opponent.”


On if Watson is allowed to work with anyone in the building:

“Yes, he is allowed to be in meetings, work with our strength and conditioning staff and things like that.”


On if a coach is with Watson when independently throwing:

“I am not going to get into all that, but he is allowed to work with the strength and conditioning staff. He is getting the work that he needs to do to get prepared.”


On if the Browns expect Watson to play against Houston:

“Yes, we would.”


On confidence that Watson will be able to hit the ground running after not playing in a game for approximately two years:

“Look, we spent a lot of time with Deshaun in the spring and in camp and banked a lot of good reps during the time. That being said, our approach isn’t to really any quarterback but certainly with the time that Deshaun has had off to expect him to shoulder everything. That is not necessarily how the team is designed or put together. I don’t know that would be a fair ask for any quarterback. In a couple of weeks, we will be in that world where we are getting him ready to play, and we will handle it appropriately.”


On evaluating Brissett’s contributions to the team:

“Jacoby has been everything that we had hoped when we signed him. I think that he has given us an opportunity and more to win the game in every one of his starts with maybe save the exception of one. We knew that he was a special guy in the locker room from particularly his time in Indianapolis navigating the two years with (former Colts QB) Andrew Luck’s injury and then ultimately his retirement. He has been an excellent addition to our organization, and we couldn’t be happier with what he has provided the team so far.”


On the importance of the second half of the season and establishing momentum for this year and moving forward, including with Watson returning:

“I think honestly even independent of Deshaun, the second half of the year in every season is important. You want to be playing your best football in November, December and January. I think that oftentimes, the best teams they find out who they are and lean into those strengths. That is really our goal as we enter the second half of the year and hopefully try to play our best football leading into late into the season.”


On if there are particular areas of strength that the team didn’t lean into enough during the first half of the season and needs to do more of in the second half of the year:

“I think you find that every year. That is another reason that the bye week and kind of our continual self-scout is important, whether that is schematically or personnel wise. That is where the heavy lifting will be done by our personnel staff, our research staff and our coaching staff during the bye week so if we need to make more significant or even just minor modifications in that regard, we can play the best version of the team that we have.”


On if there are any long-term concerns about CB Denzel Ward remaining in concussion protocol:

“We are listening to the medical experts there. Denzel is doing everything that he can to get back on the field. I think everybody realizes here that concussions can be tricky and then just reality because you are dealing with your brain, we want to make sure that guys are healthy before they get back onto the field.”


On evaluating Stefanski’s full tenure as head coach of the Browns:

“Kevin has had to navigate some pretty unique circumstances and some pretty difficult circumstances during his tenure as a head coach. Our belief in Kevin is just as strong as the day that we hired him. He is smart. He is a servant leader. He is creative. We know he has the ability to lead our team to wins. We feel really good. We feel like the locker room is in good hands. We know he pushes our guys. We are looking forward to playing good football in the second half.”


On what would make this season successful as the team enters the second half of the year:

“Ultimately, it is really just maximizing our potential and playing consistent football in the second half of the year. Look, we understand that at the end of the day we do have to produce wins. That is our mindset, and that is our goal. That is the mindset that we are going to take into the next nine games.”


On if having a 5-10 record in the past 15 games is concerning:

“Honestly, we just kind of look at it over a longer time horizon. I think you can slice it up to whatever way to make whatever point. We haven’t played consistent football in the first half, and we acknowledge that. We have to improve the performance there.”


On the impact of the recent lawsuit filed against Watson on the organization:

“Definitely understand the question. Like we have said from the beginning, all of the legal situation with Deshaun, we understand that has to run its course. We will obviously let Deshaun’s legal team speak for that.”


On evaluating Stefanski calling offensive plays:

“I think that Kevin has shown that he has the ability to both manage the game and call the offense. I think he has done a nice job under a variety of circumstances as the play caller, and he is organized and bright enough where he can manage the broader aspects of the job. I think he is acutely aware, as really we all are, that as the head coach it is not just about running the offense or calling the plays; it is about managing the entire team. He takes that responsibility seriously.”


On evaluating leadership in the Browns locker room:

“When you talk about leadership, leadership takes many forms. It is not just if you have a ‘C’ on your chest to be a leader. I think that responsibility is really shared across the locker room. You have some guys who are your passionate, fiery, vocal guys. You have some guys – say your Nick Chubb types – who don’t say much but just do their jobs and lead by example. I think that burden is really a shared responsibility. Ultimately, you need that as part of your organization and you need that as part of your locker room to navigate the tough moments and to navigate through adversity. That is something that we are going to need to be able to do over the next two and a half months. It is probably a good question at the end of the year and certainly a challenge for our guys, but I like our team, I like our locker room and I think that we do have the guys who can navigate effectively, but we have to go out and do it.”


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