Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry (12.1.21)

Opening statement:

“Entering the bye week at 6-6. Obviously, that does not reflect the aspirations that we had at this point in the season. That being said, I think the bye comes at a really good time for us. I know (Head Coach) Kevin (Stefanski), the offensive staff, the defensive staff and the special teams group, they are all hard at work really reviewing everything from the season, whether that is scheme or personnel usage, in a manner that will allow us to make necessary adjustments that allows us to play our best football over the final five weeks of the regular season. That all being said, taking a step back from a big picture perspective, I think the next five games really provide us with a really valuable opportunity. I think oftentimes people talk about adversity or challenges really when it is convenient, but the reality is it is really important to us as a team and organization because No. 1, you learn a lot about people, whether it is on the field, publicly or privately, but also, adversity is universally important for growth. I think that is something that we need as a team and we need as an organization, and I think the next five games provide us with a valuable opportunity to grow and work through what will be a very difficult stretch. The reality of it is entering the season and entering December, you hope for the opportunity to play meaningful football late in the year, and that is something that is still right in front of us. We are going to play five teams that I think are playoff caliber – four in the AFC and three in our division. I am excited about that opportunity. I am excited to learn about how our team deals with adversity and the resolve, and that is something that we are looking forward to seeing how our group responds out of the bye.”


On factors leading to the Browns’ inconsistency this season:

“Quite honestly, I do not think there is necessarily any one reason. Obviously, at times during the season, the different phases of our team have kind of been on or off throughout the first 12 weeks. I know that is something that obviously we are hard at work analyzing with our coaching staff so that we can ultimately play our best ball in December. I think, just quite honestly, different stretches in the season have had different challenges or different issues so I do not think there is necessarily a one-size-fits-all answer to that.”


On how difficult it is to assess QB Baker Mayfield’s performance and development, given the injuries:

“I think we all know that Baker is incredibly physically tough. I think he has told you guys at moments in the year when he has been frustrated with his own performance. That being said, he has had stretches this year where he has played well for us. Look, the reality of it is he has worked through injuries, no different than other players on our roster. I know what he expects of himself and what we expect of him whenever he is on the field to perform at a capable level and at a winning level. We expect him to play his best football down the stretch after the bye.”


On why the Browns offense has not performed as well as desired, given the continuity from last year:

“Realistically, you are right – we brought back a lot of the same guys this year. I really do mean it when I say every year is unique. Just because you won a lot of games last year or just because you bring back a similar group, it does not entitle you to necessarily the same performance level or the same production level moving forward. Quite honestly, with the offense, we have just not been consistent enough in the passing game. I want to be clear here, that is not necessarily a one-player or a one-person problem. The passing game is all about coordination realistically. It starts from the play call from the sideline that hopefully has the right solutions for whatever the defensive strategy is. Then it goes to the protection for your offensive line, your running backs and your tight ends at times. It goes to your receivers being in the right place at the right time and winning their matchups. Then it goes to your quarterback getting the ball to the right location at the right time accurately. Quite frankly, there have been different pieces within the passing offense that maybe have functioned at a very efficient and high level at times during the season and other pieces have not necessarily been there. I think it has not been any one of those components, but it is something that obviously we are hard at work to make sure everything can be on the same page and coordinated as we enter the stretch run here.”


On how Head Coach Kevin Stefanski has handled the second year as the head coach:

“Kevin, he has all of the virtues and characteristics that are important for the leader of our organization. I think it starts with his self-awareness and accountability. It goes to his level of introspection in terms of the team and the job that our group is doing, and it also goes to his open-mindedness and his ability to adjust. I think he has been very transparent with you guys in terms of the areas where he has felt like our team can perform at a higher level. Again, I talk about adversity. I think Kevin’s level of accountability is exactly what you want in tough stretches, and I think our guys take their cue from him.”


On Stefanski’s play calling last year compared to this season and how opposing defenses are playing the Browns differently this year:

“Honestly, I think that is a better question for him and our expert in terms of scheme. That is not my area of expertise, but I have a ton of confidence in him as a play caller.”


On if QB Baker Mayfield is unequivocally the Browns’ quarterback of the future and can win Super Bowls for the team:

“I think with Baker, especially from a long-term perspective, you really try and take a big picture approach. Really with any player, it is about body of work really over several years and also taking into context the environment or particular individual’s situation. We have seen Baker play a lot of good football here. We have seen Baker play good football this season. I know he is excited and we are excited for the opportunity ahead of us. We expect him to play his best football moving forward over the next five weeks.”


On what Mayfield has to show over the next five weeks to solidify how the Browns feel about Mayfield and Mayfield’s future:

“I do not know if it is so much about showing me anything. Really, our focus is on winning games and playing at a high enough level that allows us to be in a strong spot in December. That is really where the focus is. I think Baker has shown a lot over the past three-plus seasons so I do not necessarily subscribe to this notion that there is something in these next five games that is of particular focus, so to speak.”


On the Browns offense regressing this season after returning 11 starters and the coaching staff and indications the unit will improve after the bye week:

“We all think the offense can play at a higher level. Like I mentioned, I think the biggest thing is really just the consistency in the passing game, which is a number of things. Again, I know our staff is hard at work finding the right solutions that will allow us to play at the highest level going into the last five weeks of the season. Again, every year is unique. You are not entitled to top-level performance just because you return the same guys. You really do have to work at it every year on a week-to-week basis. This current bye week will hopefully be a big role in that in terms of getting us back on track where we need to be.”


On believing Mayfield will play his best over the next five weeks and if that is due to the fact the team expects Mayfield to be healthier:

“I think certainly that is part of it. I think he has told you guys he has felt healthier week to week. At the same time, I expect and I am looking forward to seeing our guys work through this tough stretch, and that is not just Baker; that is our entire team. At the end of the day, we want to be playing our best football in December, and that is really our mission. That is our charge.”


On why it was important for Mayfield to play through injuries and not rest before the final five games of the season:

“I think it is a couple of things. I probably should be clear here: For any player in terms of whether they are on the field or not, it is really three separate things. No. 1, are they medically cleared from the perspective that they can’t do anything harmful to their health or significantly harmful to their health. No. 2, are they medically cleared in a manner that would allow them to function in their role on the field and play at a winning level in their role on the field. Then No. 3, does the player both by feel and honestly by evidence throughout the practice week, can he perform all the requirements of his role on gameday. We will never put a player on the field that does not pass those three criteria, whether it is our quarterback, an offensive lineman, a member of the secondary, a punter or a kicker. That holds through for Baker. Our expectation is when guys on the field and players’ expectation of themselves when they are on the field, if they are there, they are going to perform at a high level. The second piece of that is the reality is we are in December in the NFL, and nobody is 100 percent. It does not matter what position you play. Everybody who is there is not only healthy enough to be out there or healthy enough to play but healthy enough to play at a winning level. That is our expectation for guys when they are on the field.”   


On how to prevent a situation similar to the one with former Browns and LA Rams WR Odell Beckham Jr. from occurring again:

“Quite honestly – I obviously addressed Odell a number of weeks ago – I will say more generally, each of those situations are unique, and I think the Odell situation is probably singularly unique in probably the past couple of years again without going into the details. You never like to see a divorce, so to speak, of that nature, and you try your best as an organization to prevent that type of thing from occurring, but it does happen in the NFL. It is unfortunate, but it is something that we are moving forward from. Our concern is really the games the next five weeks.”


On balancing the evaluation of what is happening each season when it comes to Mayfield and a team as a whole without overreacting, given every season is unique:

“I will be honest, it is probably more art than science. I wish it was as easy as I can give you a straightforward answer in terms of, ‘Hey, this how you weight it and this is how you do it.’ It is a little bit more feel. It is a little bit about looking at things without emotion and ultimately trying to be fair to your team and your organization. I wish I had a more formulaic response for you, but it really is a little bit more art than science.”


On if consistency in communication within the team has improved with the goal of correcting mistakes:

“First, the answer your question is yes. I have seen progress in that area. Secondly, I think again the bye week gives everybody time to have a little bit of a breather, slow down and really kind of work on some of those challenges even more aggressively. I think that is something that our staff has and will continue to do a really nice job with and do expect that to be clean as we come out of the bye.”


On if Mayfield has been healthy enough and good enough to win and if the team has discussed starting another QB to win a game:

“Baker is our quarterback. He is healthy enough to win games for us. He has won games for us in the past couple of weeks. If he is ready to go, he is going to be our starter.”


On the Browns making adjustments to Beckham’s contract terms after the trade deadline and if the team could have done it before that timeline in order to potentially make Beckham more tradeable:

“Appreciate the question. I think you know No. 1, I do not talk about contract situations, and No. 2, we addressed Odell at the time. We are past that at this point.”


On if the Browns need to see Mayfield perform next year to decide Mayfield’s long-term future with the team:

“I think that probably goes back to a little bit of what I mentioned earlier that you really do try and take a wider lens, so of speak. Really again, our focus is on playing our best football in December and positioning ourselves to really play in the postseason this year because we have a ton of meaningful games, and that really significantly outsizes any individual player decision across the roster that we are going to make. There will be plenty of time to think through how we are going to build the roster into next year, but at the end of the day, everybody’s focus and energy within the organization is making sure that we do everything in our power to maximize the current season.”


On if the Browns need to see more from Mayfield next year within the system and under Stefanski to make a determination about Mayfield’s future, given it is the first time Mayfield has experienced consistency within the offense:

“I do not think that is necessarily the case. Again, the focus is making sure that both Baker and our team really play as well as possible the next five games so that we can be in a good position at the end of the month.”


On if Mayfield playing for a contract extension has potentially impacted Mayfield’s performance:

“That is not something that I can answer for him. He has mentioned probably multiple times throughout the year that his main focus is on football and winning games. There are a lot of players across the league that are in similar boats, whether they are free agents or extension eligible. It comes with the territory in terms of being a professional athlete, but I do know this: Baker is both physically and mentally resilient, and he is hyper-focused. At the end of the day, he is hyper-focused on winning and controlling the offense’s play moving forward. I doubt that is something that is really top of mind with him. That is why players higher representation to take care of the business affairs for them. I think really all of our focus is in terms of winning games down the stretch here.”


On evaluating WR Donovan Peoples-Jones performance and development since joining the Browns:

“I will be honest, with Donovan, he has probably come along more quickly than I would have anticipated when we drafted him, and that is a credit to him. In terms of his next steps, obviously, he has a really great opportunity in front of him. I think part of it is he has probably been a little bit of stop and start this year from the injury side of things, but he obviously has and will continue to play major role in the passing game for us this year. It is an incredible opportunity for him to continue to make plays and ultimately help us win games.”


On evaluating DE Jadeveon Clowney’s performance this season and if Clowney is a potential fit for the Browns beyond this year:

“I think JD has done a really nice job for us. Run and pass game, he has been very disruptive, and he has had a handful of games where really he and (DE) Myles (Garrett) have really taken it over for us on the defensive side of the ball. I have been very pleased with the results that we have seen from him on the field. Again, in terms of the long-term stuff and contractual stuff, we will have plenty of time for that, but I think he has had a really nice season for us.”  


On the Browns’ high number of pre-snap penalties:

“I know that is something that Kevin has talked about that he is disappointed and frustrated at. It is something that he has really made several adjustments over the past couple of weeks and I know or would imagine that there will be continued adjustments there. Look, it is not something that we have been accustomed to typically at least relative to last year. I think we all know how disciplined and organized that Kevin is. It is obviously something that we have to minimize and get fixed moving forward.”


On if decreasing Stefanski’s responsibility on offense could help Stefanski oversee the total operation of the team better and potentially decrease pre-snap penalties:

“No, I do not think it is a function of that. I think we have seen enough evidence over time that Kevin can manage everything on his plate. I think it really starts with accountability for every man that is on the team. Look, I have a ton of confidence that is something that we will get fixed moving forward.”


On if he feels there is any sense of a ‘we have arrived’ or entitlement as it relates to the team’s inconsistency this year after reaching the postseason last year:

“I do not get that sense. Again, I guess that is probably a good individual question for everyone, but no, I do not get that sense because the reality of it is we have had a fair amount of roster turnover. Again, every year is different and unique – I know I have said that a couple of different times. I do not get a sense that there is a level of entitlement or that we have arrived because quite honestly, we have not. We have not gotten there yet. We have not had the sustained success as some of the great teams and organizations in our sport. I think everybody hyper-aware of that you really do have to work on it a yearly basis.”


On the frequency of the Browns using 13 personnel and the balance between doing things differently than other NFL teams to try and get an edge with potentially doing too much differently to where the team is not necessarily matching areas where other NFL teams are having success:

“It is a good and fair question. I think that is part of what this week from a coaching staff perspective is all about. I do know that from Kevin’s perspective that has been one of our better personnel groups over the past two years because we do have a good tight end room and guys who can create mismatches when teams will typically play you in base in that personnel grouping. You are right, it is a balance of all of the personnel groupings at your disposal. I think one of the things at least that I have seen over the past two years is this coaching staff has done a really nice job with schematic adjustments at the pivotal points in the season, whether it is the bye week, the offseason or things of those natures, to be honest and self-reflective in terms of what has worked well and what has not worked quite as efficiently. This will be a big week in terms of addressing all of those type of questions, and certainly, looking forward to what Kevin and his staff kind of have in mind as we get into December.”


On the usage and performance of the Browns WRs this season:

“I think it is probably like all of our position groups, we have been inconsistent. We have had games where we have played well, and we have games where we have not played quite as well. That goal of consistency has really kind of been the biggest thing leading into the end of the year. I am looking forward to hopefully having that group being at full health or at least close to full health after the bye, and I think that will certainly help. Look, a big opportunity in front of us, and those guys are going to have to continue to play major roles. Look, we are still searching for consistency in all areas, and that is ultimately what we have to find to reach our goals.”


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