Most mid-season press conferences for the front office of a NFL team center around the actual play on the field. Sure, there will be some pointed questions about players who are performing below expectations in an attempt to have the evaluators divulge what went wrong when they were drafted or signed. Perhaps, especially for an 0-8 team, the critiques would go so far as to question some of the over-riding philosophies discussed as the plan heading into the previous offseason.
Basic competency of a front office is not usual as a discussion topic. Not even for the worst of the worst NFL teams. Yet, the executive vice president of the Cleveland Browns, Sashi Brown, found himself with a deluge of queries that amounted to asking if the people in Berea were capable of the basic tenets of being a functional football operation. Brown held his composure and answered the questions earnestly, but… this is not normal.
Here is how Brown responded to some of the lines of questions on Monday.
Are you capable of filing basic NFL paperwork?
The turmoil began when reports of issues between the Browns coaching staff and front office surfaced due to missing out on a Jimmy Garoppolo trade (New England sent him to San Francisco for a second-round pick). The Browns then were rumored- and later confirmed- to be in talks with the Cincinnati Bengals about A.J. McCarron and agreed to the Bengals demands minutes before the trade deadline. Many reports came out about what happened, but most blamed the Browns sending the paperwork to the Bengals instead of the league office.
“It is a lot simpler than what has been written truly. This is just a matter of getting to a deal too late in the process.” Brown started off. He later continued to add in that “I know we did everything humanly possible to get it done. It just didn’t happen. It is truly that simple.”
Browns seemingly contradicted the reporting on how NFL trades work though. Multiple NFL writers indicated each team needs to send in their own paperwork to the league office in order for a trade to be confirmed. Brown said it was up to the Browns to send them in both. “There is no paperwork that either side got in that would allow a deal to happen, and it is truly that simple. They had our paperwork, we had theirs and then it was incumbent upon us to send it in.”
Further confusing matters, Brown later noted how all of the trades might happen near the deadline, but they are in the works for weeks. So, one might think a proactive front office might have paperwork ready to file ahead of time. “As much as these trades seem like they happen right at the deadline, they actually usually are weeks in a process so they are not as last minute as they quite seem.” Brown told the local press. As he was further pressed if the front office made a mistake waiting too long before finally accepting the trade offer, he did say “I think that is a fair critique.”
Did you sabotage the A.J. McCarron trade?
The accepted trade for McCarron would have been for a second and third round draft pick. Possibly more than what the 49ers gave the Patriots for Jimmy Garoppolo (depending on which picks they were) though McCarron is a restricted free agent this offseason (rather than unrestricted as Jimmy-G will be). The value appears to be tilted quite favorably towards the Bengals side of the equation, which leads some to wonder how an analytically-focused front office would allow it to happen. As such, questions about whether or not the last minute acceptance or the mis-filed paperwork was Brown’s way of sabotaging the trade.1
“Nothing we would ever do to try to make up a trade” Brown said. “to sabotage a trade just wouldn’t make any sense.”
Do you work past 5 p.m.?
One of the key sources of the consternation between the coaching staff and front office was a couple of emails released by Benjamin Allbright. One of the revelations within it was that the coaches were upset about Brown leaving the office by 5 p.m. on the day before the trade deadline. For his part, Brown was adamant on refuting such a claim.
“A lot of this stuff that has been written has been made up.” Brown stated. “Someone can call my wife and kids and tell them where I was at 5 o’clock, but it certainly wasn’t home.”
Can you get along with the coaching staff?
A fracture between the working relationship of the front office and the coaching staff is the root of each of the other inquiries. Brown was open about issues both from a public relations standpoint last week and even hinted at more within the walls of Berea. He quickly pivoted to stating they are working together, and he expects it to continue when he said “These builds are challenging, and they do place a lot of adversity on organizations. I think organizations’ and individuals’ characters come out. Character comes out in those circumstances, and obviously, not going to sugarcoat anything, last week was a tough, tough week for us from a PR perspective and things that we can get better on, but the groups are working together and working hard. We will continue to but we understand while we haven’t had the results we aspire to that those are going to be the types of stories that come out. Now, we have to do everything we can to stay unified.”
Are you still the right group of people to build this football team?
Many of the questions surfaced about the current status of the roster and the failure to produce more than a single win in the first season and a half of this current rebuild. Brown was honest when he said “It is my responsibility to deliver a roster here that is talented enough to win week in, week out, and we haven’t done that yet. We are confident as we move forward that we will be able to add – you guys know how well we are positioned – the requisite talent to bring this roster back to being a contender for this division and beyond, but we are not there yet. We have to own that, and we will.”
Brown continued by noting the importance of the upcoming offseason as he said “We have to be realistic and accountable to that. We are not going to be perfect. That is not the name of the game, but it is to be better than the others. 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, and we plan to execute on it.”
The overall theme for Brown during the line of questioning though was summed up near the end when he noted “We certainly have high expectations for ourselves, and we are not going to sit here and cry for ourselves. No one is crying for us. This is football.”
- Remember, this is not fan speculation, it was an actual question from the local media to the executive vice president of a NFL team. [↩]