Mid-week thoughts, Part II
Sashi Brown, the barrister turned de facto general manager of the Browns, took the stand in front of the Cleveland media earlier this week and defended himself in a 26-minute news conference.
The get-together covered a wide array of topics, including a suggestion that sabotage was at the root of the trade that wasn’t a trade with the Cincinnati Bengals last week when the Browns failed to consummate a deal because they missed the trade deadline.
“That’s wholly untrue,” Brown declared. “We were all in there together. Hue (Jackson), myself and a couple of other staff members who work on these things at a time we were trying to get the trade done, so I’m not worried about that internally,
“Externally, I can just put it to bed (because) that is just not the case. To sabotage a trade just wouldn’t make any sense.”
The deal would have sent one of the Browns’ second-round picks and a third-rounder in next year’s college football draft to the Bengals in exchange for backup quarterback AJ McCarron, a deal many observers considered tilted heavily in Cincinnati’s favor.
The timing of the deal cast suspicion on whether Brown either got cold feet at the last minute and did not know any other way to cause it to fail or the Browns were just plain careless in its execution.
This front office has engineered enough trades in the last two years to blow this one up by accident. That is why some veteran observers in other front offices around the league reportedly suspect this one had a distinctly different aroma.
“Cincinnati and us tried our damnedest to try and get the paperwork in at the last minute,” argued Brown, “and we’re talking about minutes and seconds before the deadline ended. . . . I do think Cincinnati in earnest tried. I know we did everything humanly possible to get it done. It just didn’t happen. It is truly that simple.”
As for waiting so long and so close to the deadline to finalize the transaction, Brown acknowledged, “That’s the one place we were talking about this morning about what we would do differently next time. That’s a fair critique. Deadlines do make deals, but they don’t have to so we can get better there.”
As for the Browns’ winless season this season and winning only one of the 24 games on his watch, Brown said, “Certainly, our standards are much higher than that and our expectations are higher than that. . . . It’s easy to get lost in the certainty of the wins and losses.
“There has been some progress. . . . I have liked the contributions of some of our free agents. At the end of the day, guys, it is my responsibility to deliver a roster here that is talented enough to win week in and week out and we haven’t done that yet.”
Now tell us something we don’t know.
“We are confident as we move forward that we will be able to add – you guys know we are well positioned – the requisite talent to bring this roster back to being a contender for this division and beyond,” he said, “but we are not there yet. We have to own that and we will.”
Well positioned? For what? The offense is a mess with a line that doesn’t block well for the ground game; the quarterback situation is a disaster; and the club has arguably the worst wide receivers room in the National Football League. It’s somewhat better on defense, but the secondary needs a lot of work.
It’s very apparent Brown sees the glass as half full. The eternal optimist. He is not just a smooth talker, he is delusional.
Is he watching the same games the rest of us are? Doesn’t he see the numerous blemishes on this talent-starved roster? If he does and chooses to internalize them, then he is fooling only himself. He has no idea what he is talking about. He is a business guy masquerading as an NFL general manager.
In defending his reasons for seeking McCarron, he said, “AJ is a guy who is experienced with our system. Obviously he has played in NFL games (eight to be exact, four as a starter when Andy Dalton was injured late in the 2015 season).
“Hue has a lot of familiarity with him so for all those reasons. He is a young quarterback (he’s 27) with promise on the field and has familiarity with our system. That is a very rare combination.”
It’s also not a reason to swap two high draft selections for someone who has yet to prove himself, especially in the middle of a season when your team is oh and eight and floundering.
As for reports there are sharp disagreements between the front office and coaching staff, Brown said, “Obviously, I can’t go to every single report that has been out there. As I said, I think in these (roster) builds and in these moments, there is a lot of adversity that will put pressure on people and we have to stay united internally. I would not address it other than that, but we are working together and that is what I would say to it.”
This guy would be a terrific spinmeister in politics.
With regard to his failures thus far, he offered, “As I have said from day one, we want the winning to start as soon as possible and it is one of the reasons we so aggressively have tried to position ourselves in terms of I think we are going to end up with something close to about five drafts in three years, the equivalent of that.”
Stockpiling draft choices are us. Choosing wisely not so much.
“We are realistic first of all,” he said, “then secondly, I want to arm our coaches and our personnel staff wants to arm our coaches with as much talent as we possibly can have to go out there and win every Sunday. There are certainly a lot of opportunities out there and we are realistic.”
So why after two drafts, 24 players selected and 24 games are Brown’s Browns 1-23 with no immediate help in sight? He talks like a con man who conned the Haslams into elevating him to this job.
“We are not going to be perfect,” he said. “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 it.”
So it’s build the team first, then get the QB or vice versa?
“Kind of a chicken-and-egg question that goes on in this league I think you have seen people debate this one way or the other,” he said. “. . . It is different in every building. It is different on every roster. It is different with every quarterback and his personality and makeup.
“For us, I think the first thing we realized was how far we had to come in terms of replenishing our talent. As we have made decisions to trade back at different times, that has been a theme of that. We are, I promise you, very intent of addressing the quarterback situation. “
The reason they had to come so far was due to purging the roster prior to the 2016 season of at least a half dozen core players who contributed significantly to the cause.
“We are confident in what we are doing moving forward, but these things will always be second-guessed until we win,” Brown said. “We understand that. 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.”
Crying? There’s no crying in football!! Where’s Tom Hanks?
What about misevaluating quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson? “You take off your hat to both of those young payers who are off to hot starts in their careers,” Brown said. “. . . I think we have some really good processes in place. I am pleased with the guys we have pulled out of the draft.”
What he didn’t say is his draft people were badly mistaken passing on Wentz and Watson in consecutive years. And of course he is pleased with the guys he has drafted the last couple of years. He’s not going to trash those selections.
“I think they are performing well almost to a man,” he said. “At the end of the day, we always can get better and we will always look to get better certainly, including the quarterback situation, absolutely.”
What about the quarterback he drafted in the second round this year and the other two young quarterbacks on the roster? “DeShone (Kizer) is doing a good job in terms of his resilience and focus,” Brown said. “All three of those guys are working hard. Cody (Kessler) and Kevin (Hogan) have been ready when their numbers have been called.”
So with the wonderful job he seems to think he is doing, has Brown received any assurance he and his front office will be back next year as a reward?” No, it wouldn’t be a conversation I would have, either,” said the man who has brought this franchise to its knees in a remarkably short period of time.
“I think the most important thing for us to do is stay really focused on our task at hand. We have eight other opportunities this year. Our guys have been resilient and focused. I think you expect no less from the front office and coaching staff and that is what we will continue to do.”
That’s eight more opportunities to duplicate how the first half of the season has unfolded. That’s eight more opportunities to drag this franchise even deeper into the abyss.