BEREA, Ohio -- The man in charge of finding and deciding the Cleveland Browns' personnel and roster met the media on Wednesday.
Sashi Brown embarked on a long rebuild when he took over as vice president of football operations in January 2016. He and his team emphasized the draft and youth, and the Browns now have 43 players who are 25 or younger. They had 24 selections in the last two drafts, and they have five picks in the first two rounds of the 2018 draft. In the offseason the team committed to a league high $181 million in guaranteed portions of free-agent and contract extensions.
What has not followed are wins, as Cleveland has started 0-4 this season and gone 1-19 in the Brown/Hue Jackson era. Here’s a transcript (edited for length) of Brown’s meeting with the media.
Q: In a long-term build, can this team win in 2017?
A: Yeah, it is, obviously our roster is not, you know, we’re not at the end of our build by any stretch, and I don’t know if any team ever is. But we certainly have made some progress on the field, we’re seeing that with some of the young guys that are playing and making plays for us. But the results at the end of the day, as you and I believe, winning is why we’re here. So the results need to get better. I do believe we can play better. I know the guys believe they can play better, and they will. We can and will play better as we move forward.
Q. Did you expect the progress to be more accelerated?
A. We’re not going to overreact to four games. We played some tough divisional opponents. We’re well aware of how difficult our division is. But we know we can play better and will. At the same time, I think for us, to be honest, it’s something that is going to be difficult to measure week in and week out because some of our players’ performances are going to go up and down as they develop. We have a young roster. The guys are working their tails off.
Q. Is the roster too young?
A. I don’t know quite how to answer that question, but I would say no. I think our young guys are playing well, they are developing, they’re getting experience.
Q. The receivers have been an issue. Do you second guess anything related to that position? Do you wish you had done a little more?
A. You can always go back as I told you before, whether it’s the draft or free agency, there’s always opportunities you wish that you capitalize on that you don’t or that you didn’t. At the same time, our wide receivers can play better and I think they will. We’re not going to overreact too much early. … That group will get better. I think you’ve seen some guys have some performances that raised some eyebrows in a positive direction. We need that consistency from that group, and it will come.
Q. Are you disappointed in what you're getting from Kenny Britt?
A. I wouldn’t say that. We’re obviously relying on Kenny as a veteran presence to bring some consistency and stability. I think Kenny knows that he can perform better.
Q. Should you be able to rebuild and win while you do so?
A. Yeah, I think you can and I think we have opportunities to do that. We haven't capitalized on them. We will have more this season.
Q. How are the front office and coaching staff working together?
A. Well. Well. Really well. Good communication on various transactions, roster moves, we've had some particularly difficult injuries at some key places with some key players for us and working well with Hue's staff.
Q. There are players on other teams saying Hue can’t win with this roster. When the emphasis is on the future, it always pushes success to the future. When does it stop being about next year? When does the turnaround happen?
A. If I could tell you that, listen, we would be in great shape. But I think this: Growth and development of a roster is not going to happen overnight. I think you've seen more than one team try that unsuccessfully. We're committed. As I told you from day one, we're not going to stray just because we have some challenges early on or face some adversity early on. We are committed. We're seeing the young guys get on the field and play. So in our progression, we're going to stick to our plan and stay developing our young guys. It doesn't mean that we're not going to go out and find the Jason McCourtys, the Kevin Zeitlers, the JC Tretters of the world to come in and supplement through free agency and veteran players that we can add there. But we also are committed to turning this organization into one that truly builds through the draft, and we're on the way there.
Q. How have your discussions been with ownership?
A. We all want this to happen as soon as possible. But we also are very conscientious about making sure we’re paying attention to some of the underlying signs. I’m not going to get into all the discussions and details that we had, but Jimmy [Haslam] was realistic when we started in 2016 about where we are too. But we’re all disappointed for our fans and the entire organization that the results haven’t been better. We’re committed to continuing to work toward building this roster and becoming a perennial playoff team, and we’re on the way toward that.
A. No, I think … listen, those decisions are always difficult. I talked about this, I think, with you guys on draft night, after Thursday night. Whenever you trade back, there’s a host of players that you would have liked to actually have on your roster that aren’t going to be available to you when you actually select.
Q. If at the end of the year this team has two or three wins, can you say what you are doing is working?
A. I think for us, we would be disappointed if we ended there. You know, we’re always going to be focused on the underlying progress, how some of our players are coming together, what those losses look like. We’re disappointed so far. We’re not going to get into trying to project into hypotheticals, but we’ve got 12 opportunities, we want to win all 12. and we’re going to prepare to win all 12.
(Video of the entire interview can be seen on the Browns' web site.)