Jimmy Haslam and John Dorsey press conference - 12/8

Posted Dec 8, 2017

Browns owner, new GM set to meet with reporters at 11 a.m.

General Manager John Dorsey introductory press conference:

Opening statement:

Jimmy Haslam: “I wanted to start by thanking Sashi Brown for the contributions he made to the Cleveland Browns organization. Dee (Haslam) and I had the privilege of working with Sashi obviously for several years, really closely the past couple of years. I don’t know that I have ever worked with a finer person or man, an individual of higher integrity than Sashi. We certainly wish him the best in his future endeavors and know that he will be very successful in whatever he decides to do. Once again, thank him for everything he has done for the Cleveland Browns. Five or six weeks ago, Sashi and I had a conversation in which I told him that I thought we needed to think about having a more experienced person in our personnel group. Didn’t really know what that looked like in terms of how things would be positioned or what roles would be, but we went out and began talking to various individuals – all of them former GMs, all of them I believe highly qualified to work for the Cleveland Browns and help turn this franchise around. In the course of those meetings with various individuals, we became very comfortable with John Dorsey. Spent a lot of time with John. Spent a lot of time researching John’s background, checking references etcetera. Was particularly attracted to what he was able to – I guess really two things – John’s background is first of all a player in the NFL and then growing up through scouting in the Green Bay Packers organization being trained by a Hall of Famer Ron Wolf and occupying about every position you could except for GM in the Packers organization. He went to Kansas City where the year before John got there they were 2-14. Over the next four years, they averaged winning almost 11 games a year. They were 43-21 and made the playoffs three out of four years so obviously, he had been a highly successful GM. Felt very comfortable with him from both a personal and professional level. I’ll come back to that in a minute.

“Yesterday, we announced that Hue Jackson would continue to be our coach. We are very excited about that. I know there have been comments about Hue’s record. I wouldn’t call that just Hue’s record. I think that record is on all of us, including ownership. We have had the ability to watch Hue up close. The NFL is a long season. It starts in late July and goes through early January. Hopefully, ours will start to extend longer than that. It starts hot and ends up very cold. We have not always played well, but I think everyone would agree, we have always played hard. Hue has kept the team playing hard and kept the players motivated. I’m really excited to see what John and Hue can do working together – really excited. I know there are questions about Hue and John have never worked before. They have never really spent much time or any time together. I just want to assure you that having worked with Hue for the last couple of years and then spending a lot of time with John the last five or six weeks, I think their backgrounds are similar. They are football lifers, particularly NFL lifers. Philosophically, they line up if not identically almost identically. Personality-wise, they share a lot – both extroverted, high-energy individuals. It is our expectations that they will form a great team and help turn this franchise around. They talked several times yesterday and have already had a meeting today. Hue, John and I will spend time this afternoon. We are excited to see them work together.

“I spoke a little bit about John and his background. I’m going to turn it over to John in a minute, but I think when you hear John speak, you will see and hear someone with excellent background and experience in football, particularly in the NFL. He has really spent his entire adult life in the NFL and is an experienced football person, has been a GM and has done everything you can do in scouting and personnel in the NFL. He has tremendous contacts in college and pro football. I think everybody understands the capital that we have here in terms of both cap space and what we have for the draft this year. I think we are fortunate to have somebody like John Dorsey coming into our organization at this very opportune time. I also think it will be very helpful, and John will comment on this, having John here for our last four games and have him here for three weeks of practice – as I mentioned earlier, he has already spent time with the team this morning – and get to know our players on a firsthand basis, rather than coming into the building the first or second or third week in January when there is nobody here.

“It is now my pleasure to introduce the GM of the Cleveland Browns, John Dorsey.”

Dorsey: “Thank you, Jimmy. It is my pleasure to be here. I’m very honored and I’m very humbled to be here. Guys, I love the National Football League. I love everything about this great game of football. First off, I just want to thank Dee and Jimmy for allowing me [the opportunity]. You know what? Let’s reawake this sleeping giant, the Cleveland Browns. I’m kind of excited about that. Normally, I would introduce my wife. Unfortunately, she could not make it here today because the kids had a Christmas show and she was determined that the kids were not going to miss that Christmas show (laughter). She will be here coming next week. I can’t wait. I look forward to working with (Head Coach) Hue Jackson, alongside of him. Like Jimmy said, Hue asked me if I would come talk to the team. I did, and it is that chance. It is what you want to do is kind of connect with that locker room. That is why these next couple of weeks are very important for me to understand the culture, the people within the building, the players within the locker room. That is exciting for me.

“After we finish up here, I’m going to meet with the personnel staff. We are going to kind of begin to assess and develop that plan. As we go along in this thing, the one thing that I always love about this is this is one of those iconic franchises. To me, this has one of the most unique fan bases in all of the National Football League. To me, that is exciting. I have always liked the history of the game of football. When you mention the Cleveland Browns to me, it brings back vast memories. I just can’t wait to try to build and establish this thing and just move this thing forward because you know what we want to do? We want to be competitive every year. We want to be in the AFC North and we want to compete with these guys year in and year out. We are going to do that, I can tell you that.”

On if Jackson will return in 2018 regardless of how the current season finishes:

Haslam: “Yeah, absolutely. I think it would be a mistake to just zero in on ’18. We are planning on Hue Jackson being our football coach for a long time and he and John working closely together for a long time.”

On the Browns keeping Jackson when hiring him and if it was a prerequisite for the GM job:

Dorsey: “I don’t know if it was a prerequisite. As I look at this with Hue, he has been in the league a long time. He and I have many [mutual contacts]. We don’t know each other very well, but we have begun to establish that relationship and I know just being around him briefly the time that I have been around him, I’m excited. Plus the people that I know and he knows, all of the people I talk to about Hue, they love Hue. They say, ‘You two guys are going to work wonderfully together.’ I’m excited about that. I can’t wait. This afternoon, once Hue gets off the practice field, I just can’t wait to sit down with him and he and I just kind of sit and talk and just kind of develop a plan here.”

On if Dorsey called colleagues around the league about Jackson during the process:

Dorsey: “I think anybody worth his salt is going to make calls about anything so you always want to call around. That is what you guys do (laughter).”

On what Dorsey learned about Jackson that made him comfortable:

Dorsey: “I like him as a man. To me, I like him as a man. I like his overall offensive schematic stuff. I think that is kind of cool. I just like the way the team plays. They play hard, and I like a team that plays hard. It symbolizes the AFC North. You have to play hard.”

On the Browns having two first-round picks, three second-round picks and salary cap space:

Dorsey: “Any personnel guy worth his weight would be excited. I’m not going to lie to you. I think Sashi did a nice job of creating some draft picks and creating some cap space here, but I’m excited. To me, this is an opportunity that not many personnel guys in my position would pass up. This is one of those iconic franchises, which has an unbelievable fan base. Now, we just have to get this thing rolling here, and that is what we are going to do. We are going to roll up our sleeves, we are going to check our egos in at the door and we are going to work every day to go back to the AFC North.”

On why Dorsey is confident he can be successful with the Browns:

Dorsey: “I know that I can do my job with the best of my peers in the National Football League. Two, I know that I’m going to sit here and work, and I’m going to do everything that my God-given ability has given me and I will try to do it. It won’t be from lack of work and lack of preparation. When you combine that with ownership, I have had a chance to meet Dee and Jimmy and just sit and talk to them. The one thing I have always felt and feel with them is how prideful they are. They are very prideful people, and they want to see this thing turning around. When you have ownership like that, it gets me excited in that regard as well. I know that working in a collaborative relationship, we all use that term, but it is communications and it is treating people the way you want to be treated day in and day out. We are all in this thing together. Not one guy is the answer, but if we do this together collectively, this thing can work.”

On confidence Jackson and Dorsey will work well together and what went wrong before:

Haslam: “Here is what I always try to do is learn from experiences – I have had a lot over 63 years – and then move forward. I can’t tell you for sure that these two guys will work well together, but I will say this, I am highly optimistic given their backgrounds and skillsets that John and Hue will work well together.”

On Jackson and Dorsey being more traditional football individuals and if that is what was missing from the previous setup:

Haslam: “That might be one reason. Like I said, we learned from that and we moved forward. Clearly, we are moving to a more traditional model. I’m excited about (Chief Strategy Officer) Paul DePodesta remaining with the organization. Paul and John have not met. They will have the opportunity to watch the game together on Sunday and spend time on Monday. Paul will play a key role for us going forward.”

On statements by former Pilot Flying J employees on audio files released in the individuals’ trials:

Haslam: “I’m actually glad you brought that up. I have said since the investigation began almost five years ago that we wouldn’t comment, but yesterday’s comments that came out of the courtroom I think justify comments. I will just stand behind what we said yesterday: First of all, none of those individuals work for us anymore. Nobody that works for our company now was present at that event. That is not how we act and do things, and those kind of remarks are intolerable. I’m actually glad you asked that question.”

On reports that Pilot Flying J’s board is paying for the defense of former employees on trial:

Haslam: “Without getting into too much detail, it is traditional when employees of a company are sued or have a legal problem that the company until those employees plead guilty or are found guilty, the company pays for their legal expenses so that will continue.”

On if Haslam is ‘comfortable’ with the company paying for the defense:

Haslam: “That will continue.”

On how difficult the last month has been for the Haslams, given on-field struggles of the Browns, the coaching search at the University of Tennessee and trial involving former Pilot Flying J employees:

Haslam: “It has been tough. It has been really tough. Let me say this, I want to clarify something and I want everybody to hear this, I had nothing to do with the coaching search at Tennessee. Nothing. I know there are all reports that I was tremendously involved. I’m a huge backer and supporter of the University of Tennessee, as is our entire family, but I was not involved in the coaching search at UT. Very delighted with the outcome. Have not met (University of Tennessee Head) Coach (Jeremy) Pruitt, but (Athletic Director) Coach (Phillip) Fulmer, a good friend of mine and Charlie Anderson, both speak very highly of him and we are glad to have him at the university, but I was not involved in that search. The entire investigation has been painful and tough to go through. As you know, we are not on trial,  myself nor the company so we can’t comment. We will continue to not comment and see the investigation process, but it has not been easy.”

On plans for the QB position:

Dorsey: “I think it is important and that is why I was excited to get here to get a head start and be around the group and see from my own eyes and perspective those three weeks to kind of evaluate and see. I like rookie quarterback (DeShone Kizer) who is here now. Coming out in the draft, we actually brought him up as one of the four or five quarterbacks in terms of the 30-player visit last year coming out in the draft. I think what you have to do is you have to sit down as a group after the end of the season. Let’s sit down as a group; I want to understand from a coaching perspective how they see it; I want to see how the personnel staff sees it; I want to sit down with the head coach and see how he sees it. Let’s begin to build a plan moving forward and identify. This is a quarterback-driven league. We all know that, and we all know to succeed and go a little bit further and further and further that you need one of those guys. I think it is an evaluation period that is going to take a little bit of a while to put a plan together. The draft is four and a half months away and free agency is like three months away. We have ample time to make a plan here.”

On if Dorsey has been impressed by 2018 NFL Draft rookie QB prospects:

Dorsey: “Yeah, it is the ‘18 Draft, but how they play on the field – there are some players here – but how they play on the field. That is the first measuring stick, but also, there are other components that go into that in terms of understanding who they are in terms of their ability to understand the game of football, the technical stuff of football – What kind of people are they? Do they fit into the culture that you are trying to establish? You know what? It is not a bad class.”

On Dorsey parting ways with the Chiefs in 2016 after producing winning seasons with Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid, who he knew before joining the team, yet joining the Browns, a team that has not won and not knowing Jackson:

Dorsey: “That doesn’t bother me because I measure every person for who they are. I think relationships mean everything. I thought (Chiefs Head Coach) Andy (Reid) and I had a very great relationship in terms of working together. We had the same objectives and goals trying to create a plan. I thought we accomplished that. Who is to say? In the National Football League, things change every day. I was very proud of my time in Kansas City. I thought we acquired a heck of a roster. I would like to say a top-five roster in terms of talent. We went to the playoffs three out of the last four years. I have established some really good relationships within that organization. Life moves forward. I’m with the Cleveland Browns now. You know what? Let’s roll.”

On why Dorsey and the Chiefs parted ways, particularly given their record:

Dorsey: “You know what? Who knows? I don’t know. I have had ample enough time to try to figure it out. I have sat there and I have tried to figure it out, but again, every organization is different. Everybody moves forward at certain times. I have learned from the past, I live in the present but I am building for the future.”

On how influential analytics should be in scouting and player acquisition and if Dorsey will have to reassess the Browns’ personnel department:

Dorsey: “I’m excited to meet Paul. I have heard a lot of things about him. I am a forward enough thinker in today’s technology. I think in today’s football, you have to have a certain degree of technology. If not, you are living in the stone ages. These things are going to help you advance. What I want to do is I want to analyze and see what kind of programs he has in place. I think there is a position of analytics to be played in football, but how do you go about doing it? That is the one piece that I want to assess and see what they have in place. Paul and I, he does more than analytics, too, now. There are some other components that he does with this organization, as well. First, I want to meet him as a person. I want to see his goals and his objectives and how he goes about things and see if it does fit into this system.”

On if other teams potentially searching for front office positions, including the NY Giants, played a role in the timing of Dorsey’s hiring:

Haslam: “That played into the decision making. The hiring process in the NFL is difficult in that everybody that is going to make changes will make them – the last game is (December) 31. There will be a lot of changes made on the first and the second in head coaches and GMs if this year follows the pattern. We thought that it was important for us to get a jump on that to get the best person possible, which we think we did. Then to allow, as I mentioned earlier, for John to come in the building, spend time with our coaches, spend time with our team, get a head start with the personnel guys, where we hit the ground running getting ready for free agency and getting ready for the draft.”

On if Haslam has been in contact with former Colts and Broncos QB Peyton Manning:

Haslam: “If I said I had dinner with him Monday night, would that cause a big ripple (laughter)? We had dinner Monday night. Peyton and I talk all of the time. The majority of the time, we talk about Tennessee and Tennessee football. Do we talk about the NFL some? Yes. Peyton is a very talented individual. I do not think he knows exactly what he wants to do with his future. Whatever he does, he will be successful. We wish him the best, and we will be close friends. The Haslams and the Mannings have been close friends since Peyton came to Tennessee at 18-years old. That was 22 or 23 years ago. I think that will continue for a long time.”

On if this will be the extent of changes or if Haslam feels there may still be a void:

Haslam: “Let me take a stab at that and then I will let John answer: the personnel cycle, it really runs May to May, post-draft to post-draft. John will have the opportunity to come in and analyze our personnel group. They are right in the middle of getting ready for free agency and getting ready for the draft. Then I think John will take a step back. I will let him comment. Do I expect there to be tremendous amount of change? No, but I think it would be unfair to John to not let him come in and meet. He is really just going to meet with them really for the first time after this meeting. I think it is important for him to come in, meet the people and see how we have things structured and organized to make decisions from there. I will let you comment on that.”

Dorsey: “Like I said, the very first thing, you want to sit there and see who everybody is in the organization and see what their roles are on the personnel staff. To be fair, you do not want to come in here and be the guy that blows everything up automatically. You just can’t do that. To me, that is just not how you do business. I think it is fair to say, ‘Let’s sit. Let’s do what is best for the Cleveland Browns to move forward all the way until April.’ Give everybody a 5.5-month window there to show what they can do. In my past job, I used that same formula,. and it worked out well. There are very talented people here. Now, you just have to be able to see who they are, see how they work and see if they meet with the same objectives and goals that you have in terms of moving forward.”

On how Dorsey was able to turn around the Chiefs so quickly and comparing the roster Dorsey inherited with the Chiefs to the Browns’ current roster:

Dorsey: “Every team is different. We all hear that every draft is different. Every team is truly different. I think the one thing in Kansas City is we sat and we made a plan. We identified what that plan was. We identified with that plan being, ‘You know what? We need to get a quarterback.’ We looked at all the ways of acquiring quarterback, and we thought the best way to do it after understanding the draft and the unrestricted free agency. We thought the best thing to do is to make a trade. We tried to orchestrate a trade with (Chiefs QB) Alex Smith. We pulled that off. You know what? Alex, his mannerisms and mindset were the same as the head coach. I thought that was really interesting. Also, in that position, you want guys that are natural leaders. Guys come to them. Guys with understanding the game of football. It is a quarterback-driven league and then we made another plan. From that plan was the overall plan of the team – where the strengths and weaknesses of the team and how do you go about building it. What we did is we set a plan into motion, and we attempted to build it as quickly as we could because I thought when you have a head coach like that, you want to get a jumpstart. We are going to have to make some plans here, too.”

On the characteristics that make a successful QB, in addition to leadership:

Dorsey: “Got to win, No.1. There are so many different variables that partake in that position. I think you have to have the physical skills that we all see. I think feet are important in today’s football. I think accuracy is very important. Do they have the mindset of the head coach? Can they comprehend and digest that playbook? I think that is very important, as well. Do guys naturally gravitate to him from a leadership component? What does he do in adverse situations? How does he react? Can he extend the play? Can he drive it and win it at the end of the game? These are the little things you look for as these guys play the game.”

On clarifying if Haslam attempted to hire Manning in a President or CEO role:

Haslam: “No. No.”

On if the Browns satisfied the Rooney Rule, given Fritz Pollard Alliance Chairman John Wooten’s comments:

Haslam: “We absolutely satisfied the Rooney Rule. I am disappointed that John did not take the time to call us before making those statements. He did try to call late last night. I tried to call him this morning. We will have a good conversation. We absolutely did satisfy the Rooney Rule.”

On candidates the Browns interviewed:

Haslam: “We are never going to comment on who we interviewed. I do not think that is fair to the particular individuals.”

On if QB evaluation was why the Browns parted way with Brown, including trades in the past two drafts:

Dorsey: “Can I address this? I know these guys pretty well. Each year, each draft is different and how people evaluate different positions. Each team during the draft evaluates team’s differently. You never know in those situations. That is what the beauty of the draft is, in terms of this could have been or this could have been. You better make sure at the end of the day, we are going to get one of these guys.”

Haslam: “Let me say it this way, the Cleveland Browns are not going to be successful until we get a quarterback. We obviously have (QB) DeShone (Kizer). We have two other quarterbacks on the roster. We are going to look at free agency, and we are going to look at the draft. As was mentioned earlier, we have a substantial amount of capital. We are going to do whatever it takes to find a quarterback we need to be successful. Let me say one more thing, that will be John’s No. 1 priority. During the process, we have gotten to know each other very well over the last several weeks. I think he would tell you if you asked him, ‘What did Jimmy ask you more than anything?’ It was about quarterback.”

On the Browns’ future in the next five years:

Dorsey: “I am the eternal optimist. I believe there is good in everybody. I believe there is good in every organization. I believe that the Cleveland Browns – you know what? This weekend, they are going to win. I am the eternal optimist. That is who I am. You could easily do this… I am not going to say easy; you are going to pinpoint me on this. Through hard work and due diligence, all I am going to tell you is we will give it our best effort. We are coming in next year, we are going to compete in the AFC North and we are going to try reestablish some positons in the AFC North.”

On Dorsey’s initial evaluation of the Browns roster:

Dorsey: “It is a young roster. I think we all know that. I think they play very hard. Anytime you can get a bunch of young guys, working their fannies off day in and day out and with that good coaching staff to coach them up and motivating – ‘You need to do better.’ This is the National Football League. This is hard to win week in and week out and sustain week in and week out. It is a matter of doing the little things. To me, I like the roster here. I like that the roster will be developing more and more in ’18 and ’19. I look forward to that. I look to acquire even some other players, as well, to sustain that. I think the objective is to make your roster as competitive as you can from the bottom up. Get some good guys at the top there, but as long as you can create competition amongst all of those positions, that is going to bring out the best in all players.”

On if the Browns roster is too young and the team needs to add more veterans:

Dorsey: “It is a combination; it is a very interesting combination. The National Football League is truly a young man’s game as you see. It really is a young man’s game, but it also helps to have some established veterans in there as well. There are some established veterans here. You have one the greatest players in Cleveland Browns history with No. 73 (OL) Joe Thomas. That guy is tremendous. You lose a guy on that set like that? My god. To me, that is a big deal because he is a special player.”

On if the Browns’ roster changes in 2016 were too extreme and unnecessary:

Haslam: “In fairness to Sashi, I think Sashi inherited a roster a little older, fairly expensive and not very good. He made the chances he thought necessary. Has it been tough? Yes. I do think we are in position now to move forward and hopefully to move forward fairly dramatically with the draft capital and the free-agency capital we have.”

On how much of the Browns’ decision was based on what occurred at the trade deadline:

Haslam: “Zero. Zero.”

On Brown not being able to execute the trade:

Haslam: “I will place that way more on me than on Sashi. We were having a conversation. I probably pushed the question-asking further than I should. I do not blame that on Sashi. I think we decided to push the go button later than we should. I think Sashi [was publicly criticized] way too much. I want to make clear, that had nothing to do with this decision.”

On why the Browns feel confident that Jackson and Dorsey will be on the same page, compared to the feelings with past changes:

Haslam: “I will just reiterate what I said earlier in that John and Hue have spent almost their entire adult life in the NFL. I think philosophically, they look at things the same way. I have a high degree of confidence that they will be perfectly aligned. They both understand how important that alignment is for our success.”

On if the Browns have ruled out hiring a President or CEO:

Haslam: “It sounds a lot by your question that you think we need to (laughter). Our current plan is to have Hue, John and Paul continue to report to ownership. I would never say that we would never do that. That would be irresponsible to do so, but we are comfortable with the alignment, the way it lines but and are excited to get going to work.”

On why fans should be confident in Browns ownership’s decision making:

Haslam: “I think that is a fair question. We have not done a good job as owners, and it has been hard, harder than we would have thought. I believe that we have the right people in place. All organizations, the key ingredient is people. I think we have the right people in place to move forward. John said it earlier, to win in the NFL and to win consistently is very difficult. I think we have the right people in place with John and Hue and the people working under them to do that. I am actually really exciting going forward, really excited.”

On the Haslams would do if determining what was keeping the Browns from winning was due to ownership:

Haslam: “(Laughter) We will cross that bridge when we come to it, OK? Let me say this, I am really confident we are going to get this thing turned around. I will just leave it at that.”

On the final situation or situations that led to parting ways with Brown:

Haslam: “I do not think there were one or two things. I just think when we took a step back and look at what we have been through and where we were and where we are, we felt the need to get an experienced football person in here to help us at this very, very crucial time. The more we had those conversations, the more it became obvious that it is what we needed to do. The more we had those conversations – we talked with some very talented individuals, very talented – it became obvious that John Dorsey was the right guy, and we are excited. I can’t tell you how excited we are to get him in the building and get going.”

On who the Browns spoke with to help decide Dorsey was the right candidate:

Haslam: “Consistently, across the board – I had heard John Dorsey’s name and of course, I watched what he did in Kansas City – Ron Wolf is somebody that we talked to. He just went on and on about what a great individual, person and talent-scout evaluator that John is. That was one of the people we talked to. Across the board, John’s recommendations from all different types of individuals, younger, older, etc. were outstanding. That, along with our personal experience, led us to extend an offer to John and John to accept to be our GM.”

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