INDIANAPOLIS — Hue Jackson found himself in the thick of the NFL Combine's media frenzy Wednesday.
The Browns first-year coach, in meetings with the news media, touched on several subjects, including his plans to revitalize the organization, the team's draft prospects, free agency and more.
Building through the draft
Jackson on Wednesday echoed Browns owner Jimmy Haslam's end-of-season comments, saying it was critical for the organization to build itself up through the NFL Draft.
"When I look at us, obviously the draft is going to be very important for our football team. I think to build a sustainable team, it's going to start in the draft room. We're going to have to draft some really good football players in order to put on our team now and to get us where we need to be," Jackson said, adding the Browns would approach free agency as a supplemental dynamic.
"I think our future is in drafting players to our football team."
Browns looking for best player regardless of position
As the combine gets underway, Jackson said the Browns are still inspecting potential draft picks and will take "the best player that's available" regardless of position.
"And how that all works," Jackson said, "that's going to show itself as we move forward. We do know this: We have a chance to draft some really good players on our football team coming up pretty soon."
Jackson said the Browns — who hold the second-overall and 32nd picks — are looking for talented, passionate and high-character football players.
"We're going to draft whoever we think is the best player for us," he said. "But at the same time, there are some tremendous players out there. We'll continue to go through this process."
Courage and big hands
Known for his past work with quarterbacks as an offensive coordinator, Jackson outlined what he looks for in a quarterback.
"I think it's hard, but you can see situations where a guy does display courage. You know, standing on the field under duress, his poise under pressure. Being able to handle the rush. Being able to handle third downs. Those are some of the things that give you clues about that. Do you truly know? You never really know until you get him and he's with you and you put him in those situations before they happen," he said.
"Obviously college football is a little different than what it used to be from 10 years ago. I think the players are different. At the same time, there are some characteristics that you can see. But again, you never really know until you have that player with you."
Jackson also noted the importance of big-handed quarterbacks in the AFC North, citing the cold and changing weather. "It matters because we play in a division where all the sudden it's raining, there's snow and it's different," he said. "I think guys with big hands can grip the ball better in those environments and situations. So we're looking for a guy that fits what we're looking for at quarterback."
Taking a 'stand'
Two weeks after the Browns issued a statement regarding Duke Johnson, Jackson reiterated a similar sentiment when asked about the second-year quarterback.
"We made a statement about Johnny Manziel two weeks ago and I'm going to stand behind that," Jackson said. "His future on our team will be addressed here pretty soon."
Speaking of Manziel's off-field incidents, Jackson added, "we've got to understand that behavior will not be tolerated as we move forward, and that's all I want to say about it. I'm going to leave it at that. Our organization is going to take a stand, and we're going to move on from those types of situations."
Ready to move forward
While Jackson said he would love to see the Browns free agents — a cohort that includes right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, wide receiver Travis Benjamin and safety Tashaun Gipson — return to Cleveland next season, he added they have the "right" to leave when the new league year begins March 9.
"They have an opportunity to do that," Jackson said. "I understand that. We'd love to have them all back. But we also know it's got to be the right fit for us and if for some reason they decide not to come back, it's going to open up another opportunity for someone to come in."
He added: "Again, we have to build this football team the right way as we move forward. As I said earlier, we want to make sure that we have a sustainable football team, one that can be really good not just this year but for years to come. There's no quick fixes in the National Football League so how it all unfolds as we move forward, it's going to unfold, but I promise you this, we're going to put a football team out there that will compete and play hard and I think that's what's important."