The Browns were back in the building Wednesday after working virtually Monday out of an abundance of caution. They completed their one and only practice of the week and will now be off for the next four days.
As is customary at this time of year, Browns EVP of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry met with reporters to discuss the state of the team. He touched on a number of different subjects, and we're highlighting the five most important storylines.
1. He's not satisfied by Browns' 5-3 start
Berry described his mindset as "encouraged but incomplete" as he assessed the Browns and their 5-3 record at the midpoint of the season.
"Certainly happy with the progress that we have built upon since last year but really, and (head coach) Kevin (Stefanski) would be the first to tell you this, we still have a lot of work to do," Berry said. "That being said, really pleased with the work that Kevin and his staff have done in a year that has really forced them to deal with unprecedented circumstances. They have done a nice job of getting our team, getting our players, ready to play on a weekly basis. And our players themselves, they have been a resilient bunch, both in games and dealing with just the ebb and flow of everything that they have had to deal with during a very difficult 2020."
The Browns are off to their best start in years thanks to a four-game winning streak that stretched from Week 2 to Week 5. They're 2-2 in the AFC North with both of their remaining division games to be played at FirstEnergy Stadium. Getting back to the playoffs for the first time since 2002 is certainly within reach, especially with the league's expanded format, but Berry was measured as he described the Browns' outlook for the remainder of the season.
"I am not naive to the fact that really a playoff appearance for any franchise is special because each season really is sacred; the chance to compete and ultimately get in the tournament," Berry said. "That all being said, our focus is really on attacking our opponents one week at a time and taking care of the little things on a weekly basis because if we are able to successfully accomplish that, the big things will take care of themselves."
2. Why Browns didn't make a trade
The Browns, like most teams around the NFL, stood pat Tuesday as the league's trade deadline came and went with minimal action.
Berry said the Browns were involved in a number of discussions and some potential deals were "within striking distance," but Berry and Co. opted to roll forward with the current roster.
"We explored a number of different possibilities, and really for us, the trade process is really every week, it is not even just about the deadline," Berry said. "So, we did explore a number of different possible transactions."
Berry posited most teams declined to make deals at the deadline for multiple reasons. First, he said, there were fewer sellers, which was likely a result of the expanded playoff field. Second, it's unclear what the league's salary cap will look like in 2021 and beyond, and that could have played into some reluctance.
"Part of the general manager's job is to have a bit of a foot in the present and a bit of a foot into the future as well," Berry said. "And sometimes balancing those perspectives can be challenges, but at the same time I like how we are positioned. I like what the team has done during the first eight weeks of the season, and I think that we have a lot more to do and potentially accomplish over these next eight weeks."
Check out exclusive photos of the Browns working on their bye week
3. His assessment of Baker Mayfield
Berry said he's liked what he's seen from QB Baker Mayfield through the first eight weeks of the season, especially considering the truncated offseason he and the rest of the team experienced.
"Baker has done a nice job. He has done a nice job of putting us in a position to win games in the first eight weeks of the season," Berry said. "I think we have all seen him progress throughout on a week-to-week basis. He has done a nice job of learning the system and getting more comfortable in the system, and again, ultimately putting the team in a position to win. So, we are certainly pleased with it from that perspective."
Mayfield's 2020 has been up and down with some of his better performances coming in Browns wins and some of his tougher games coinciding with the team's three double-digit losses. On the season, Mayfield is completing 61.4 percent of his passes for 1,514 yards, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
"All I know is that I think Baker has played well and he has done a nice job during these first eight weeks. He has allowed us to play winning football. We have had winning football from that position," Berry said. "Expect him to keep doing that over the second half of the year. And look, we are going to be in a good place as a team and organization if that is the case."
4. His appreciation for Kevin Stefanski
Berry was effusive in his praise of Stefanski and his coaching staff, saying the Browns were "in about as good of hands as we can ask for at the helm."
Berry called Stefanski's staff "fantastic" while praising everyone from the coordinators to the quality control assistants.
"I think the most impressive part about Kevin is his poise," Berry said. "He is, genuinely, the same guy every single day, regardless of what has happened on Sunday [and] regardless of what we have dealt with during the day. Even keel. Same quick wit and sense of humor. I think that is the most impressive part, because I think all of us on this call realize how hard and how stressful his job can be."
5. Odell's surgery set
Berry said WR Odell Beckham Jr. will undergo surgery on his torn ACL early next week. Beckham was lost for the season after suffering the injury early in the Browns' Week 7 win over the Bengals.
"Odell is one of the best receivers in the NFL. He played really good football for us before he was injured," Berry said. "He has done a fantastic job with his teammates and practice. He has embraced the organization. He is under contract for multiple years. So, our focus with Odell is making sure that he recovers from the ACL tear. We want him to be healthy and ready to go next year."