Andrew Berry and the Browns feel good about where they are at the midpoint of the season, but there's been little evidence of outward satisfaction.
Berry, Cleveland's EVP of Football Operations and GM, made that clear Wednesday in his annual midseason press conference.
"I think 5-3 is nice, but I do not think that anyone in our organization views it necessarily like an accomplishment, just because the season is incomplete," Berry said. "It is not like we set out a goal to say, 'Hey, we are going to be 5-3 in eight games.' We want to try and compete and win every game."
That's a sentiment that was echoed throughout the Browns locker room after the team's disappointing loss Sunday to the Raiders. Both QB Baker Mayfield and CB Denzel Ward expressed a lack of satisfaction with where the team stood at the midpoint of the season while vowing the Browns' current record didn't reflect its overall potential.
The Browns have eight more games to prove themselves, and Berry offered a measured, one-game-at-a-time approach as he looked ahead to a second half of a season he and the rest of the team hopes ends with the franchise's first playoff appearance since 2002.
"I am not naive to the fact that really a playoff appearance for any franchise is special because each season really is sacred and 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."
Berry's latest, big decision involving the team's prospects in 2020 and beyond was to hold pat at the trade deadline. The Browns were among the vast majority of teams to not make any trades during a relatively quiet deadline.
The Browns last made a trade near the start of the season, when they acquired S Ronnie Harrison Jr. from the Jaguars, and are always listening for potential ways to improve the roster, Berry said. It just didn't materialize Tuesday.
"We did explore a number of different possible transactions," Berry said. "I would say maybe a couple of things got perhaps within striking distance but either moved away from us or we moved away from it for various reasons. We are really happy with the team that we have in place, and we are looking forward to the next eight games."
Berry's optimism and happiness with the Browns' current team starts at the top with coach Kevin Stefanski, whom he praised for handling the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the 2020 season with an even hand and unwavering demeanor. He also praised the work of Stefanski's staff and singled out offensive line coach Bill Callahan, one of Stefanski's first hires who has helped mold Cleveland's O-line into one of the NFL's best.
"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.
"I think our team is in about as good of hands as we can ask for with Kevin at the helm."
The Browns have significant areas to improve if they want to achieve their goals. Berry acknowledged as much. There's just been a lot to like during the first half of the season — whether it be the play of Mayfield, the offensive line's dominance, Myles Garrett’s emergence as one of the NFL's best defensive players — but what's been accomplished through the first eight weeks are moments in the past.
But when it comes to "accomplishments," and when Berry thinks the Browns will have achieved one, all that matters moving forward is what the Browns can do over the final eight weeks.
"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. "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."