On a blustery January day in Cleveland, just after the NFL season ended, Browns defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil and the entire defensive staff locked themselves in a meeting room on the second floor of the team facility.
For 13 hours.
Sandwiches were eaten on the go. A swift, 20-minute workout time was permitted. Every single defensive play from the 2014 season was dissected, both the fantastic and the ugly. Constructive criticism was hurled from all different angles.
The purpose of the meeting? How to fix Cleveland's run defense, which ranked 32nd in the NFL last season.
"We're going to stop the run. And I want to say that again – we will stop the run next year," O'Neil said Thursday during an appearance on Cleveland Browns Daily.
There were several epiphanies from what is now being coined by some as the "defensive summit."
And one of the bigger takeaways is that the defensive line has unfairly shouldered most of the blame for running backs being galloping through the Browns defense. It takes all 11 players to stop the run, a theme that got away from the Browns last season but will be stressed the minute the players walk through the doors April 20.
"It's not an easy fix but it starts with me," O'Neil said about making the proper adjustments.
O'Neil's comment means a few things. One, several slight tweaks to the scheme have been discussed and will be taught in the classroom setting and during OTAs. It was less challenging for the coaches to break down the film now that it was all of the Browns instead of prior cut-ups of coach Mike Pettine's system with the Bills and Jets.
And secondly, now that the coaching staff has a proper grasp on what exactly the personnel on defense can do, O'Neil can line certain players in different positions where he knows they can succeed.
And if not?
"Players get better naturally Year 2 in the system and if some guys don't get it fixed, they are not going to be out there," O'Neil said. "That's what we've been doing most of the offseason – figuring out each player's biggest strengths as opposed to installing an entirely new system. And I think guys will feel comfortable in Year 2 knowing when they can take more chances. We will go more graduate level with the material."
Much has been made of Cleveland's 2015 offseason, but O'Neil unveiled this anecdote few know: Several of the Browns' defensive coaches had offers to move on to other teams, some with rather large promotions. But the entire staff is back for a second season. That, alone, spoke volumes to O'Neil, who said his group of coaches and players are unequivocally committed and truly believe they can turn the Browns into a regular playoff contender.
"We are going to build a dominating, intimidating group that the Dawg Pound can be proud of," O'Neil said. "We are going to knock players down and we're not going to help them up. We are going to build a bully on defense."