Andrew Berry appreciated his three years in Cleveland as Vice President of Player Personnel but he was ready to learn more from a general manager he considered to be the best in the NFL.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam didn't want to lose Berry in February 2019 but he also wasn't going to stand in his way for what he believed was a "good opportunity" for the ahead-of-his-years player personnel executive.
"We are never going to stand in the way of our people learning and advancing their career," Haslam said. "Obviously, when he went there, we did not think he was going to be coming back less than a year later as GM, but I do think it was a good growth experience."
Throughout his introductory press conference Wednesday, Berry lauded his year in Philadelphia working under Howie Roseman, the 2017 Pro Football Writers Association Executive of the Year. The new experience further readied Berry to become the youngest general manager in NFL history.
"I learned a lot," Berry said.
From there, Berry broke down those lessons into three overarching themes.
1. Pushing on any avenue
"Whether it is any avenue of player acquisition or any avenue across football operations – to give ourselves a competitive advantage," Berry said. "We are not going to be defined by one approach or one area. Anywhere that we can gain an advantage on our competitors, we are going to really put the pedal to the floor."
This lesson could be applied to a number of areas, and Berry elaborated even more when he was asked about his philosophies on free agency, which begins next month, and trades, which can be officially executed at the start of the new league year.
The Browns have some room under the salary cap and a number of looming questions with players on the roster who are set to hit the open market in the coming months. There are decisions to be made, and Berry didn't limit himself to one, conventional line of thinking.
"If we can be targeted and strategic on the free agent market, we are going to be aggressive there. If there is anything that I want to be defined by, it is aggression," Berry said. "We want to aggressively acquire talent because that is the name of the game from an NFL front office perspective, and we are going to explore every avenue that enables us to do that."
2. Having the right 53
"The right mix of not only people but skill sets on the roster," Berry said, "as opposed to just purely collecting talent."
This applies twofold, and Berry hammered away at both aspects Wednesday.
In terms of skill sets, Berry's relationship with Kevin Stefanski will be paramount in not only identifying the types of players who work within the systems Stefanski and his coaches want to install, but also while evaluating the players on hand who will return for offseason workouts April 6.
"Andrew is the general manager and I am the head coach, but I can promise you in decisions as it pertains to personnel, I will be involved," Stefanski said. "We have had a dialogue already about that … We have to make sure that we listen to the right people, but it is going to be Andrew and I, along with a bunch of really good people in this building, making those decisions."
The other factor in Berry's idea of the "right 53" centers on personalities and character traits. Both he and Stefanski laid out their expectations in that regard on multiple occasions throughout interviews Wednesday, stressing players must be smart, tough and accountable both on and off the field.
Stefanski acknowledged he'll get an even better sense of where the current roster stands in meeting those requirements when players return in April.
"Every roster is different year to year," Stefanski said. "As we add people to this mix, we will make sure that they fit the mold of what we are trying to build here. I promise you we will get the right people in here, and that will come over time."
3. Getting to know players on a personal level
"I think that is something that is done very, very well in Philadelphia," Berry said, "and it is one of those things that really creates a tight-knit family culture that helps you navigate through those stretches of adversity."
This process has been underway since Berry took the reins last week. Whether it's been in person or on the phone, Berry has reached out to his new players to simply introduce or re-introduce himself. Forming those kinds of close relationships doesn't happen overnight, but Berry has made it his goal to break the divide that can exist in sports between the decision-makers upstairs and the players downstairs in the locker room.
Even as he navigated between interviews Wednesday, Berry carved out some time to meet with Browns Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward, who made a quick visit to Berea to reconnect with Berry and the new coaching staff.
"Our players are no different than you and me," Berry said on an appearance on Cleveland Browns Daily. "It really is just about spending time and seeing everybody across the organization as human and people first before they're employees or what they can for you as a supervisor on the field.
"Sometimes it's having a conversation about family or outside interests before delving into anything football-related."
Check out photos of Browns EVP Football Operations/GM Andrew Berry's Introductory Press Conference