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Hue Jackson, Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta press conference - 1/2

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Opening statements:**

Hue Jackson:"I had the chance today to really say goodbye to our football team. It was really good, though. The guys, obviously, they are disappointed in this season as we all are, but I think there were a lot of lessons learned for our football team. Obviously, you never want to be 1-15, but I think there was some improvement in a lot of different areas where I think Sashi and Paul that we talked about a long time ago that we want to accomplish. Nobody likes the record by any stretch of the imagination, but I truly believe the foundation is set for some of the things we want to do as we move forward. I would be remiss if I said I'm not disappointed for our fans. For them to go through what we have all went through this year is tough, and I think we all get that, but I assure you us three sitting here are totally in lockstep in trying to get this solved for everybody involved. I really truly appreciate our fans, their support, them being there and doing everything they can to help rally our football team. I can take you back to that San Diego game where they were. It seemed like the stadium was full because they were yelling and screaming and giving us the opportunity to win, and what a great feeling that was.

"We weren't able to pull it off yesterday, but I watched at team that fought extremely hard. That has never been the issue with this group. They fight hard. They fight tough. As I said yesterday, we just don't always fight smart. That is something we talked about today as a group. The fun part for me is I spent all of my day meeting with each and every one of our players. I thought it was really important to give them the opportunity to say what they felt and to hear me talk about some of the things we can improve on individually and for them to feel good when they walked out of here and that there is a tremendous plan moving forward in 2017. 2016 is going to behind us now. This season is over. We now understand that we have a lot of work to do. I think our players get it. I really do. I think to a man, they understand that we have to do better in all areas to accomplish our goals. If we can do that, we are well on our way."

Sashi Brown: "I would just add that Hue summed it well. The season has been disappointing from a wins and losses perspective. We sat here nearly 12 months ago and talked about our goals for the season. One of them certainly was winning games. That accountability started on Day 1 and will be here as we move forward. We appreciate the heck out of our fans for all the support that they gave and their undying commitment which we continue to see year in and year out and feel terrible for the results for them. They come out and give us all they have every Sunday.

"Our players did a tremendous job buying in on those goals I referenced a bit ago last year. One was to find a leader of our football team to be our head coach. We certainly found that guy in Hue. As Hue and I talked to our players today, the buy-in to our program and to what Hue is putting out is the way we will play, the way we will practice and be together is complete to a man on the team that everybody understands that we found a good head coach who is going to be around a long time for the Browns. The second thing was to change the culture, the way we go about our business here, our accountability and competition. The guys bought in. I think you saw that towards the latter half of this year. I am really proud of the way our guys played. They all know the results have to be better. We have to be better in personnel, we have to be better in coaching and we have to be better as players to give a better product on the field and turn these Sundays into winning Sundays for Cleveland and their fans."

Paul DePodesta:"Not much to add. I think they both have said it well. A painful season, certainly – painful for our players, painful for our coaches and really probably most importantly, painful for the fans. It is never fun to go through a season like this. With that said, I think our guys played extremely hard from the first snap in Green Bay in August to last snap yesterday. That is a real credit to Hue and his staff and as Sashi mentioned really changing the culture of the organization. It is one thing to have a disappointing season, which we had. It is another thing when you have a disappointing season that is en route to something better. I think that is what we all feel this year was. Again, not at all fun to go through and certainly not meeting our expectations, but that being said, I was talking about earlier today that I was struck by the tenor of the conversations throughout the building today, especially our players, how optimistic they are, how bright they feel the future is here. I share their enthusiasm. I have to tell you that despite our record this year, I am as optimistic or more optimistic than I was when we were up here last January about our future. That being said, we have a lot of road in front of us that we have to conquer to get to where we want to be. These builds are not easy, and they take time to do them right. We talked about at different points and that we would all love to press fast forward and just get to the final answer. Unfortunately, we can't do that, but I think we made tremendous progress this year and I think the optimism in the building shows that. We are excited for what we have coming not just in 2017 but beyond."

On if there is a sense of relief that a painful season is over and the team can begin building for 2017:

Brown:"We look at each week as an opportunity to compete so we are going to miss football here for a couple months. We are eager to get back out there. Nobody wants to leave a season with a taste in our mouth the way we did yesterday. It felt like we out played that team and didn't get the result. The guys understood that and that stung them. To a man today, they were all disappointed in the result yesterday. We will be looking for our first opportunity next preseason to go against someone."

On the sense of positivity in the locker room and Browns players looking forward to next season:

Brown:"Yeah, no doubt. I think it is the character of the type of players that we brought in here and then also obviously what Hue has instilled. There is a belief around the building that we are headed in the right direction. That is extremely important and a cornerstone of the foundation that we needed to lay this year."

On if the Browns need to add new members to the personnel staff:

Brown:"We don't. We are going to look to add some players that are talented. Other than that on the personnel staffing side, we feel good about our group. (Vice President of Player Personnel) Andrew (Berry), the pro department and the college department have done a good job this year. We will continue to work hard through this offseason with our coaching staff to put some more young talent on this roster."

On the Browns' QB situation today and how to improve it:

Brown:"We haven't established 'the guy' at the position so we are going to look at all options, and we will continue to work to develop the guys that we have on our roster. We still have to – I know this will apply to the number of questions you have today – sit down with our coaching staff and go through our end-of-season evaluation, go back and look at the tape and have discussions internally to see where all the guys sit on our roster right now, but we know we need better from that position, as well as others that support that position."

On comments about Eagles QB Carson Wentz as it related to top-20 QBs upon entering the NFL:

DePodesta:"I actually never named anybody that by name, but I guess it was inferred. I think most importantly, all those decisions are made in a particular context when you are at a particular organization with the resources that you have available to you, whether that be players or cap space, whatever that might be, your entire situation. We felt like we made the decision that was the best thing for our organization at that time. If we were at another organization or a different situation, we may have made a different decision. At the end of the day, most importantly, we are really happy about the players that we ended up with in that transaction, and in fact, two key players from that transaction we don't even know what their names are yet. We are picking them in 2017 and 2018. It is sort of far from over. We are really happy about the basket of players we got, and I think in any transaction, you hope you do well and you are perfectly happy if the other team does well, too. That is how good trades happen."

On if it is an exciting QB draft class and if the Browns can find a franchise QB with the No. 1 pick:

Brown: "Each draft is unique in its own way. It is too early for us, and I think you probably know that I'm not going to comment too much on our feelings about individual players or positions."

On if there are franchise QBs available in this year's draft:

Brown: "It is too early for me to say, and I wouldn't get into much detail there."

On who will be most responsible for selecting the Browns' QB:

Brown: "We will work collaboratively on it. (Associate head coach – offense) Pep (Hamilton), myself, Hue, AB (Andrew Berry), we will all sit down and make sure that we watch plenty of tape on all the eligible quarterbacks this year and make a decision that we feel is the best for the organization. It will be an organizational decision."

On if any decisions have been made on Griffin's roster bonus:

Brown:"He would earn that if he's on the roster later on this offseason. We have not made any decisions, again, as I said before, on roster transactions at this point."

On if it was necessary for the Browns to go through a painful season like 2016 for the team to reach its ultimate long-term goals:

Brown: "I don't think we looked at it that way. I think we wanted to come out and see our guys compete each week. We do understand coming out of last year that we felt like our roster wasn't championship caliber. I would leave it at that. I don't think this season was necessary. It is just not a way we would think about it." 

On if the Browns are ready for this offseason, given its potential significance:

Brown: "Yes, ready in the sense that we are positioned. We have a lot of work to do before decision time when free agency opens up and when the draft opens up. We will be hard at work, and our guys will get to work starting tomorrow."

On if the upcoming months present a potentially franchise-changing offseason:

Brown: "Yeah, I hope that this is a big offseason for us. We have positioned ourselves well. We can add some talent in the draft, and we look forward to exploring what is available to us when we see what is out there in free agency, as well. We do hope to transform our roster to an extent towards a positive and add a lot of young talent."

On what areas the Browns team has fallen short and what steps need to be taken to fix things, given the team's praises of its effort:

Brown:"I would not single out any position. We just need to be better across the board. During the year, you have seen some ups and downs, and Hue can talk a little bit more about it, as well, but there is really not a place on the team that I do not think we can improve. We want to be better everywhere, and we are going to be greedy in terms of as we go out and try to acquire talent. We have seen some young players play well, and we have seen some of our veteran guys be stable, as well, but we can get better across the board and we know that."

On if the Browns anticipate using a franchise tag on WR Terrelle Pryor Sr. or LB Jamie Collins Sr.:

Brown:"Our plan on both of those players is try to extend them without the use of the tag, and I would leave it at that."

On if the Browns would franchise tag Pryor or Collins if they are unable to reach a contract extension:

Brown:"I would not get into that. At this point, I do not think we want to get into those discussions in the media anyway."

On how QB Robert Griffin III played yesterday, as well as over the course of the whole season:

Jackson:"I still think that is a little early for me to judge that. He has played, but I have not had a chance to really sit down and go back and watch it all. Today was just the day after the game and getting the players out of here and meeting with them and those things. I think there is still work to do that way, and I am going to have a lot of internal discussions with these two guys here and Andrew (Berry) so that we come up and make the right decision for our organization as we move forward."

On if the Browns will make any changes to the coaching staff moving forward:

Jackson:"I think everything is – I am going to take a look at it all. Our staff worked extremely hard this year, but I think as being one of the leaders with these men here, we have to go back and look at it all and see how we can get better. That is truly our charge – how can we get this organization better in all areas as we move forward?"

On Griffin and QB Cody Kessler displaying different skillsets and the key ingredient to successful NFL QBs:

Jackson:"We have characteristics that we look for, but obviously, the guy has to be able to win and win consistently and elevate the play of their team. That is what the real good ones across the league have done for years. We will be no different here as we move forward and continue to build our team. We will build it with a guy that has that kind of mindset. We are still not sure that he is not on our team right now. We have to continue to evaluate and go through it, but I know that position, that is what it has to have in order for us to be successful here."

On if the Browns would agree to coach the Senior Bowl if asked by the NFL:

Jackson:"I would jump. I am there (laughter). Yes sir."

On if the NFL has invited the Browns to coach at the Senior Bowl yet:

Brown:"It has not. We will look for a correspondence some point this week."

On if the Browns will change their free agency strategy significantly from last offseason to this offseason and the draft:

DePodesta:"I do not think so, not necessarily change. I think we have a real advantage this coming year in that we have now been together for a year. Last year, I came here – what? The first week of January? Hue was a week or 10 days after that. AB (Andrew Berry) was not until February, and at that point, it was really a sprint to the draft, even free agency before the draft. Now, we have had a full year of working together. We have been working for the draft going back since August or September so I think we are just in a much better position this year, but I do not think we will be changing anything."

On DePodesta's first year in the NFL after transitioning from MLB and how much he has grown:

DePodesta:"I have learned a lot. Obviously, the learning curve has been steep over the course of the past 12 months. It was part of the reason for taking this on was knowing that this would be the case and still having an awful lot to learn. It has been interesting. Like I said at the beginning, the last four months haven't been fun, but I certainly learned a lot and I think it will serve us better going forward."

On comfort with the setup and interaction between the coaching staff and player personnel:

Jackson: "I am very comfortable. I am in dialogue with these guys every day about so many different things that pertain to our team and our future. I feel very comfortable that we have had great discussions about what it takes to get there. The thing that I am most happy about is that both of these men have a burning desire in their belly to win and to fix this. That is something that I talk about all of the time. The most important thing, if you don't have a plan in place of how to get to where we want to go, then I would be a little bit concerned – these guys, we do. We have to execute on it. As Sashi said earlier, we have to do our jobs to the best of our abilities to make this happen, and I am sure we will." 

On how far away the Browns are from bring an AFC North Championship team:

Jackson:"Obviously, we have work to do. How far away? I can't really say until we continue to add more players. It is hard to look at it and say you are this far away or that far away. We do have pieces. We do have guys that can play in the AFC North. We just need more of them to get to where we want to be."

On Jimmy Haslam stating the team needs to be 'appropriately aggressive in free agency' and what that means:

Brown: "As we have talked about it, and Jimmy is in a lot of the discussions throughout the year, we try to keep him apprised and well informed on our strategy moving forward. We want to take aggressive shots to add talent to the roster, whether that is at the trade deadline, free agency or in the draft. The draft is going to be our primary pipeline of talent to the roster, but it is not going to be an exclusive pipeline. We are going to go out and look at all of the opportunities that are available to us come March."

On lessons from the first year as EVP of Football Operations:

Brown: "I think you step back from the year probably more than 24 hours after our last game and reflect on that. I have thought about it a lot throughout the year. I think the importance of having the right people in the right places, the integrity and communication you have as a leadership group but also up and down an organization and how important the character of players is and the culture of your building is. I would not have imagined if anybody asked me that we would have the type of results this year, but I also probably would have had a harder time believing that we would have the ability to establish the type of positive culture and worth ethic that we have in light of some of the losing we have experienced. I think that is really a tribute to the integrity and character of people in our building."

On if the Browns have studied past NFL teams and how they have rebuilt their rosters and how long the Browns need to be competitive:

DePodesta:"Certainly, every situation is unique so it is hard to put a timeline on it, but yeah, we have absolutely looked at different situations. When (former Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins Head Coach) Jimmy Johnson took over the Dallas Cowboys, they went 1-15 the first year. (Pro Football Hall of Fame and former 49ers Head Coach) Bill Walsh's first year, they were 2-14. A couple of years, three or four years later, those teams looked markedly different. They made significant improvement in the second year, but there are lots and lots of examples of building toward something like this. Earlier today, someone told me that of the teams that finished with the No. 1 pick and basically finished with the last record in the league the last five or six years that every single one of them has seen sort of marked improvement the next year. I think we actually have the foundation for that. Look, we had an extremely young team this year. I think more than 25 percent of our snaps were taken by rookies, which was not only the most in the league but the most in the league at any time in the last four years and by a pretty wide margin. That is what Hue and his staff were working with every week, and we basically had a lot of freshman out there trying to learn the NFL game on the fly and not playing on special teams necessarily or not playing a specialty role but playing all the time. We had a lot of players doing that. That is tough to do. As those players mature into sophomores and juniors, so to speak, I think they will make tremendous improvements. I think that is one of the reasons for our optimism. We got those players an awful lot of experience this year. We saw them grow as the season went on, and I think we will expect to see them grow even more next year, but they do take time. I would not sit here and I do not think it is going to take a whole lot of time. It is one of the great things about the NFL with the draft is you can take players that can help you not only quickly but can help you within a year or two. It is certainly very different in baseball when you are drafting players and you know they are not going to help you for five or six years. That is not the case here at all."

On the aforementioned teams having an established QB, like Pro Football Hall of Fame QB and former Cowboy QB Troy Aikman:

DePodesta: "Right, well Troy Aikman was a rookie when they went 1-15 in Dallas."

On how much of a priority it is to not go through another losing season and having an established QB:

DePodesta: "It is a huge piece. It is a huge piece. As Sashi was saying earlier, whether we have the guy in our building or not I think we'll constantly…"

On if it has to be proven that the Browns don't have their QB on the roster yet, given the 1-15 record:

DePodesta: "No, in fact I think Hue just said we don't necessarily know whether or not we do…"

On if the Browns have to go 1-15 twice in a row to prove that the team doesn't have its QB yet:

DePodesta: "No, I think if you go back and look at a lot of really, really good quarterbacks and look at the beginning of their careers, they weren't star quarterbacks in their rookie year, especially on a team that struggled around them. Look at Troy Aikman's rookie year on that 1-15 team. You probably could have asked him or asked them the same question. We don't necessarily know whether or not we have the answer, but we're going to assume I think every year that we don't. We're always going to look for quarterbacks. It's such an important position. We're going to look at free agency. We're going to look at the draft. We're always going to look for quarterbacks. The greater organizations do that. You look at what Green Bay has done over the years. They still drafted quarterbacks despite the fact that they had Hall of Fame caliber quarterbacks on their roster and other teams have done the same. We'll look to do the same, regardless of who we have. The position is too important not to."

On how the Browns 2016 rookie class performed this season:

Brown: "I think all those guys showed why we drafted them. (WR) Corey (Coleman) showed his explosiveness, had the three touchdown catches and fought through some injuries and actually showed that he can be successful in an NFL offense. I know there were a lot of questions about that coming out of Baylor, but you saw his strength, you saw his speed, his play and his toughness and competiveness. (DL/LB) Emmanuel (Ogbah), you saw him quite consistently get QB hurries. We were pleased with him – played a little bit of outside, played some inside, and certainly in the sub-rush position we've been pleased with him. Throughout (OL) Shon Coleman came in – and again a tribute to the coaching staff with all the injuries we have had – the guys have been ready, whether it's (OL) Spencer (Drango) or Shon at different times to step up in the face of injuries in guys ahead of them when they are forced in to play and have been ready and prepared and played actually well and surprisingly well. Up and down as you look at the roster, these guys, it is too early to tell. Some of the guys that have started fast may end slowing down. Some of the guys that started slow will speed up. We are pleased with what we have seen from them and their work ethic and what they're doing coming in. They as a group understand the significance of how large the draft class was, and they want to be part of what is going to be a turnaround here. We think a lot of them are on their way, and there is a lot more improvement for each of them."

On how the Browns plan is known to be more successful than previous organizational plans:

Brown: "Hard for me to answer just because I wasn't part of the plans prior to putting them together. What we do like about ours is I think we are really focused on the fundamental pieces of finding the right leadership group, understanding what the coaches need, we are going to lean very heavily on Hue and his expertise to find (ESPN Cleveland beat writer) Tony's (Grossi) quarterback and we are going to work together. We are going to bring in guys who are competitive as heck, that are physical and that can play in this division, and we are going to develop them as well as any team would in the league. We will put a coaching staff around them who will put them in the right position. We have to execute on it. I think you are right. There are a lot of different paths up the mountain. We have ours. We like ours. We like folks who are on the road with us executing it, but it is on us to execute."

On finding the Browns' QB, Jackson stating that it is his job to find the team's QB and previously mentioning Hall of Fame QBs in the press conference and not saying QBs on the roster now may have Hall of Fame potential:

Jackson:"Absolutely, I am going to do it. I think you hit it on the head. You said Hall of Fame. You have to play quite a bit and win a lot of games to end up in the Hall of Fame. We are 1-15 so we are on our way, and we have work to do. I said it and I will not back down from that. We are going to find a quarterback that is going to come here and play winning, championship football, but I think it is too early to talk about 'do you have him yet?' 'Do you not have him yet?' Here comes the draft. Here comes other opportunities to add more players to our team. My job and our job is to make sure we have them here. I know you guys keep asking, 'Do you have him here yet?' Obviously, we are 1-15. Everything would say maybe we don't, but I think you also have to put it all into the pot. There are a lot of things that go into that – having the right offensive line, having the right everything in order to support that quarterback to be the best he can be. It is still a working progress. I want to truly evaluate the players that we have here. I want to work through the draft with these men and through free agency and see if there is something better and is there the right quarterback somewhere else where we can put on our football team to help us be where we can be. I just think it is still a working progress right now."

On how much the Browns will lean on Jackson to help determine the franchise's QB:

Brown:"A ton. Hue when we introduced him, we talked about that being one of the reasons we brought him here. We talk a lot. We watch tape on our guys so that we can learn and get on the same page and share ideas, but Hue knows how to identify them, he knows how to develop them and he knows what works for his system. There is no question he and I are going to have to be arm and arm in understanding who we are going to bring into this building to try to solve that position for us long term."

On if the Browns intend on using their No. 1 draft pick rather than trading a top pick like last year:

Brown:"Too early to talk about what is going to be available to us. We like players that are in the draft at that position and we have not fielded any calls and do not plan to for some time about trades. Just too early to comment."

On Haslam stating that one of the Browns' No. 1 priorities this offseason is to re-sign key players and how confident the Browns are that they can retain pending free agents like Collins and Pryor:

Brown:"I would not get into kind of predicting the future on those things. They are hard to work through. We are not going to comment on our contract negotiations and plans beyond what Jimmy said yesterday. These guys are priorities for us, and we will get to work on re-signing them. That is where I would leave it."

On if the Browns go 1-15 again next year if it is different than this year, given the timing of this season…:

Jackson:"Again, we can't do that. I can't do that. We are not going to do that so we can stop right there. I am not doing that."

Reporter: "You are not talking about it or…"

Jackson:"No, we are not going 1-15. No or I will be swimming in the lake over there somewhere (laughter). That is not happening. I just know me too well. I know me and I know these guys too well. I know we put out this front that where we are. We are not going 1-15 next year, OK? You can write it if you like. Hue Jackson said it. We are not."

Brown:"Amen."

Jackson:"That is the way it is."

On if this season is a different than another 1-15 season would be next year because it would not be to lay a foundation:

Jackson:"Absolutely. I will say it for you. Yes."

On the Browns letting go of young talented players to free agency who have succeeded elsewhere and that not being beneficial:

Brown:"Yeah, to the end that you develop players that go on and are successful elsewhere, you never love that. We have had players who have gone on to have success and some that haven't. What we have to do is build a culture where guys want to stay here. That is the most important thing. I think we have done that this year, and we are tasked now with going out and making sure that we can sign some of our guys that are key for our future. We do have a number of young guys who will help us win games here so Hue does not have to go swim in that lake (laughter)."

On if the Browns rolled over cap space to next season and the deadline for it:

Brown:"It passed, and we did roll over our cap space."

On if Griffin truly has a realistic shot to be the franchise QB:

Jackson:"I honestly really want to go watch all the tape to honestly give everyone an honest evaluation and be fair to him. I think just to come out after a game and say he can or he can't be, I do not think that is fair. I can assure you that we are going to do our due diligence of looking at everything we can to give you guys that answer here as soon as we can."

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