By Tony Grossi
Extra Points …
Banner time: The thing to remember going forward about Browns CEO Joe Banner is that he’s all about pressure.
He wants an offense to apply pressure on defenses. He wants a defense to apply pressure on quarterbacks. And that’s the way he functions as an administrator – he applies pressure.
He loves being under pressure. He loves the pressure of high-stakes negotiations. He loves putting his people under pressure. His workplace is filled with pressure. People who work for him feel it.
So when he says Brandon Weeden isn’t good enough or Josh Gordon isn’t good enough or the Dick Jauron defense isn’t good enough, they shouldn’t take it personally. He is as blunt as a stick in the eye.
“I will not lie to anybody here,” Banner said in a sit-down meeting Saturday with Cleveland media at the NFL scouting combine. “I will not mislead you. I may not answer you. I may be incomplete in my answer. You may be frustrated sometimes that you wish I’d say more. I could be guilty of that. If I answer a question directly I will to the best of my knowledge.”
And Banner’s direct answers at times are blunt strikes aimed to apply pressure.
A few examples: I asked Banner if he and right-hand man Mike Lombardi have made decisions on whether or not to try to bring back free agents Phil Dawson and Josh Cribbs.
“We do know and we won’t say,” he replied.
How much salary cap room do the Browns have and how do you intend to use it?
“We have a lot of cap room. We have the cap room to do what we want, whether it’s keeping our own players or being active in the free agent market,” Banner said.
Don’t you have to spend at least to 89 percent of the cap this year?
“It doesn’t affect us at all. We’re going to be an active and aggressive team in spending over the years,” he said.
How do you assess the value the Browns received from using a second-round pick in the supplemental draft on receiver Josh Gordon?
“I think it’s to be determined,” he said. “I think Josh has to keep working hard and improving. I’d be surprised if Josh himself didn’t say there are things he thinks he can do better. You know, the top of the second round pick in a wide receiver, you’d hope by his second or third year you’d have a big, big impact player. I think he still has improvements to make and hope he can do that. He’s still got to grow and work hard in order to be able to answer that question.”
Do you see Brandon Weeden as your quarterback going forward?
“We’ll see. I think (coach Rob Chudzinski said) they feel they can work with Brandon. Obviously, he’s got a lot of redeeming qualities. Most of the time you see big improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 on players that are going to become really good players. So he’s in the window that you need to see the development if he’s going to be the long-term answer.”
That sounds like damning with faint praise.
“I’m not sure I’d say damning,” Banner said. “But same as the answer with Josh. These are guys that have shown some potential but if they flatten at the level they’re at now, or didn’t have the determination to be the best they can be, work ethic, they probably won’t be good enough to be on a team that’s gonna try to win a championship. On the other hand, they seem to have the ability if they’re willing to make the commitment, take the coaching, be part of the culture we’re trying to create in the organization and team, which is a physical, determined, hard-working group, then maybe they can be part of the team.”
Why did you feel the need to overhaul the defensive staff and system when they seemed to be making strides?
“I think we felt like the defense wasn’t good enough, just to be very direct about it,” Banner said. “If you went into some of the more sophisticated breakdowns of the defense this year, some of these systems that eliminate plays that truly measure success at crucial times in crucial situations, we were ranked 20 or lower in most of those categories.
“I think that, combined with the belief that we wanted to have a more aggressive, attacking defense because we wanted to bring in more aggressive players. We want to be risk-takers, we want to be attacking, we want the other team to be on the defensive. It doesn’t mean it was wrong, but it wasn’t the type of scheme we were running. So this felt like it fit more the type of player we want to bring in, the type of mindset we want to create, the way we want our opponents to perceive us. We want them to be worried about where we’re coming from, what we’re going to do next.”
Plans ahead: While Banner did express the desire to see Weeden work with Chudzinski and new coordinator Norv Turner, he did not back down on his intent to bring in another quarterback.
He said the Browns have evaluated every quarterback who is available (through trade and free agency) and others who they may try to make available. They have not reached a conclusion about whom they make a move for. But he strongly indicated he won’t use the No. 6 overall pick on a quarterback.
“It’s not the focus of our thinking,” Banner said.
Knowing the quarterbacks available, and knowing what he has in Weeden with Chud and Turner coaching them all up, is Banner comfortable with the quarterback situation going into the season?
“I think we’ll feel comfortable when we can sit here and say we have a starter that is a guy we are sure can lead us to a championship,” he said. “Whereas we are hopeful and we’re going to give Brandon his best chance to succeed, I don’t think any of us can say we know that yet.
“Until I say that we are going to be working that position.”
And applying the pressure. Always.
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