McMullen: ‘Brown Out’ in Cleveland
(973espn.com) - Some of the best lawyers in the country often have to defend the indefensible.
Sashi Brown, an attorney by trade, got that opportunity in Cleveland Monday. The problem stems from the fact that Brown was defending his own role as executive vice president of football operations for the Browns.
Any good trial lawyer will tell you that someone defending himself has a fool for a client but this wasn't court proceedings, this was a press conference to explain all the issues with the Browns, who have somehow managed to lose 23 of 24 games while passing on the opportunities to draft both Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson since Brown has been in charge of the football end of things.
“I think whenever we look at an opportunity in the draft, first you come knowing that there are going to be opportunities that you miss on to add talent to your roster,” Brown admitted when asked how in the world he and his staff missed on two in a row at the game's most important position.
“I think good organizations do go back and look at those decisions and those evaluations," he continued. "What did we miss? We are perpetually doing that here internally. What is all of the information we had? How do we gather it? Was it accurate? How did we analyze the information and put it all together to make a decision? Some of those are more strategic and tactical, and some of those are purely in terms of the actual operational issue of evaluating the player."
You have to work to go lower than swinging and missing on Wentz and Watson and Brown managed to do exactly that at the trading deadline, fumbling a deal in place that had Cincinnati sending highly-regarded backup AJ McCarron to Cleveland for a couple of draft picks.
"In these moments there is a lot of adversity that will put pressure on people and we have to stay united internally,” Brown said. “We are working together.”
Working together toward what exactly?
A record of 0-8 and a coaching staff that believes the personnel side is actively trying to undermine them?
Brown has completed plenty of trades since taking over in Cleveland, not the least of which were dealing out in the draft in consecutive years because Wentz, the leading candidate for MVP this season, and Watson, who was re-writing the rookie record book before an ACL injury ended his season, weren't sound enough prospects for a team that has already thrown DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler to the wolves this season.
So the leap from bungled paperwork to conspiracy isn't a significant one for many.
“That’s wholly untrue,” Brown said of the whispers that he sabotaged the trade Hue Jackson pined for while also claiming the coach was actually "in the room" for the negotiations, which went down to the wire.
“We were all in there together,” Brown explained. “I’m not worried about that internally. Externally, I can just put it to bed. That’s just not the case. Nothing we would ever do, to try to make up a trade to sabotage a trade. Just wouldn’t make any sense.”
Despite many reports blaming everything from unwillingness to incompetence Brown stayed with Occam's Razor, claiming the simplest answer was the correct one.
"[It was] a matter of getting to a deal too late in the process," he assessed. "I think both sides, both Cincinnati and us tried our damnedest to try to get the paperwork in at the last minutes, and we are talking about minutes and seconds before the trade deadline ended. We were on the phone with the NFL at the time to try to make it happen. It did not happen. I do think Cincinnati in earnest tried. I know we did everything humanly possible to get it done. It just didn’t happen. It is truly that simple.”
As for the reports that owner Jimmy Haslam was incensed and that Jackson is now even further off the reservation, intent to shift the blame for his 1-23 record in Cleveland to Brown and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, Brown probably went a step too far by claiming it was all fiction.
“A lot of this stuff that has been said and written has been made up,” Brown claimed.
To those on the outside making those stories up, the failed McCarron trade, a player Jackson has lobbied for since the offseason, is likely the last straw for this Browns' regime.
“I don’t [worry about it costing me my job],” Brown claimed. “I think we’re in good communication with both Dee [Haslam] and Jimmy on these things and they’re well apprised of what we’re doing and why and how things come together. I think they’ve seen our track record in terms of being able to perform and pull off some of the more creative deals in the league.
“...I don’t have that concern [of being fired]. I think they understand we’ve been as aggressive as any team trying to churn this roster and improve it.”
They've churned it all right, the problem is they haven't improved it enough to even win one football game despite all the added draft picks and somewhat significant forays into free agency, something Jackson has intimated on more than one occasion.
“It’s my responsibility to deliver a roster here that is talented enough to win week in, week out,” Brown said. “And we haven’t done that, yet. We have a very aggressive plan as we move forward to bolster this roster in a huge offseason, probably the most important we have coming up.
“We’ll plan to execute on it.”
The Haslams are in the jury in the above-entitled action, however, and the only thing getting executed from their perspective is Brown's run as an NFL personnel executive.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for Extra Points Media and 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen