BEREA, Ohio — Any report or idea that the Cleveland Browns‘ front office intentionally sabotaged a trade for Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron is “wholly untrue,” vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said Monday.
“I am not worried about that internally,” Brown said. “Externally, I can just put it to bed; that is just not the case.”
The sabotage chatter followed the news that the Browns did not get the trade paperwork to the NFL by the 4 p.m. ET deadline Tuesday, with the thinking being that Brown did not want to give up second- and third-round draft picks for McCarron, even if coach Hue Jackson wanted him. Brown, though, said Jackson was in the room as the team tried to complete the deal minutes before the deadline.
“This is just a matter of getting to a deal too late in the process,” Brown said.
The Browns followed the same process they have with every trade they’ve made in the past two years, Brown said. They wrote up terms and sent the signed document to the Bengals.
Their understanding was the Bengals would then sign the document and send it to the league. The Browns’ feeling is that ensures all terms are correct.
The Browns emailed the document to the Bengals at 3:54 p.m. The Bengals conceded the next day that they missed the email and submitted their own paperwork at 3:59 p.m. By the time the Browns realized they needed to submit their own paperwork, the deadline had passed.
Brown said it was a “fair critique” to say the trade could and should have been agreed to earlier.
“I think both sides, both Cincinnati and us, tried our damndest to try to get the paperwork in at the last minute,” Brown said. “We’re talking 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.”
Brown addressed a number of other topics in a wide-ranging news conference, and he did not deny that losing 23 of 24 games since he and Jackson took over has put a strain on the organization.
“These builds are challenging, and they do place a lot of adversity on organizations,” Brown said. “I think organizations’ and individuals’ character comes out in those circumstances. Not going to sugarcoat anything. Last week was a tough, tough week for us from a PR perspective and things that we can get better on.
“But the groups are working together and working hard and will continue to. But we understand, while we haven’t had the results we aspire to, that those are going to be the types of stories that come out. Now we have to do everything we can to stay unified. I think that is the key ingredient toward making this a successful effort on both parts, and we will get there.”
Among his other points, Brown said:
“I don’t shy away from missed opportunities at all,” Brown said. “That’s going to be a piece of it. There’s a lot of non-quarterbacks out there right now, frankly, that are playing well right now, too, that we’d love to have on our team. But we’re not going to get every one right. We haven’t, and we won’t moving forward.
“We will get enough of them right, and we will solve the quarterback position.”
He would not specifically discuss whether the team had tried to acquire quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots, but his answer made it evident that the Browns didn’t have much of a chance to enter trade talks.
“We will never know what’s in the minds of other teams,” Brown said. “It’d be nice to be able to control where all the other teams are going to send their players. We don’t have that control. But a lot of this stuff that’s been written has been made up.”
Specifically, what was made up was that he was not in the building at 5 p.m. the day of the deal, Brown said.
“The reality of free agents is that when you’re a wide receiver that’s a starting wide receiver in this league and you hit free agency, you’re going to get paid,” he said. “That’s just the reality of it.”
Asked specifically whether he consulted the coaching staff before signing Britt, Brown said: “Not going to go all the way back through all our evaluation processes; we have good processes internally.”
He does not concern himself with job security, and he talked as if he will be drafting players in 2018, when the Browns have five picks in the first two rounds.
“If you look at the players we have selected and how early they are performing and performing well, I think you can see that this group can evaluate and will continue to do that coming up in the next draft,” he said. He added he has “good communication” with owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam.
“I think they’ve seen our track record in being able to perform and pull off some of the more creative deals in the league and a host of just simple, straightforward transactions,” he said.
Brown said the Browns, in the long run, can succeed with steadfastness and a renewed commitment to working together.
“We will get it right,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we will get every single one right. But we’re confident of where we’re heading and the group we have in place.”