Coach Pat Shurmur and offensive coordinator Brad Childress met with reporters this morning before heading to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine. Here are some highlights from the interviews:
The Browns' bigwigs have said they want to acquire a quarterback who can compete for a starting job with Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace. And with the Browns owning the fourth and 22nd overall picks in this year, most draft gurus believe the Browns will try to pick Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III early in the first round -- even if they need to trade up to the No. 2 slot to do it -- as long as they don't acquire another quarterback such as Green Bay Packers backup Matt Flynn in free agency. Of course, it's too early to know how it will play out, but Shurmur is looking forward to learning more about RG3 this week at the combine in Indianapolis. "I've never met the man," Shurmur said of Griffin, who's pictured to the left. "So that's why this combine is gonna be so important for me, and that's the case of a lot of the draftable players. I've watched them all on tape -- all the guys that we're gonna interview -- and I have opinions on them. But (Griffin) is obviously very accomplished as a college quarterback, and as we go through it all, we'll determine whether he's what everybody says he is." So is it premature to say the Browns will kick McCoy to the curb and trade up to draft Griffin? "Folks are making predictions when we're still gathering information, and I think that's the important part," Shurmur said. "That's the exciting thing about the combine. You have over 300 athletes in one place and you have most of your organization here, and we're digging to try to find everything we can about a player, and so that's where we're at." NFL teams are allowed to interview as many as 60 players at the combine, and Griffin will certainly be on the Browns' list. "I saw the comebacks that you guys saw," Childress said of Griffin's career at Baylor. "The guy (was) making plays that were there and some that aren't there." Griffin played in a spread offense at Baylor. But Childress doesn't think the Browns should not hesitate to draft a player just because he hasn't been schooled in the West Coast offense. "I don't think there's a hesitation if you feel like the guy's the quarterback that you're looking for," Childress said. "Quarterbacks are like buying cars. If you don't like it, you need to move on. If you don't like the way it feels, or handles or looks, you need to move on. If there's something that bothers you, you move on. With that said, you typically don't ever want to pass a franchise quarterback if there's one there. But somebody's gonna have to deem that in the first year, not say after year six, how that guy's gonna be." Childress also said it's wise to play to the strengths of the quarterback, and he seemed open to the idea of adjusting the offense depending on the quarterback's skill set. "It is a balance," Childress said. "Somewhere you have a system that you play to, and I know that (Denver Broncos offensive coordinator) Mike McCoy did a tremendous job with a different skill set with Tim Tebow in developing things around the quarterback. Does your scheme have to change? You usually try to play to whatever somebody's strengths are." As for McCoy, he's healthy again after missing the final three games of the 2011 season with a concussion, Shurmur said. Childress said he views McCoy as a second-year quarterback who has not had the benefit of an offseason. Both Shurmur and Childress said they expect McCoy to improve. No matter what the Browns decide, they know it'll be vital to the organization's attempt to reverse its fortunes. "It's obviously very important that we do the right thing when it comes to the quarterback, so we try to evaluate it all and then in relation to the other needs on the team as well," Shurmur said. "It's important that we make the right decision."
Shurmur said he will retain play-calling duties, but he will be in constant communication with Childress, who will be stationed in the press box during games. "Unless things change, Brad will be upstairs," Shurmur said. "During the week, you decide what the plays are gonna be. That's what you write on the card, and then you call them. There's constant interaction between the play-caller and the other people on offense. Every place I've been, that's always been the case. So, yeah, I'll be on the field right now and call (plays), but it's constant communication. People talk about halftime adjustments. Well, there's adjustments going on all the time, and that's why we wear the headsets so that we can communicate." Childress, a former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, the team's play-calling plan doesn't bother him. "It really is all collaborative," Childress said. "It's not like somebody's gonna pull something out from 1965 and everybody goes, 'What the hell is that?' But it's all about the game-planning. ... I think everybody's gonna have a hand in it, and I'm good with it."
Other highlights: Shurmur reiterated that the Browns want to re-sign starting middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, who's scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 13. Shurmur said team hasn't made decision whether it will place a franchise tag on Jackson. "We're gonna be willing to use (the franchise tag)," Shurmur said. "As you go through signing our free agents, then we'll see what's the best place to use that tag."... Shurmur said he has talked to running back Peyton Hillis, who's also set to become an unrestricted free agent, a few times since the end of the season. Shurmur said he liked the way Hillis played last season once he was healthy, but he said he doesn't know if Hillis will be back with the team. ... Shurmur also wouldn't get into specifics when asked if the Browns will try to retain kicker Phil Dawson, but he said there's work being done to bring back cornerback Dimitri Patterson and free safety Mike Adams. ... Shurmur said Eric Steinbach is doing very well and working out as he tries to come back from a season-ending back injury and a subsequent surgery. Shurmur, though, did not commit to Steinbach as a starter. ... Shurmur said he sees Jason Pinkston as a guard and wants him to continue to develop at guard instead of moving to tackle. ... When asked if the Browns need to upgrade at right tackle, Shurmur mentioned Tony Pashos but said, "we'll have to see who's gonna play there at this point." ... Shurmur did not rule out making changes at linebacker, but he was pleased with group's performance last season. ... Shurmur said the Browns will try to get better at right defensive end. ... Shurmur said he thinks Usama Young can still start at free safety, even though Young's is better near the line of scrimmage and played strong safety last year after T.J. Ward suffered a season-ending foot injury. ... Childress said he thinks it's interesting that Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill was able to transition from wide receiver to quarterback. Childress considers it a plus and believes it shows Tannehill is a stellar athlete. Childress also said Tannehill would probably immediately recognize concepts from the Browns' offense because he played in Mike Sherman's West Coast offense at Texas A&M.