FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2011, file photo, Cleveland Browns general manager Tom Heckert, left, talks with president Mike Holmgren during practice at the NFL football team's training camp in Berea, Ohio. After a tumultuous 4-12 season and at the start of a critical off-season, Holmgren and Heckert have to decide who will be their quarterback and what else they can do to fix the Browns. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)
President Mike Holmgren and General Manager Tom Heckert held a news conference today to review the 2011 season and discuss the state of the Browns, who finished with a record of 4-12. Here are some of the highlights:
Is Colt McCoy a franchise quarterback? "I think he can be," Holmgren said. "He could be. I'm not ready to say that yet. You know what we did this season, and he played and he did some very fine things and then he played young at times, not unlike his first year. Was I pleased? Yeah, in a lot of the stuff he did. My opinion of Colt has not changed. I think he has a lot of intangibles. Ultimately, though, as with not only the quarterback position but every position, you're kind of judged on how well your team did. I'm not ready to anoint Colt yet. Have a changed my mind? No. Do I love him? Yes, I do. But I love Seneca Wallace. We have three good quarterbacks I think on our team right now. Having said that, heck, we don't know what's gonna happen, and I had that conversation with Colt as well."
Holmgren said "competition will take place" to decide the starting quarterback for the 2012 season. He said the decision should be made before reps are divided for the third preseason game.
Heckert also gave an evaluation on McCoy. "We think he's got enough talent to be a player for us," Heckert said. "Has he made mistakes? Yes. Can he get better? We think he will get better."
Will the Browns spend big money to sign a quarterback in free agency who would be expected to start? "It's probably not the way we're gonna go, but you never know. It's still early. We have two months before that happens. We'll look at everybody. There are a few guys that have played in the league that have started that are gonna be free agents. We are looking at them, and we'll have to wait and see."
Heckert said the same goes for drafting a quarterback with the fourth overall pick. "We'll evaluate everybody," Heckert said. "We do it every year. ... It doesn't matter who we have at each position. We're gonna look at those players 'cause you never know."
How much stock does Holmgren put in Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn throwing for almost 500 yards and six touchdowns in his second start? "That's a little unusual," Holmgren said. "You're referencing the young man (with) the Packers? Yeah, I think when you go in your second start and you break the record that have been held by Bart Starr, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers in your second start, that's a little unusual I would think. Again, we can't comment on players that are existing in the league right now."
Holmgren and Heckert said they're going to stick to their philosophy of building through the draft rather than free agency. Still, they'll certainly make some moves in free agency. "We don't want to go out and sign 10 free agents," Heckert said. "But if there's a guy that we like, which hopefully there is, we'll definitely go after him. Free agency is an area where you can get one or two players at positions that can help you. If there's guys at certain positions, we'll definitely go after them."
Holmgren said the defense improved, and some crazy things happened on special teams that he had never seen before. As for the offense, Holmgren said, "There isn't an offensive area that we won't look hard at and try to (upgrade during the offseason)."
Holmgren declined to discuss specifics about running back Peyton Hillis' contract situation. Hillis is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at 4 p.m. March 13.
Holmgren gave his evaluation on Pat Shurmur, who just completed his first season as a head coach on any level. "I know this about the man who's coaching this football team: He is good, he is smart and he will do what he has to do in a very unselfish way to get the team going in the right direction," Holmgren said. "And if that means hiring a coordinator or giving up the play calling, whatever that means -- and I'm not telling you right now how that's all gonna come down -- but I'm just saying Pat is very willing to do whatever it takes. Now that in itself is a healthy, good sign to me." Holmgren also expressed his commitment to Shurmur long term. "I have the utmost confidence in Pat to get this done," Holmgren said. "No one's on the hot seat. ... We have a good coach, and we have a good coaching staff. You don't get to where you want to get to by blowing it up every two or three years."
Earlier this week, Shurmur said he will hire an offensive coordinator. One potential candidate is former Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress. Holmgren said the Browns did not interview Childress last year, but Holmgren reminded reporters he wasn't going to reveal what the Browns will do this year during their search for an offensive coordinator.
Heckert said he would prefer using the nine picks the Browns have in this year's draft, but trading some of them to move up the board is not out of question. "You never say never, but we like our picks right now," Heckert said. "We have nine right now, and hopefully we'll get some compensatory picks. We'd like to add nine good football players." As for the fourth overall pick, Heckert said, "It's gonna be tough to screw that one up, I think." Holmgren then chimed by instructing reporters to "write that down."
When asked if the Browns will lock up middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson with a long-term deal, Heckert said, "We'd like to have all our good players back. We have numerous free agents, and we like a lot of them. We're gonna try our best to get most of these guys done. But time will tell on that."
Heckert gave updates on several injured players. Running back Brandon Jackson (toe) passed his physical and is ready to go, Heckert said. Left guard Eric Steinbach (back) is getting close to being able to return, Heckert said. Defensive end Marcus Benard, who was in a motorcycle accident in October, is "doing all right," Heckert said. Backup linebacker Titus Brown (knee) had surgery Wednesday, Heckert said. And strongside linebacker Scott Fujita's broken hand is not completely healed, but he's fine, Heckert said.