By Ryan Lewis
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner continued to cite a lack of progress as the justification for the firing of first-year head coach Rob Chudzinski — as the team had done in a news release without attribution late Sunday night — during a 30-minute news conference at the team’s facility on Monday.
Banner also defended the roster additions the team made in the past year, which included the draft selections of rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo (No. 6 overall) and cornerback Leon McFadden (third round), the free-agent signings of outside linebacker Paul Kruger (five years, $40 million) and defensive end Desmond Bryant (five years, $34 million) and the trade for wide receiver Davone Bess.
Mingo finished the season with 42 tackles and five sacks but often disappeared in games. He also had just one sack in the final eight games. Kruger had 47 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He had 13.5 sacks last season with the Baltimore Ravens, including the playoffs. McFadden made it onto the field for the most part due to injuries to cornerbacks Joe Haden, Buster Skrine and former Browns cornerback Chris Owens. Bryant played well before being placed on the reserve/non-football illness list Dec. 4 with an irregular heartbeat. And Bess caught 42 passes for 362 yards and two touchdowns but was also second in the NFL with 14 drops, according to profootballfocus. com.
Banner said he believes the Browns measured up well with the teams they played through the seven-game losing streak to end the season in terms of what they did to bolster the roster.
“I think if you look at the players that we added, if you took them comprehensively — undrafted free agents, people we claimed, people we drafted, in free agency — if you look at the teams that we played over the last five or six weeks and compare it, I think we’ll stack up OK in terms of what we added for 2013,” he said.
Banner wouldn’t go into detail when asked to assess each major move.
“I’m reluctant to go player- by-player because I don’t want to say anything that offends anybody,” Banner said. “Overall, I think we moved the needle forward, not as much as we need to. ... I think most of the moves, both the free-agent moves and the draft moves, need to be judged over time.”
Even if Chudzinski wasn’t afforded the same patience.
Banner, during the news conference, also rejected the premise that the team was planning for the future but expecting Chudzinski to win this season, even when referencing the Sept. 18 trade of running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round draft pick in May’s draft. The Browns also traded fourth- and fifth-round picks in the 2013 draft for third- and fourth-round picks in the 2014 draft.
“I’m not sure we agree with the premise. We were one of the most active teams in the entire NFL. That’s not something that’s geared toward 2014,” Banner said. “Obviously, there were some instances, the draft being the most conspicuous, of not utilizing every asset we could have. But we thought there was reasonable basis to expect the team to get better as the year went on, and as we analyzed why that wasn’t happening it left us feeling we needed to make this change.”
Mingo, on Monday, said he wasn’t entirely pleased with his own rookie season. He also said he’d like to put on weight in the offseason, something he said was unnecessary during training camp.
“I want to put on a little weight and get a little bit stronger,” Mingo said. “It’s not the year that I wanted. There were a lot of ups and downs. I started out on fire and it kind of mellowed out but it’s just part of the experience.”
Gordon likes team’s talent
Wide receiver Josh Gordon said the talent to be a successful NFL team is there, but the Browns couldn’t overcome the number of obstacles set before them.
“There’s a bunch of great, talented guys on this team and we lost a lot of guys due to injury,” Gordon said. “I’ve seen some of the most talented guys I’ll probably ever see in the NFL that played here on this team on defense and offense, but certain pieces were missing. A few missed plays would have turned this whole season around.”
Gordon’s goal for next season: be the No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL, regardless of who the takes over as the next coach.
“I still plan on working my butt off and trying to come back the best wide receiver in the league, bar none,” he said. “That’s my goal, and it’s going to remain my goal no matter what’s going on in the front office here.”
Gordon did add that losing offensive coordinator Norv Turner would be a huge blow to the offense.
“To lose Norv Turner [would be] a detrimental thing to any offense in the league,” he said. “A legendary coach like Norv Turner gives you that offense and to not have it anymore would be a huge loss.”
Bess on Monday morning tweeted a picture of him wearing shorts with the Browns’ logo and the caption “Can’t wait till next season fellas...#REDEMPTIONsong!”
He was placed on the reserve/non-football illness list for personal reasons on Dec. 21.
The Browns signed seven players to reserve/future contracts: wide receiver Tori Gurley, defensive back T.J. Heath, defensive end Cam Henderson, safety Jamoris Slaughter, linebacker Justin Staples, wide receiver Conner Vernon and offensive lineman Jeremiah Warren.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.