President Mike Holmgren believes the Browns never had a fair shot to defeat the Washington Redskins in the sweepstakes for Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Now the Browns’ backup plan could be to surround Colt McCoy with more weapons and give him another chance to prove himself as a starting quarterback.
Answering questions from season-ticket holders during an hour-long conference call Thursday, Holmgren said the Browns extended a trade offer to the St. Louis Rams that was just as good as the one the Redskins used to seal the blockbuster deal last week.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher and Redskins coach Mike Shanahan have a long-standing friendship. Without mentioning any names, Holmgren suggested the relationship between members of the two organizations gave the Redskins an advantage the Browns couldn’t overcome.
“What we had offered for the pick was every bit the offer that was chosen,” Holmgren said. “But honestly, when it didn’t happen, I think there are reasons I can’t go into right now why it didn’t happen. But there’s a very close relationship between the people that were involved in getting the deal done and the people eventually that got it done, and I’m not sure if any offer we made at the end of the day was going to be quite good enough.”
The Redskins are expected to select Griffin after receiving the second overall pick in this year’s draft from the Rams. The Redskins gave up a first-round pick (No. 6) and a second-round selection (No. 39) this year, plus two future first-round choices to move up four slots in the draft order.
When news of the trade broke last Friday night, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Browns offered the Rams at least three No. 1 picks and possibly even a second-round pick. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King tweeted, “Cleveland was in it, but didn’t want to give three ones and a 2.”
Holmgren said all the reports he has seen are incorrect. He would not disclose the Browns’ offer.
After Holmgren made his comments Thursday, King used Twitter to break down the details of a different version of the story: After Rams General Manager Les Snead asked both teams to make their best proposal, he picked the Redskins’ offer. Then the Browns wanted to make a better offer, but the Rams said they were sticking with the one from the Redskins.
Regardless of how it all unfolded, the Browns must now resort to Plan B. Holmgren indicated the organization might opt to stick with McCoy and Seneca Wallace at quarterback and use its two first-round picks, Nos. 4 and 22, to supplement other pieces of the offense.
“The other plan we had talked about was to use those picks to make our football team better immediately this year, get starters with those draft picks at other positions this year and to help our quarterbacks who are now existing on the team — or anybody else who would come onto the team — [get] better because we’ve surrounded that [quarterback] position with better players,” Holmgren said.
One fan asked Browns General Manager Tom Heckert, who also participated in the call, whether McCoy can become a franchise quarterback.
“We do think Colt has a big ceiling,” Heckert said. “Obviously it’s my job to get better players surrounding him. We have to be able to protect him better. We have to be able to run the football, which we did at times last year. I think if you look back at those games where we ran the football well, we protected well, Colt played very well. So we do think Colt has the ability to play.”
Holmgren and Heckert complimented McCoy throughout the conference call, but they didn’t commit to him as their starter. The Browns aren’t expected to sign a free-agent quarterback, but they could still draft one. Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill and Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden are potential targets.
Holmgren said he would “kind of discourage” Heckert from trading down from the No. 4 pick this year. Last year, Heckert traded down from No. 6 to No. 27, then back up to No. 21 before drafting defensive tackle Phil Taylor.
Holmgren was asked about running back Peyton Hillis leaving the Browns as an unrestricted free agent and signing with the Kansas City Chiefs on Wednesday.
“I think there comes a time in some players’ lives and clubs’ lives where a fresh start is probably the best thing for both sides,” Holmgren said.
When questioned about letting free-agent wide receivers slip off the market, Heckert said, “Free agency’s not over yet. We hope to add at least another player here somewhere down the line.” … Holmgren conceded the Browns need a right tackle after cutting Tony Pashos on Tuesday, adding “We’re looking hard at the draft and using some of our picks to take offensive linemen.” ... Heckert said he has tried this year to work out a long-term deal with kicker Phil Dawson and hopes to get one done so Dawson can retire as a member of the organization. The Browns franchised Dawson for the second year in a row.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.