CLEVELAND: Owner Jimmy Haslam is gushing over the Browns hiring former Indianapolis Colts pro scouting coordinator Andrew Berry as their vice president of player personnel.
“He’s only 28 years old, but we checked references extensively on him just like we did on [new head coach] Hue [Jackson], and they came back, I would say, extremely positive,” Haslam said Thursday during the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel. “So I think he’ll be a great addition to our team. He’ll start Monday, and we’re really excited.”
The Browns hired Berry on Wednesday to serve as their chief talent evaluator who’ll set the draft board and manage the scouting department. He’ll report to new executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown, who has final say on the 53-man roster.
Haslam revealed the Browns met with Berry twice — once last week in Cleveland and again Monday night at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. — and he was one of seven to nine candidates who the team interviewed. A few were former general managers with much more experience than Berry, who graduated from Harvard University in 2009.
“We felt like Andrew was the best fit for us,” Haslam said. “ ... In football circles, he’s one of those young and upcoming talents that you hear about, and we’ve been hearing his name for the last several months.
“Andrew is really intelligent. He’s very organized. He’s very process oriented. He’ll be a great team player. He’ll work well with everybody in the organization. He and Hue have already meshed together, and I think he’ll understand what Hue and the coaches need. And I think he’ll go out and find those players for us.”
Loving the idea
Haslam said he doesn’t have any apprehension about Jackson’s decision to call the offense’s plays and proceed without an offensive coordinator. Haslam considers associate head coach-offense Pep Hamilton a de facto offensive coordinator.
“I actually feel great [about it],” Haslam said. “I really do. You look at some of the better offenses. How do you feel about Kansas City’s offense? How do you feel about Green Bay’s offense? Hue and I, we had a lot of candid talks about it when we interviewed him. He said, ‘Listen, it’s one of the things I do best. I don’t want to delegate that, at least early on,’ and we’re enthusiastic about him.
“So why would you have one of the best play callers in the league not call plays? We’re actually really excited. Yet at the same time Hue was down in Mobile all week and Pep, who has been an offensive coordinator, is in there running all the offensive meetings. So I walked in there and you wouldn’t know he wasn’t the quote official offensive coordinator. So in a way, I think we’re getting the best of both worlds.”
Jackson spent the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Not weird at all
Haslam said there’s no awkwardness between him and defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
Horton held the same job with the Browns in 2013, but the coaching staff was wiped out by Haslam and former CEO Joe Banner after one season with the firing of coach Rob Chudzinski. Now Horton is back as Jackson’s defensive coordinator.
“I’ve seen Ray several times,” Haslam said. “Ray likes to go out to Arizona and play golf. He would send me pictures of [Pilot Flying J] truck stops of ours he’s in, so we’ve kept the relationship up. [On Wednesday], he was watching tape and we went through our entire team and talked for an hour, hour and a half. So it’s not uncomfortable at all.”
Haslam said Horton did a good job in 2013 and revealed he needs to hire just one more coach to complete the defensive staff.
“A linebackers coach,” Haslam said. “I think we’ve got three or four coming in Monday.”
Suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon has applied to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstatement into the league after being banished for the entire 2015 season because of recurring violations of the substance-abuse policy.
Would Haslam welcome Gordon, 24, back if he were reinstated?
“We do not know if Josh is going to be reinstated or not,” Haslam said. “Obviously saw where he reapplied for reinstatement. We’ll leave that up to the NFL, and if he’s reinstated, we’ll deal with that at the proper time.”
Veteran quarterback Josh McCown said his recovery from a broken collarbone suffered Nov. 30 against the Baltimore Ravens is on schedule.
“It’s coming along well,” McCown said. “I hope to be cleared pretty soon, so I can get back to working out and doing what we do this time of year as far as just staying in shape. So everything’s coming along according to schedule.”
Three-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack told NFL.com the Browns are going in the right direction.
“Really happy they got everything handled early and they found their guy,” Mack said Thursday of the team hiring of Jackson. “They’re getting a staff together quickly. It’s going in the right direction.”
Whether Mack could be swayed to stay in Cleveland remains to be seen. He can opt out of his contract and become a free agent in March or stay with the Browns for $8 million in each of the next three years.