CLEVELAND -- I'm headed back to AFC North headquarters after three long (but exciting) days here for the NFL draft. I'm hoping to return soon to see the start of a new Browns' offense with running back Trent Richardson and quarterback Brandon Weeden. The plan is to recharge the batteries today after posting Mel Kiper's grades for each AFC North team and come back Monday with blogs filled with opinions and analysis.
Here are some of my impressions from the Browns' press conference with team president Mike Holmgren that wrapped up the draft:
Holmgren doesn't want the Browns to look foolish. On a question whether Richardson and Weeden are the foundation toward winning, Holmgren went out of his way to dispute reports that the Browns were duped into trading up for Richardson when they didn't have to do so. Some have suggested that the Vikings bluffed Cleveland into thinking there were other teams interested in making the move when there were none. The Browns gave up three draft picks (ones in the fourth, fifth and seventh rounds) to move up one spot. "We didn’t want to lose him and I guess my conversations with Pat [Shurmur, head coach] and Tom [Heckert, general manager] in particular were if you even think someone is going to hop over there, if you even think someone is going to jump us then what are we going to do to prevent that from happening and get up in there. Contrary to what was written and what was said, we weren’t the lone ranger in that deal. We had to compete."
Perhaps the biggest shock came when Holmgren said he spoke to the Indianapolis Colts about trading up to the No. 1 spot to draft Andrew Luck. Asked how long the conversation went with Indianapolis regarding the top pick, Holmgren said with a smile, “Probably about five minutes. Actually I had two conversations. I had a conversation with Mr. [Jim] Irsay and also with their new general manager. I believe I was in the swimming pool at the owners meetings and I had a drink in my hand, on the second one. It wasn’t very long.”
Judging by Holmgren's comments, the Browns either thought about taking Weeden in the second round or considered trading back in the first round to take him. They ultimately drafted Weeden with the 22nd overall pick because they didn't want to risk losing him. "You got a little taste of it when he was in here of how he’s different than all the other quarterbacks that were drafted ahead of him or behind him is that his age and his maturity and what he brings immediately to the table," Holmgren said. "Now, you couple that with his skill level, which is pretty obvious on film and he has the potential I think to play well sooner because of that than other quarterbacks in the draft so he became very attractive to us."
I get the feeling that Holmgren wants to keep Colt McCoy as the backup to Weeden. He doesn't think it would be difficult for McCoy to adjust to that role because he "is a special young man." Holmgren added, "Of course he wants to play, they all want to play. Again, nothing has been done yet, we don’t know how it is going to sort itself out. But, if that were to be the case, at some point, I think we have the best chance of making that work because of who the people are."
Holmgren said he wouldn't be concerned about players choosing sides if McCoy remained. "Usually it's a problem if the players themselves kind of lead the charge on that," he said. "If I'm any judge at all about these young guys, that won't happen."
Holmgren believes Richardson will be a better all-around running back than Shaun Alexander, who played under Holmgren with the Seattle Seahawks. "I love Shaun, if I could adopt Shaun I would, but he wouldn’t block anybody, nobody and I still love him," Holmgren said "The difference is Trent is an excellent pass receiver, not just a willing blocker but a very, very good blocker so when Pat’s calling the game and we’re running our offense you don’t have to be thinking, ‘Okay now how do we protect him in the passing game?’ You don’t have to do that so that’s different. But, again I have great affection for Shaun Alexander and what he did for Seattle and what he did for me. This young man, different player, and there is no reason he can’t do the same for us here.”
Holmgren acknowledged the challenge of winning with a rookie quarterback in the NFL. "I don’t think it is easy, it is never easy," he said. "You look historically in the league. I always say, the only guy that shot lights out early was (Dan) Marino. Some of you may know someone else because you are a lot older than I am. But, I think Marino was the guy that sticks out because you talk to John Elway, Joe Montana, the guys I know, they all had these little growing pains."