BEREA. Ohio — After trading two former first-round picks Sunday, the Browns brain trust found it had quite a bit of explaining to do to the legions of team fans come Monday.
In a nearly hourlong question-and-answer session with the media, new Browns President Mike Holmgren and second-year coach Eric Mangini hopped from one subject to another trying to cover all the ground traversed by the team over the last week and a half between trades, releases and free-agent signings.
Of major interest was Sunday’s busy dealings as the Browns sent former No. 1 draft selections Brady Quinn to the Denver Broncos and Kamerion Wimbley to the Oakland Raiders in a matter of hours.
Included in Holmgren and Mangini’s far-reaching discussion were: why aging quarterback Jake Delhomme was signed, the abilities of another new quarterback in recently acquired Seneca Wallace, the reasons behind the surprising trade of Wimbley, the signings of unrestricted free agents in tight end Ben Watson, linebacker Scott Fujita and offensive lineman Tony Pashos and even possible scenarios for the NFL Draft in April.
Holmgren did his best to break the ice with a joke, kidding that General Manager Tom Heckert had made the recent rash of trades and was on the road, but that he and Mangini would do their best to explain the mess he had left.
Jokes aside, Holmgren seemed genuine in sharing what the organization was trying to accomplish through cutting ties with both of last year’s quarterbacks, Derek Anderson (released Tuesday) and Quinn.
“(The quarterback position) has been probably the one area we’ve spent the most time on as a group since I’ve been here,” Holmgren said. “We all came to the conclusion that we couldn’t go into the season the same way we went into last season.”
In Anderson and Quinn’s places, Holmgren and his staff picked up Wallace in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks and signed free agent Delhomme — quarterbacks very familiar with Holmgren’s preference of running a West Coast offense.
“One of the areas we looked at as a group was at a veteran quarterback,” Holmgren said. “A guy who’d done it and proven he could do it to come in here and add some stability to the position.”
At the same time, Holmgren knows what many fans are thinking about Delhomme.
“He’s 35 years old, but physically he’s fine,” he said. “But it does kind of beg the question about the future and the long term. There’s not many (Brett) Favres around who can play until they’re what? 45?”
And while he had only spoken to Quinn once briefly, trading the Dublin, Ohio, native still “wasn’t easy.” “Brady Quinn’s a fine young man, and we wish him well,” Holmgren said. “I suspect he’ll do well. Oftentimes, players and organizations need a fresh start. Sometimes, you need to cut it off and start over clean.”
The change in quarterbacks was something that many expected, but that was not the case with suddenly shipping Wimbley to the Raiders for a third-round pick.
“We’ve been active on the phones with any number of teams for any number of players,” Holmgren said when asked about Wimbley. “To build something up with young people is important, as is trying to develop a core. (That way,) you don’t have to make this many changes in the years moving forward. The challenge I put forth to our staff is, ‘Let’s look at everything.’ “
A part of that was shipping Wimbley to the Raiders to garner another draft pick, as Holmgren alluded a few times Monday about the late April draft.
“Because of the moves we’ve made right now, it does not preclude us from continuing to do stuff,” Holmgren said. “We have this draft coming up, you know?”
Besides, Mangini said, if there’s one area where the Browns have a surplus of depth, it’s at linebacker.
“We were 5-11 last year and we have a lot of (positions) we need to address,” he said. “But at the outside linebacker spot, I like the depth we have in (Matt) Roth, David Bowens, (Jason) Trusnik and Marcus Benard. Scott Fujita has played there and David Veikune could potentially move out there as well. There’s a lot of candidates there, so getting the third-round pick gives the opportunity to address other needs.”
After all the explanations and background stories, Holmgren had hoped to bring some light to what the team is trying to do during this busy offseason. But if Browns fans still don’t like what he’s doing, then so be it.
“You can’t avoid controversy,” he said. “Guys come to camp and compete like crazy. Some guys want that guy to play, some guys want that (other) guy to play — it’s there. It’s real.”
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