Make that decisions, decisions, decisions, decisions.
Browns general manager Ray Farmer and the coaching staff met Friday as they prepared to trim the roster to the regular-season limit of 53 by 4 p.m. today. Coach Mike Pettine said no moves had been made when he talked to reporters Friday afternoon on a conference call.
Pettine made the decision of the preseason when he picked Brian Hoyer as the starting quarterback over Johnny Manziel. The choices were only beginning.
First, Farmer and Pettine have to pick their favorite players at each position. Then they have to choose between a fifth safety and a third quarterback. Or a ninth offensive lineman vs. a fourth running back.
“Not everybody’s going to see it the same way,” Pettine said. “A coordinator might see a position differently than a position coach will. The head coach might see it differently than both the position coach and then from the personnel side. There will be varied opinions.
“I’m confident … it’s such a collaborative atmosphere that we’ll be able to arrive at it without it being too lively. But we’re very encouraging of our coaches and coordinators to go ahead and be brutally honest and give their opinion. I think we all know at the end of the day Ray’s going to go ahead and assemble a 53-man roster and 10-man practice squad that he thinks gives us the best opportunity to win.”
Control over the roster is often a sticking point between a coach and GM, but Farmer was given the power when promoted by owner Jimmy Haslam. Farmer and Pettine are rookies in their jobs but say they’ve developed a high level of trust.
“It’s one of the reasons that I’m very confident and very much enjoying the relationship here with Ray, because I think he and I see football the same way,” Pettine said. “We’ll have some differences of opinion. I don’t know if it will be an exact match. But we have some tough choices to make, but that’s a good thing. That means you’re potentially letting go some good players. I’d rather it be that way than have it be a situation where you’re trying to find guys or you’re putting a guy on your 53 that you don’t think is deserving of it.
“So to me, ultimately, it’s his say, but I would never use the phrase ‘he’s shoving a guy down our throat.’ It’s very much a collaboration.”
The Browns must weigh a lot of factors in picking the team to take to Pittsburgh on Sept. 7. A key one is how much to consider the performance of undrafted rookie running back Isaiah Crowell on Thursday night in a 33-13 win over the Bears. He rushed 13 times for 102 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown.
“It’s a body of work thing, it’s from the time that a player set foot in here,” Pettine said. “Real game reps are important, that’s why I thought last night was a good showing for Isaiah, but it will still be the entire body of work.”
Veteran Rex Grossman also made some good throws in his first appearance with the Browns, but Pettine and Farmer hadn’t decided whether to keep a third
“It’s not weighing it against another quarterback, it’s weighing it against who’s the best player to keep at that point,” Pettine said. “There’s a strong case to keep one and there would be some reasons to not.”
When asked if veteran receiver Nate Burleson had secured a roster spot by returning from a hamstring injury for Thursday night and emerging healthy, Pettine said he wouldn’t discuss a specific player’s chances of making the team. The choice at receiver seems to be Burleson and undrafted rookies Taylor Gabriel and Willie Snead for a spot or two. Gabriel and Snead had two and three catches, respectively, against the Bears.
More than 600 players will hit the waiver wire today, and Farmer’s staff will be scouring it for upgrades, particularly at receiver. The suspension of All-Pro Josh Gordon just renewed the spotlight on the apparently deficient position.
“If we get a chance to improve this football team over the next two days, then we will,” Pettine said. “If we don’t, then we will feel very confident with the group we’re taking to Pittsburgh.”
Trades aren’t common in the NFL, but the Browns may be in a spot to deal a position of strength (defensive line) to improve a weakness.
“I would think any of those options are available to us at this point,” Pettine said. “I wouldn’t preclude any of it.”
Pettine called the two days after the preseason finale among the busiest on the NFL calendar for the personnel department and coaches. When Sunday arrives, Pettine will be more than ready to change his focus.
“We’ve been working on the Pittsburgh game plan since the spring and once we get settled on the roster, we’re just looking forward to that opportunity of getting the guys in here and teaching them that game plan and getting ready to roll with it,” he said.