INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Joe Banner must like to bring the pressure.
He sure brought some Saturday, all the while saying the key to success in the NFL is bringing pressure on the field.
Banner met with the Cleveland media at the NFL Scouting Combine and laid out an overall philosophy in the way the Browns want to build a team.
His three pillars for winning in a sustained way: Don’t go for short fixes that mean fixing the same problem twice. Pressure the opposing quarterback and keep pressure off the Browns quarterback. Keep the team young.
Decisions will be made with that philosophy in mind, and they may at times mean that the team leaves itself short at a position because it bypasses the short-term fix to avoid solving it a year later.
In speaking for nearly an hour, Banner made very clear that he will be intimately involved in every football decision — the football operations clearly belong to the CEO — and he said he will be as forthright as he can when addressing issues.
“I’d be concerned if people thought we were dishonest,” Banner said. “I don’t think you’ll ever see that with me. I don’t think you’ll ever experience that with Jimmy. I don’t think you’ll see that with (coach Rob Chudzinski). I don’t think you’ll see that in this administration. We haven’t done that. We won’t do that. “
Banner said he might not always give complete answers to some questions. And he declined to be specific on Browns free agents, including the decision on what to do with free agents Phil Dawson and Josh Cribbs. But he did say the team did not plan to trade any of its players and that a quarterback probably would not be on the radar in the first round of the draft, the sixth overall pick.
He also brought some pressure on Brandon Weeden while also giving him more of a boost than anyone with the new Browns regime had previously.
“I think we want to give (Weeden) the best chance to succeed,” Banner said. “We have a huge vested interest in him being successful.”
The Browns have studied any quarterback they think could or will become available in a trade, and have a preliminary study on the draftable guys. They also have studied possible free agents.
Without saying it, it sounded like the team just does not see a clear, automatic upgrade over Weeden who could come in and start immediately. So Banner talked about bringing in competition — which sounds curiously like a guy like New England backup Ryan Mallett — while getting Weeden to improve.
“These are guys that have shown some potential,” Banner said of Weeden and Josh Gordon. “Yet if they flatten at the level they’re at now, or don’t have the determination to be the best they can be, work ethic, they probably won’t be good enough to be on a team that’s gonna try to win a championship.”
Which with Weeden means …
“I think we’re telling you we see potential there that we’re going to try to work with and see what it’s going to develop into,” he said. “Some of that’s just gonna come from how badly he wants it.”
Banner said he is reluctant to give up any more draft picks via trade because the Browns already lack the second-rounder used to take Gordon in the supplemental draft.
That wouldn’t stop the Browns from using a future mid- or late-round pick to make a trade.
“I think we’ll feel comfortable when we can sit here and say we have a starter that is a guy we are sure can lead us to a championship,” Banner said. “Whereas we are hopeful and we’re gonna give Brandon his best chance to succeed, I don’t think any of us can say we know that yet. Until I say that we are going to be working that position.”
Defensively, the new front office’s overriding emphasis as it hired a coach and staff was to find people who fit a philosophy of being aggressive and attacking.
“That will be the mentality of the organization,” Banner said. “So we’re hiring people that will fit that culture, whether they be players, marketing people or coaches.”
He said the team started the coaching search with a mild bias to a 3-4 but saw that bias grow when every coach interviewed said the scheme similar to Pittsburgh’s gave them the most trouble.
“We want to be risk-takers, we want to be attacking, we want the other team to be on the defensive,” Banner said.
He said he wanted a new approach because “the defense wasn’t good enough, just to be very direct about it.” So when Chudzinski expressed similar philosophy and Ray Horton came available, the team acted.
Banner’s bluntness was him at his best. He can assess and articulate a plan and an answer like few. Even when told that the impression exists that he’s a business guy and Mike Lombardi is a TV guy, he was ready.
“I think the people around the country and around the league that know don’t share those perceptions,” Banner said. “The people in the league know that I was intimately involved in a small group in the football decisions in Philadelphia that led to a lot of success. I think the people that know Mike Lombardi as it relates to his player evaluation ability would feel like it’s a good combination and we can build a successful organization.
“I don’t think some free agents or the agents of free agents are going to say anything other than they expect Cleveland to turn around and be successful.”
Clearly, he doesn’t even mind putting pressure on himself.