Some of the biggest decisions that GM Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine have to make in the upcoming weeks are at the quarterback position.
The Browns released Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell last month and have just Brian Hoyer and Alex Tanney currently on the roster. Hoyer is coming off a torn ACL and is not ready to practice fully as the Browns prepare for a mini camp April 29-May 1 before the NFL Draft leaving Tanney as the only able bodied quarterback currently on the roster.
Pettine was asked if the Browns need to bring in a quarterback before the draft for the mini camp.
"Today, we had both sides of the ball formulate a depth chart so it wasn’t just looking at quarterback, but looking at all positions," Pettine said in a conference call with local reporters on Wednesday afternoon. "In the meantime, the very short term, we’re going to sit down with Ray and go over our needs and if we feel we need to add someone for that camp, we will.
"If we feel we can make it through given the number of repetitions with who we have here, then we’ll go that way," he said. "There’s some other positions, as well, whether it be through injury, you might bring some guys in to help you get through it but we’re going to have that meeting in the next few days to discuss it."
On the bright side, Pettine said that he expects Hoyer to be able to do some things in the upcoming camps.
"As far as Brian is concerned, I know that he’s progressing very well, but that’s more of a question for (trainer) Joe Sheehan," Pettine said of his availability. "I know he’s been with Brian step for step with his rehab. I do know that he’ll be available at least on a limited basis, but to the exact extent of what he can do drill work-wise, whether we can extrapolate that out and have him do some 11-on-11, that question hasn’t been answered yet."
The long-term question for the Browns at quarterback is the fact that Hoyer (4) and Tanney (0) have just four NFL starts between them. It is assumed the Browns will draft at least one quarterback, if not two, in May. The question remains will they use one of their first-round choices on a quarterback or a lower round choice as a developmental quarterback or will they choose to do both.
Pettine was asked if the Browns were planning on going into the season with Hoyer, Tanney and a rookie quarterback from the upcoming draft.
"That decision hasn’t been made."
Pettine said he’s not worried about Hoyer’s status in early April, but knows they need to address the position.
"I don’t think we’re at the point yet where that decision has to be made," Pettine said. "It will be sooner than later, but from all reports, I think (Hoyer’s) ahead of schedule. We feel good about where he is and certainly where he is and having Alex Tanney as the only other quarterback, that is a position as I’ve said before, we need to address."
Pettine said he does fully expect Hoyer to be ready for the start of the regular season in September.
"I don’t think you can ever plan that a guy will be available for 16 games," he said. "But as far as recovering from injury, we’re confident that he’s on track to be recovered before the season starts."
Pettine was asked about the reports of the quarterbacks the Browns have said to have worked out for the upcoming draft, including Blake Bortles, Derek Carr, Jimmy Garroppolo, among others and supposed upcoming visits with Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel.
"That’s something that’s been Ray and my policy not to discuss the schedule," he said. "I know some of that information has gotten out. Some of it is accurate; some is not, in terms of who we’ve done. That’s just something policy-wise, I don’t think we’re comfortable discussing.
"I think some of that has gotten out from the other side, but that’s just something that we have our list, we have our plan and we’re on schedule to execute that before the draft."
Mum on Mack: Pettine was asked about C Alex Mack, but he declined to give much information.
"It’s a situation that’s very fluid I’m not that comfortable talking about it because it’s an ongoing contractual thing," Pettine said. "Any time you’re in a situation where a guy is tagged and nothing is happening so far, so there might be some optimism there. It’s something that’s very fluid and it changes day to day."
Pettine was asked if the Browns were still talking to Mack about a long-term contract.
"Again, I hate to be this way but Ray and I have a policy that we’re not going to discuss something that is an open contractual thing.," he said. "I apologize for that, but it’s not something I’m going to speak on."
Pettine did say the Browns are prepared if Mack signs with another team and the Browns decide not to match the offer. However, he did not say what those plans were.
"We’ve discussed all possibilities."
Jimmy Haslam spoke Wednesday night of his confidence that Mack will remain with the Browns.
Pettine was asked how critical the off-season program is for Mack to be in.
"It’s not critical," he said. "All the off-season stuff is voluntary with the exception of the one camp (June). When I was in Baltimore we had a lot of our players, we only ever had in town only five or six starters at one time and then we would have all of them in for the mandatory camp.
"I think it’s important, but I don’t think it’s critical," he said. "He’s certainly smart enough that if we do get him on campus, he’ll be able to make up for lost time."
Draft Prep: Pettine said that he and the coaching staff are getting ready for the draft.
"Ray’s in there with his group and they’re stacking (the board)," he said. "We’ll have a separate meeting with the coaches, so they’re in the process. I’m not sure what positions they’re up to.
"The feedback has been very favorable.," he said "I think a lot of people think this is a very deep draft and I haven’t been able to get in there and study the board yet, but I’m hopeful that’s the case."
Pettine said he’s been able to share his thoughts on players as they ‘ve traveled to work out players privately.
"When we’ve been on the road we’ve been able to share some of our opinions and go back and forth why I like this player, why I don’t like this player," Pettine said "Again, I think that will all crystalize in the next couple of weeks when I have a better feel for the draft class and he’s certainly going through the first wave of it with his guys. I think we’re well on our way of having a good feel for this draft class."
Veteran Leadership: Pettine was asked on the number of veterans added and his opinion on re-shaping the roster in free agency.
"When we first looked at the roster we realized it was very young," he said. "Any time you have a new system, a new coaching staff, sometimes when you’re trying to create a new culture, you need to make change just for the sake of change.
"D’Qwell Jackson is an outstanding leader and I’ve already talked on this topic, but we felt we needed to shuffle the roster some and make it more fit with what we were doing scheme-wise, and also to add some leadership qualities of a guy like Karlos Dansby," he said. "Those were a lot of the basis for the moves that we made. We’re thrilled that we were able to add Karlos’ leadership along with Donte (Whitner), along with Nate (Burleson), to bring in some veteran guys.
"Coaches can only take players so far from a leadership standpoint, but when you have guys sitting next to you in the locker room that have been other places and they’ve done, they’ve seen it and they’re professionals and they’re really good players and they’re even better people, you can’t have enough of those guys in the locker room."
First Speech: Pettine met with the team for the first time as an NFL head coach this week and talked about it.
"I talked to a lot of coaches about that first speech," he said. "First of all, I was thrilled to get them in the building. I had met some of the guys, but it was really a special moment for me to address them for the first time. I just went through my philosophy and background and how we were going to do things and gave them a history lesson on the state of the franchise and told them we need to take the rear view mirror and break it off . We’re facing forward and that’s the direction we’re headed."
New Program: The Browns started their off-season program under Pettine on Monday. The first two weeks are conditioning.
"It’s been solid.," Pettine said. "We’re pleased. The guys have come back and have worked hard for (strength and conditioning) coach (Paul) Ricci. We’ve been very pleased, even though we’re only two days in. We’re very pleased so far."
Preseason Schedule: The NFL announced the Browns preseason schedule on Wednesday without all of the specific dates and times. However, the Aug. 18 game with the Redskins will be nationally televised on Monday Night Football. The regular season schedule is expected to be announced later this month.
Aug. 7-10 @ Detroit Lions (Ford Field)
Aug. 18 @ Washington Redskins (FedEx Field)
Aug. 21-24 vs. St. Louis Rams (FirstEnergy Stadium)