Browns exec calls failed trade sabotage ‘wholly untrue’
BEREA — Sashi Brown did his best to explain what happened last week to the Browns.
Hue Jackson wouldn’t talk about it all.
On the first day back from their bye, Cleveland’s top executive and coach chose different strategies to handle the latest embarrassment for a team that can’t seem to get anything right.
In his first public comments since a deadline trade with Cincinnati for backup quarterback AJ McCarron collapsed because of an administrative mix-up, Brown, the Browns’ vice president of football operations, insisted he did not sabotage the deal.
The teams failed to submit the proper paperwork to complete the trade before the NFL’s 4 p.m. deadline, and the inability to execute the deal led to reports that Brown intentionally scuttled it.
“That’s wholly untrue,” Brown said during a 26-minute news conference. “We were all in there together, Hue, myself and a couple other staff members that work on these things at the time we were trying to get the trade done. So I’m not worried about that internally, externally. I can just put it to bed. That’s just not the case. Nothing we would ever do.
“To try to make up a trade to sabotage a trade just wouldn’t make any sense.”
While unable to land a franchise quarterback for several years, the Browns attempted to acquire McCarron as a stop-gap answer. The team agreed to send a second and third-round draft pick to the Bengals for McCarron, who has a history with Jackson from their time together in Cincinnati.
However, the teams didn’t settle on the deal until late in the process and couldn’t complete it in time, a miscue that drew more ridicule of the Browns, who are 0-8 and 1-23 in the past two seasons under Jackson.
Brown did not provide a chronology of the events that led to the bungled trade, saying that it wasn’t executed because the teams waited too long to reach an agreement.
“I do think Cincinnati in earnest tried, I know we did everything humanly possible to get it done, and it just didn’t happen,” Brown said. “It’s truly that simple.”
But there are deeper layers, and the botched trade seemed to underscore a growing rift between Brown’s front-office group with Jackson and his staff.
Following Monday’s practice, Jackson opened his media availability by saying he would not discuss last week’s events.
“What I want to talk about is our football team,” he said. “We have eight games left to play. Myself and our coaching staff, we came here to win, and we are all accountable to getting that done, trying to win. That is what my focus is and what my staff’s focus is — let’s go find a way to win a game this week.
Brown did acknowledge that the team’s struggles over the past two seasons have placed immense anxiety on everyone in the organization. The stress of losing has strained people to their breaking points.
“In these builds and in these moments, there is a lot of adversity that will put pressure on people and we have to stay united internally,” he said. “We are working together.”
Brown doesn’t believe he will lose his job because of the trade fiasco — or his two-year record. He believes owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam understand the difficulty in turning around a floundering franchise.
“I think we’re in good communication with both Dee and Jimmy on these things, and they’re well apprised of what we’re doing and why and how things come together,” Brown said.
“I think they’ve seen our track record in terms of being able to perform and pull off some of the more creative deals in the league and a host of just simple, straightforward transactions, whether they’re in the season or on draft day.
“So I don’t (have concern about being fired). I think they understand that we’ve been as aggressive as any team trying to churn this roster and improve it.”
Brown did accept responsibility for not doing a better job in acquiring talent to help Jackson. The Browns haven’t fixed their habitual QB deficit, and in the past two years Brown has passed on taking both Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson in favor of making trades to acquire assets.
“I don’t think just trading down was the problem,” he said. “I think it is just purely evaluating. … I don’t shy away from missed opportunities at all. That is going to be a piece of it. There are a lot of non-quarterbacks out there frankly that are playing well right now too that we would love to have on our team, but we are not going to get every one right. We haven’t and we won’t moving forward. We will get enough of them right and we will solve the quarterback position here.”