Browns Will Plow Ahead, Improve Offense

To improve the stagnant offense of the Cleveland Browns, Mike Holmgren and company must hit on draft selections and utilize free agency wisely.

BEREA -- The reassuring Mike Holmgren returned Thursday, the grandfatherly one who promised the Browns will get better, that things are really not that bad and that the team is committed and driven to succeeding.

He also elaborated on his statement last month that a 4-12 record for the Browns does not mean it's "business as usual" for the team.

"We know what we have to fix," Holmgren said, "but we're not going to blow it up and start all over. That's the difference."

Which means the Browns are committed to Pat Shurmur as coach, building primarily through the draft, not spending lavishly in free agency and keeping their draft picks to rebuild the roster.

Holmgren concluded a 75-minute news conference -- in which he answered all manner of questions -- by detailing how committed and driven the management team and owner Randy Lerner are to succeed. He asked for trust, and said Browns fans will not give up on the team.

He said he saw things in a bad season that gave him hope, "things I trust will give you hope as well." Most centered on young players on defense, but there were other intangibles -- like his unwavering belief in Shurmur.

"I know this about the man coaching this football team," Holmgren said. "He is good, and he is smart, and he will do what he has to do in a very unselfish way to get the team going in the right direction. …

"That in itself is a healthy, good sign to me."

Holmgren and general manger Tom Heckert understandably offered few specifics for their blueprint, except to say the offseason focus will be on offense.

"Our offense, by anyone's standards, was not good enough," Holmgren said.

"We have to address playmakers all around," Heckert said.

Which makes sense, given the offensive production was at 1999 and 2000 levels in terms of points, and given the lack of playmakers and guys who score touchdowns was glaring. But there will not be a glut of spending in free agency.

"We don't want to sign 10 free agents," Heckert said. "But you can get one or two players at positions that help you."

Much of the discussion was about quarterback Colt McCoy -- and the meaning of what was said might come down to personal interpretation. Holmgren said McCoy is not yet a franchise quarterback, but "he could be." He said McCoy did some good things, but played young at times. And he said he had not changed his mind on the young quarterback.

"I'm not ready to anoint Colt yet," Holmgren said. "Have I changed my mind? No. Do I love him? Yes, I do."

Holmgren said McCoy could get better, than he's seen that kind of progression in a young quarterback. But he did notice that potential free agent Matt Flynn threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns for Green Bay in the season finale with Aaron Rodgers resting.

"In your second start, to break records held by Bart Starr, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers … that's a little unusual," Holmgren said.

The Browns' options are not difficult to figure. What the Browns will do is, though.

Among the choices:

--The Browns could keep McCoy and hope he improves.

--They could try to trade up and hope Indianapolis trades the pick that could be Andrew Luck. It's a longshot that the Colts would give up the pick, but Luck is worth the call to ask. But, both Heckert and Holmgren said they made the trade down last year with Atlanta to acquire extra picks to fill in the roster.

--Hope that another team is willing to trade a quarterback the Browns like. Perhaps if St. Louis gave up on Sam Bradford, a guy Holmgren and the Browns liked a lot when he came out of Oklahoma … Again, it's a longshot.

--Look to a guy like Flynn, who helped his free agent cause in the final week. The Packers could franchise Flynn and force a team to give up a first-round draft pick to sign him, and Flynn could cost $40 or $50 million as a free agent. Is a guy with two starts worth that much?

--Draft Robert Griffin III with the fourth pick. Some draftniks rank Griffin higher than Luck, but he is a spread quarterback and Heckert admitted it's tough to project a spread quarterback into the NFL. It would seem especially tough with the fourth pick.

--Find someone else. Brandon Weeden is 28, but he's talented. There are others coming out of college. But only Luck and Griffin are considered top five material.

Which means the Browns might have plans to improve at quarterback, but because they are all dependent on other teams desires they might not be able to carry them through. Which means McCoy might be competing with Seneca Wallace for the starting position in 2012.

The unavoidable reality is that while the Browns discuss what to do, every other team in their division is preparing for a playoff game.

Let the offseason begin. In earnest.

Pat McManamon appears courtesy of

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