INDIANAPOLIS--The Browns quest to find their franchise quarterback continues.
Over the past two decades the Browns have been on a mission to find their answer at quarterback.
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The majority of Hue Jackson's time with the media at the NFL Combine was spent answering questions about the quarterback situation.
Jackson was asked if the quarterback position was the Browns biggest need.
"We're going to keep searching," Jackson said. "I think we all understand, no one's really claimed this position yet on our football team so we need to do everything we can to continue to add a player that we feel, as an organization, really good about, that can lead our football team and we'll continue to chase that.
Even though neither he or Sashi Brown have said the team is moving on from Robert Griffin III, it appears that they will if they can find a suitable upgrade, despite possibly paying Griffin a roster bonus of $750,000 due on March 11, if he's still on the team.
When asked specifically about Griffin, Jackson didn't exactly give him a ringing endorsement.
"Obviously Robert's on our roster right now," Jackson said. "I think there are some things that he did well, some things he needs to continue to improve at and we're going to keep working with him until we don't.
"He's one of the three quarterbacks on our football team right now and I'm very fortunate we do have some guys under contract right now to work with, but we've got to continue to get him better as he moves forward."
When asked to assess his performance last season, Jackson said: "He's a player that needs to continue to work and improve," he said. "I think he's doing that each and every day and we'll continue to work with him and get him to where he needs to be."
Jackson didn't sound as though he planned to go into the 2017 season with the three quarterbacks currently on the roster in Griffin, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan, but admitted that could be the case.
“I think we have to feel that way because that potentially could happen," he said. "It all depends how this all unfolds. But I know we’re doing anything and everything we can to improve that position. I think that’s really important and I think that’s where Sashi (Brown) is coming from. It could happen that way – not that we want it to be that way, but that the same time, that’s a reality too. But we’re going to do everything we can to go find a quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.”
Jackson was asked if Kessler was a candidate to be the starting quarterback this season.
"Absolutely," he said. "He’s one of the guys who are on our roster right now, that’s one of our quarterbacks, who’s working extremely hard. Again, until we make a decision that who this final roster is at that position, I think every guy that’s at that position has a chance to be a starter."
Jackson said Kessler showed some promise as a rookie in 2016 in his eight games starting.
"I think he did some good things," he said. "He did. Obviously he played more than what we anticipated he would. I thought he had some some really good games. He got knocked around a little bit, he learned what the National Football League is. I think he will prepare a little bit different, but I like Cody. He’s one of our players we’ll continue to work with."
Jackson said the Browns will look at free agency, trade or even the draft to try and upgrade the position.
“I think what’s most important is find a guy who can win for us over time and can sustain it and do it week in and week out," Jackson said. "Obviously this is the National Football League. It’s a quarterback driven league. You have to have a guy that can play consistently week in and week out. We’re going to see if we can find that. We have some guys on our team that are going to continue to work hard and improve. We need to get those guys better, too, but we also need to continue to improve the talent level at that position as much as we can, as much as we’re allowed to.”
Jackson said that NFL experience isn't the only ingredient in finding the right quarterback.
“I don’t know if it’s just experience," Jackson said. "You have to surround the team with talent. It’s not just pitting a quarterback on the team. He’s a huge piece of it, but you also have to equip that quarterback with an opportunity to win. A lot of things go into that. We understand where we are and what we need to do. Our executive staff, along with our coaching staff, that’s what we’re setting out to do.”
Jackson wouldn't comment on possible free agents or trade possibilities, but said it was too early to say if any of the quarterbacks in the draft were ready to play immediately or not.
“I think it’s too soon," Jackson said. "We’re still in the process of finding out to know that for sure. That’s why we’re here, to spend more time with them to and see what they know and what they don’t know and how we can help them and how they would fit in our system. We’ll know more about all these guys as we continue to move forward.”
He did say what he's looking for.
"Well, it's a lot of things you're looking for, but I think, most importantly, obviously, guys have arm talent and can a guy process football at the rate that you need him to be able to do it," he said. "Is he a guy who can lead an organization because I think we all know the quarterback becomes the face of the organization, I think that's really important and a lot of pressure comes with that, so a guy's got to be able to handle that."
Jackson was asked about the three quarterbacks considered to be at the top of the quarterback rankings.
Jackson was asked how important it was that DeShaun Watson played and won a national championship game at Clemson and played at a high level.
"I think all that's important," he said. "He's obviously had a great college career, won a national championship, competed at a high level. Very talented player."
Jackson said he wants a quarterback that is ideally, 6-2 or bigger. Mentor's Mitch Trubisky measured just over 6-2.
"I think that's great (Trubisky measured over 6-2)," Jackson said. "It's good that he's over 6-2. We all have a profile for what we like a quarterback to be and I think you kind of work through that. I like a guy that's a little taller and he is over 6-2 so that's great for him."
Jackson also likes the size of DeShone Kizer from Notre Dame.
"Six-four, 233 pounds, that's a big guy," he said. "Like with all the guys. Until I see more of them and spend more time with them can I really say. I've seen a lot of the college tape. But I want to be around them and feel them and talk to them and see what they know and what they don't know. And I think that's what important.
Jackson said what he's looking for in a franchise quarterback is the same in guys coming out of college.
"I think it's some of the things I just mentioned," he said. "There's no substitute for arm talent. There's no substitute, can a guy really process what they're trying to accomplish and then can it fit into the National Football League. I think we all know it's been tough trying to evaluate that position because it's so different in college than what it is in the National Football League, but those things won't change.
"I think there's a couple of key characteristics that you've got to have," he said. "Can you throw? Can you process? Can you lead your team? Those are three very fundamental things that I think will show itself from a college quarterback."
Jackson says he can't wait for the day when he can stop having to answer questions about who will be the Browns quarterback.
“Absolutely. I don’t like it,” he said. “I think we all get it. We need to find a guy to lead our team, to lead this organization to winning week in and week out.”
Jackson says there's more to it than just picking a quarterback.
“I think there are all kinds of ways to do it," he said. "I think it’s important. You have to have that guy, but you have to make decisions about what that looks like as you start to put that guy on your football team. As I said earlier, you have to support that position the right way, as well.
"It’s not just about putting a quarterback on the team and saying ‘Here we go’," he said. "You have to make sure he has enough weapons. You have to make sure you’re able to protect him and you put him in the right spot so he can have success. I think all of those things go into it as you think through it.”
The process continues.
Hue Weighs in on Pryor: Jackson said he is hoping the Browns are able to keep WR Terrelle Pryor.
“It’s important. Obviously Terrelle was a huge piece of what we did a year ago," Jackson said. "Obviously, we’re working through that. And it has to work both ways for all involved – for him, fur us and hopefully it will. Hopefully we can get that done soon.”
Jackson said he thinks Pryor has a bright future.
"I don't worry about the numbers, I just see him as a receiver who can play," he said. "He caught for over 1,000 yards last year so he knows how to play.
"I think he's trending up," he said. "I said that. I think his best football is ahead of him. He's very talented, very athletic, knows how to play. Hopefully we get this guy back and playing well for us."
Jackson admitted he's a bit anxious with the uncertainty of Pryor.
"Absolutely, because we want all of our guys back," he said. "But again, it’s free agency, so they get to make a choice and a decision too. Hopefully, he’ll make the right one and stay here with us."
Set at RB?: Last year, Jackson said he felt comfortable with RB Duke Johnson and RB Isaiah Crowell as the primary backs.
"I feel even better," he said. "I think Crow’s a very talented player, so is Duke. I feel good about those guys, but I don’t think anything’s just set. "However we can improve our team and make it better that’s what we’re going to do."
Nothing to See Here: Jackson was asked if there was anything to read into bringing QB coach David Lee to the Browns with his ties to QB Tyrod Taylor.
"He’s an extremely talented coach," he said. "He’s going to coach our quarterbacks. He’s coached some really good ones in the National Football League. It allows me the ability to still kind of move around and do some things I need to do, but he will be responsible for helping me mold these guys as we move forward."
Jackson said he brought him here because of his coaching, not his connections.
"(He coached Tyrod) I know people will put those connections together, but it’s not really about that," he said. "I went out and hired who I thought was the best quarterback for us, for our organization and that’s why he’s here."
Trading Down: Last year, Jackson was fine with the Browns trading down, so he was asked about his thoughts this year.
“My feelings are different in a sense we need to do whatever we feel is important to improve our football team," he said. "We have a lot of assets here as we move forward to improve our roster and I think that’s what’s most important.”
Free Agency: Jackson was asked his thoughts on the upcoming free agency market starting March 9.
“It will be another piece and opportunity to supplement our team," he said. "We’re going to look at every avenue to get our team better. I totally understand we’ll do that and we’ll do it to the best of our ability. We’re not going to do anything that’s way over the top because I think it’s important we do it very smartly but also very aggressively, but well do everything we can to improve this football team.”
Drafting Garrett: DE Myles Garrett from Texas A & M has been the consensus overall number one pick for the Browns by virtually every NFL draft publication, so Jackson was asked if the Browns will draft him.
"I think it's a little too early to say that. I mean … obviously he's a tremendous player," Jackson said. "There's a lot of good players in this draft. I think it's just so early for us to determine exactly where we are. All those things will be discussed and thrown around as we continue to move forward."