By ESPN Cleveland Staff | ESPNCleveland.com
CLEVELAND -- Just days after being announced as the Browns' first free-agent addition of the offseason, QB Josh McCown met with the media on a conference call on Monday. Below is a full transcript from McCown's conversation, including notes on why he chose to play in Cleveland and how he can be a positive influence on Johnny Manziel.
On what made him decide to sign in Cleveland:
“It was a lot of thought and prayer. Meeting with the coaches and getting a good feel for the direction that coach (Mike) Pettine was heading with the team. Also speaking with (Owner) Mr. (Jimmy) Haslam and (General Manager) Ray (Farmer). I really felt good and they were all sending the same message. That coupled with the personnel that is there, the offense line, that was a huge factor in that and their ability to run the ball. All those things considered were big pieces in this decision.”
On how you balance wanting to start verses mentoring other players:
“It’s easy. You prepare. You’ve got to lead by example first and foremost. If you go out and do the things it takes to get yourself ready to play and on the way to doing that you sit in the room so much with the guys that hopefully some of the things that come up throughout the course of preparation and different conversations as you study, that you can use some of that time to share some of your experiences and hopefully guys can benefit from it.”
On being at a place that has had 22 different starting QBs since 1999, where well-meaning guys have come in and struggled:
“It’s obviously a tall order. My reaction is that that is in the past. I’ve got to hone in on this team in this year and play good football and do what it takes for this team to win football games. You can’t get caught up in that. Like you said, a lot of ‘well-meaning guys,’ every guy comes in with the same mindset and intentions and mine will be no different. What I am excited about is the people that are there currently like I said the offensive line and those guys I will be playing with and the coaches I am going to be working for. If you just looked at it like that and just said 22 guys or whatever have been here before then it’s just, ‘Hey, let’s pack up and go home because it’s pointless,’ but that is not my mindset. That is not my attitude. I want to attack this thing and do everything I can to change that and more than anything, help this team win football games.”
On what convinced him to come here despite the negative things that have happened this offseason:
“Those are individual incidents respective of themselves so I don’t really get into those things. My visit, like I said, went really, really well. It was thought out as far as the organization went. I talked to everybody. I got a chance to meet with everybody. It really solidified to me that things are going in the right direction. I think it’s important to understand and to remember that there’s a lot of people going through last year’s situation from ownership, to the general manager to the head coach who were all in their first year of something. For me, I take that into consideration and look the totality of it and said, ‘It seems like they made a really good step in this first year, all things considered.’ That part is encouraging to me.”
On what happened last year with his 1-10 record as a starting QB:
“Yeah, not a whole lot to say about it, other than it just wasn’t good enough. I’ve said it before. I don’t shy away from it. In that situation, I wasn’t good enough in that situation to pull us out of that. It was an unfortunate thing to happen, losing an offensive coordinator the week before the season, and everybody busted their butt to try to pull together and get ourselves out of that. We just weren’t good enough. I own my part of that, for sure. If anything, it just lights a fire to get that bad taste out of my mouth because that was not the way certainly I would have hoped to have planned for that season to go. I want to see it changed. Lord willing, I’ll never be in that situation again, but I think, too, I’m better prepared if that does happen because I sure did learn a lot.”
On how seriously he takes his role and responsibility to be a positive influence on QB Johnny Manziel:
“For me, it’s just come in and just like anybody on the team -- but you’re right, there’s a close connection because play the same position and we’ll be in the meeting rooms together -- to me it’s just to serve my team and help my team and any teammate as best I can, Johnny included. Whatever I can do to help somebody, I’m available and willing to do that.”
On if he knows Manziel at all and Manziel as a player:
“We just met pre-draft last year when he visited Tampa. It was brief meeting, nothing too serious. I don’t really know him past that. Obviously, his career is well-documented and he played at Texas A&M. My older brother (Randy) played quarterback at Texas A&M so we follow them and stuff like that, but I don’t know him past that. I’m looking forward to getting to know him.”
On if he asked the Browns what the team’s plans were at QB beyond him and if he expects another QB to join their group:
“With that, Tony (Grossi), I’ll leave those conversations between myself and the Browns. I’m excited about what we’re going to do moving forward and building the team. No matter who joins us in that room or what that room looks like, the goal and my part at least is to help us come together and play good football. It starts with me. As the veteran in there right now, it starts with me. I’m excited about that and I embrace that, and I look forward to helping that group play good football and going out and doing that myself, too. That’s really as much as I can comment on that.”
On if he was given an indication what this offense is going to look like with John DeFilippo and if it could resemble the Raiders’ from 2007:
“That’s a good question. Some of it, will. But no, that’s where the cool thing for me during the visit was just sitting with Flip (offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) and seeing how much he has evolved and grown as a coach and the ideas and things he likes to do. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m excited about the opportunities to play in Flip’s system. Obviously, every NFL offense, there’s something there that resembles – there will definitely be some things here or there. I think if you look at what this group was able to do last year running the football, it’s certainly encouraging to know we can do that, have that kind of ground game. I think building on that will be key for us, and that’s the fun part of this year is coming together and seeing the pieces that you’ve got and really building it together.”
On how much of his decision was based on having the best chance to start in Cleveland as opposed to other cities:
“How much of the decision was based upon that? I don’t think… For me, it was more of what’s the right fit, and if I go there, can we win football games and be productive? And NFL coaching experience was big for me. Just having guys that have been in the league for a while. This certainly qualified for me. As far as both Flip (offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) and (quarterbacks coach) Kevin O’Connell – are new to their current positions – but they both have experience in the NFL so I have value on that, for sure. Those were probably the main pieces. Any situation, you never know how it’s going to shake out, but what you want to be able to do is, when you play, be able to play productive football. That’s the key for me.”
On if his meeting in Cleveland was a no-brainer or if there were thoughts about other teams courting him:
“No, I mean it was definitely as I came in, and told the coaches it was a pleasant surprise to come in and kind of see where they were at and their plan moving forward. When I left, it certainly…the decision got a lot tougher. And ultimately, we made the decision to come to Cleveland. There were definitely thoughts and talks with other teams but the more we thought about it and just examined everything thoroughly, the better we felt.”
By Jason Gibbs | ESPNCleveland.com
By ESPN Cleveland Staff | ESPNCleveland.com
Via Cleveland Browns
BEREA, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns safety Tashaun Gipson, cornerback Joe Haden and offensive tackle Joe Thomas have been named to the 2015 Pro Bowl, the league announced Tuesday. In addition, safety Donte Whitner was selected as an alternate.
Gipson is a first-time honoree, while Thomas (eight) and Haden (two) have multiple selections. Thomas is the first offensive lineman in NFL history to be named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first eight seasons. With Gipson and Haden each earning Pro Bowl status, it marks the first time the Browns have had two defensive backs selected since Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield were selected to the 1989 Pro Bowl.
Gipson is the first undrafted defensive player for the Browns to make to Pro Bowl since LB Mike Johnson in 1991. Despite appearing in just 11 games this season, Gipson is second in the NFL with a career-high six interceptions. He added 52 tackles, eight passes defensed, one fumble recovery and one defensive score on an interception return. He sustained a knee injury at Atlanta on Nov. 23 that ended his season.
Haden is the first Browns cornerback selected to consecutive Pro Bowls since Minnifield was selected to four in a row from 1987-90. In 14 games this season, Haden has totaled 69 tackles, 17 passes defensed, three interceptions, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and one blocked field goal. Since joining the team as the seventh overall pick in 2010, his 84 pass breakups are the most in the league during that span.
Thomas trails only Hall of Famers Jim Brown (9) and Lou Groza (9) for the most Pro Bowls by a Browns player. Thomas has started all 127 career games at tackle and has not missed an offensive snap since being selected by the Browns with the third overall pick in the 2007 draft. His stretch of 7,856 consecutive offensive snaps is the longest active streak in the league. Thomas joins Jim Brown (1958-66) as the only Browns selected to the Pro Bowl in each of their first eight seasons in the league.
The 2015 Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, Jan. 25, and televised live on ESPN at 8:00 p.m. ET from University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, the site of Super Bowl XLIX.
Head Coach Mike Pettine:
“I’m very happy for our players that have received the recognition of being named to the Pro Bowl because they are deserving of the honor. They have each worked extremely hard this season and have been great examples for their teammates. They are selfless players that I know would trade the individual accolade for more team success. Each will serve as a great representative of the Cleveland Browns and the Dawg Pound in the game next month.”
DB Tashaun Gipson:
“I feel truly blessed to be selected to the Pro Bowl, and I really want to first thank God because without Him, this wouldn't be possible; and thank my family, my coaches and my teammates for supporting me and believing in me, as well as the Dawg Pound. It’s an honor to be recognized by the NFL and the fans, but it’s also a credit to the talented guys on our defense and our coaches who I’ve been fortunate to work alongside and play with all year.”
DB Joe Haden:
“I want to thank all of our fans, I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate them for always supporting us. I feel like we have done some good things this season and we are going to continue to push forward for the city of Cleveland. It’s great to be recognized for my second Pro Bowl, but I would trade it all for team success and that’s what everyone is our locker room is working for.”
OL Joe Thomas:
“It’s always an honor to be recognized for your hard work by the fans, coaches and your peers. It’s a feeling that never gets old. It means a lot to me to be selected to my eighth Pro Bowl and it is very humbling to be mentioned with the likes of Browns greats like Jim Brown and Lou Groza.”
By ESPN Cleveland Staff | ESPNCleveland.com
BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns on Tuesday signed QB Tyler Thigpen. General Manager Ray Farmer made the announcement.
In addition, the club waived FB Ray Agnew and re-signed DL Christian Tupou to the practice squad.
Thigpen is a 6-1, 216-pound veteran in his seventh NFL season out of Coastal Carolina. Originally selected by Minnesota in the seventh round of the 2007 draft, Thigpen has appeared in 29 games, including 12 starts, and has completed 275 of 509 passes for 3,222 yards, 21 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He has appeared in games with Kansas City (2007-09), Miami (2009-10) and Buffalo (2011-12). Thigpen initially signed with the Browns on May, 1, 2014 and was waived on Aug. 12.
Agnew started nine of the 12 games he appeared in. He had two carries for two yards and three receptions for 15 yards.
By ESPN Cleveland Staff | ESPNCleveland.com
BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns on Saturday signed K Garrett Hartley. General Manager Ray Farmer made the announcement.
To make room on the roster, the team waived K Billy Cundiff.
Hartley is a 5-9, 200-pound veteran in his seventh NFL season out of Oklahoma. Hartley has appeared in 57 games, all with the Saints from 2008-13. He has converted 82 of 101 (81.2 percent) field goal attempts and 176 of 177 PATs for 422 career points. Last season, he appeared in 14 games with New Orleans. A native of Southlake, Texas, Hartley graduated from Southlake Carroll High School.
He will wear No. 10.
Cundiff appeared in all 13 games this season and converted 22 of 29 field goals and all 28 PATs.
By ESPN Cleveland Staff | ESPNCleveland.com
For the first time since naming Johnny Manziel the Browns' new starting quarterback, head coach Mike Pettine met with the media to explain the decision and how it affects preparation for this Sunday's game against the Bengals. Pettine's comments are below:
“Certainly, a great challenge for us this week to be back in the division against the team that’s leading the division. Looking forward to being back out in front of the Dawg Pound. We’re expecting a high level of intensity for a lot of reasons. I think it’ll be a playoff type atmosphere. The margin for error for both teams is minimal. We also understand the Bengals’ mentality coming in. I asked the team this morning to put themselves in their shoes – times they’ve had a big game at home and high expectations for it, national TV audience and had the result not be anywhere near what they expected. We know the mentality that they’re going to have coming up here, but we can’t allow that to phase us. It’s going to be critically important for us to be focused and dialed in on the task at hand, in large part just because of the outside noise that has picked up significantly for obvious reasons. I talked about that with the team today, for them to understand that the move was made just because of the lack of performance at that position over the last four games. They have to understand it was as a unit, that if we don’t pick up our play around the quarterback, we’d be extremely foolish to expect different results. I challenged the team today that we all share in the joy of a win. We all share in the agony of a loss. Everybody has to pick up their play as we head down the stretch. (QB) Brian (Hoyer) got us to this point where here it is mid-December and we’re playing an extremely meaningful game. It’s important to recognize that. We know our goal is still very difficult to reach, but it’s still there. We don’t control our destiny. The only thing that we can do is prepare to go 3-0, and the only way to go 3-0 is to be 1-0. That’s why this Sunday is critically important for us.”
On if there was any reluctance this week in deciding to start QB Johnny Manziel:
“There was not. Basically after the Monday presser, got together with the group I was going to get together with. Meeting didn’t last very long, and went ahead and informed both players. We went on to the business of starting to game plan.”
On if Manziel will take the field with his teammates’ respect on Sunday:
"Yeah, absolutely. I think they’re going to see certainly how he was last week. They see how he’s practiced throughout the year, but I thought he ramped it up a little bit more last week. I’m sure they’ll see it this week. They’ll see him in a different light, just even being in the walkthrough this morning, you could just see the presence in the huddle and the command and how he was calling things. He spent a lot of time up here yesterday, wanted to get a head start on the plan. I’m sure it’ll show, and the guys around him will respect it.”
On if Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis’ comment about Manziel reflects the attitude towards Manziel in most defensive meeting rooms:
“I don’t know. This is a guy that had unbelievable college production, and he’s shown flashes of it at the NFL level. I know he’s apologized for it multiple times, and I have a conversation with him about it, but I don’t think teams necessarily look at him that way. I think they’ll try to look at the model of, ‘Hey, how do you defend a shorter mobile quarterback?’ Teams that defend the Seahawks have had issues, but I think it’s more of the mobility thing that defenses are worried about, not necessarily the height part.”
On what he’s learned from time around Bills QB EJ Manuel and Eagles QB Mark Sanchez that will serve him now with a rookie quarterback:
“If you want to have success you have to be great around them. I think if you get in the mode where it’s, ‘Hey, you have to take the team on your back and do it all yourself, and we’re just going to stand back at watch,’ you’re sadly mistaken. To me, it’s been our formula from the beginning. It’s play great defense, run the football, minimize the number of times where the quarterback has to make a play. Give him a chance with it third-and-2-5, as opposed to third-and-6-plus. Don’t put him in a situation where he’s got to lead you back from two scores down in the fourth quarter. I think if you keep those opportunities where he has to make plays at a minimum that takes a lot of pressure off. The quarterback is one-eleventh of the offense. It’s the most important position obviously, but at the same time – as I said in the team meeting – everybody has to elevate their play around him. To me, it’s a full team task.”
On how the decision to start Manziel changes what the other 10 players do on offense:
“We’re not trying to install a new playbook in a week. We had an inventory that we carried in training camp. We’ll just be highlighting a different portion of it. It’ll all be concepts that our guys are familiar with, but there are some subtle changes. Not to get into specifics of the game plan, but we’ll take advantage of the skill sets of the guys we have out there.”
On if making the change at QB could be a wake-up call to other positions on the offense to elevate their play and that there could be changes at other positions:
“I don’t know if that necessarily was the motivating force behind it, but I just think it’s a true statement. We need to play better. As I go back on the old cliché I’ve used a bunch of times, too much credit goes to the quarterback when you’re successful and entirely too much blame when you’re not. There were a bunch of plays that looked bad on the quarterback this past Sunday, for example, that weren’t necessarily his fault. Just overall level of play, I said before we pride ourselves on competition. We’ll be a little bit quicker to make changes at certain positions. Quarterback is one where you probably have to have, you do have to have, the most amount of patience. We just felt it just reached the point where we needed to make a change.”
On what Manziel’s day was like with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan on Tuesday:
“I know that Kyle needed a good bulk of the day to get the plan formulated. I’m not sure of what time Johnny came up here, but then he was here for a good part of the afternoon into the night. I know a lot of people were looking for him at the Cavs game. He was here.”
On if three games are enough for him to get a gauge of what kind of quarterback Manziel can be:
“Probably a little bit in between, probably get a pretty good sense. It’s not a huge sample, and obviously we’re hoping it’s more than three.”
On if he had to ensure the team and fans that the decision to start Manziel was made solely because it gives the Browns the best chance to win and not just to evaluate him in the last three games:
“Absolutely, he does, and that was the crux of the conversation. We wanted to make a change to do some different things schematically and to maybe bring a little bit more energy. Just felt that, all things equal, he did give us a better chance. It’s certainly not something where it’s, ‘Hey, let’s go ahead and…’ If Brian had been playing well and we decided to do it, you could make that argument, but this truly is a week-to-week thing.”
On if it was hard to tell Hoyer about the decision to start Manziel:
“Very, very hard. Those conversations are the negative part of the business, especially as a coach, when you’ve got to cut a player or demote a player, a guy that we all know what his circumstances are. It’s the human element of it. It’s difficult to sit a guy down, look him in the eye and tell him that he hasn’t been playing well enough and we’re going to have to make a change. It’s not easy.”
On if it’s unfair to look at Hoyer’s body of work as just the last four games:
“Yeah, but the NFL is a ‘what have you done lately’ business. Like I said before, we’ll be more patient with the quarterback, but the body of work was trending in the wrong direction. That really prompted it.”
On his thoughts on what goes into having to be more patient with the quarterback:
“I just think that’s one position where you can’t really have a yo-yo on it. We didn’t hesitate... Center is probably one that’s up there, as well. You want to have patience, but we decided to make a move. It happened in-game due to an injury and went ahead and stuck with it. It’s a lot easier to make changes at other spots just because the quarterback is kind of the CPU of the offense. Everybody has got to go through him. It’s very difficult. If you can avoid changing there quickly and often, you’d want to do that. That’s why you doing see a lot of teams bouncing back and forth. You want to settle on a guy and go with it, but it had just gotten to the point where we felt a change was necessary.”
On if he at any point thought he waited too long:
“No, I said this on Monday; I’m not going to look back and second guess. That’s just time in my life I’ll never get back. It’s unnecessary.”
On if Manziel is any more ready for four quarters in a game this week than he was last week:
“Well, certainly he will be because he’s going to get the full week as the starter. He’ll definitely be prepared. We tell our guys that aren’t starting to prepare as a starter, but that’s difficult. It’s a lot easier to say than it is to do. The off-the-field part of it is important and how much time they’re spending, but it’s human nature. They’re not truly going to prepare. They’re going to have a good feel for the plan and, ‘Hey, if I’ve got to go, I’ve got to go,’ but when you’re the starter, especially this time of the year when we’ve trimmed reps back and you only get so much time out there...it’s not like training camp practice when we’re going to be out there for three hours. At this time of year it’s all about being fresh. We’re trying to balance that line, walk that line this week with the offense where they have to get reps as a new unit, but at the same time, we still want our guys to be fresh for the game.”
On if he felt like he had an advantage facing a rookie when he was a defensive coordinator:
“You do. A lot of it depends on the player and the system. A mobile rookie. whether it’s a rookie or not, a mobile quarterback presents certainly more challenges for a defense than one where you can pretty much draw an ‘x’ and know that he’s going to be within a yard or two from that ‘x’ on most pass plays. The ability to improvise, to make plays off schedule, to extend plays, that can be very problematic for a defense. You can defend the first part of the play very well, and then fall apart on the second part of the play when the quarterback has the ability to extend it. Then you also want to factor in the running aspect of it whether it’s zone read, whether it’s option whatever it is that a mobile quarterback can do that you have to take into account, that you have to defend. It’s very difficult. You end up watering down a lot of your plan. A lot of your calls end up kind of on the cutting room floor because if they run this quarterback run here, we’re in trouble. It presents problems, but at the same time, you feel good because it is a rookie in essentially his first start. I think it’s a balance. There will be some apprehension I’m sure on their part just because of not knowing what to expect.”
On if he’s willing to just let Manziel be Manziel:
“I think you’ve got to find some common ground there. It’s going to be more within the structure of our offense, but at the same time, if you have a guy that has a unique skillset, you don’t want to quell that either. You want to allow him to do it, but you’ve got to be able to pick and choose your times to do it. He can’t drop back...on every drop back pass he cannot look to turn it into a punt return. It’s got to be if the read is there throw it, take the yards and move onto the next one. Now, every once in awhile when it’s not there and the first read isn’t there, the second read isn’t there, now all of the sudden I have to get out of the pocket and make a play, then make a play. I think you need to find that balance. We just don’t want to turn it into, ‘Hey, let’s run his college offense and let it turn into street ball,’ but we also don’t want to say, ‘Hey listen, here’s the playbook. We need to follow this exactly to the letter.’ We’re not going to do that either.”
On if he’s excited or curious to see what Manziel can bring to the table:
“I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t excited about seeing him play because I’ve seen it in practice. Hopefully it can...then we got a small taste of it in Buffalo. You’d like to see it carry over when we build a game plan around it and how we go out and execute it. It’s just...I don’t think...I know that’s human nature, but I certainly don’t want the team to get caught up in that either. That’s what I talked about. We want to make sure that everybody is elevating their play and playing well around him to minimize the number of plays that the quarterback position has to make.”
On if building a foundation for the future is a bonus in his mind:
“I think that’s fair to say. It’s a positive by-product of doing this. We made the decision because it’s what’s best for the Cleveland Browns this week, but at the same time, a positive result of it is we do get a chance to see him. You can’t hid from the facts. He was a first round draft pick. We all know the circumstances with Brian. It gives us a chance, one, to win a football game this week - that’s our focus - but at the same time, to get a peek at potentially whether it’s a long-term solution."
On what the biggest unknown is with Manziel:
“It’s hard to say because I’ve seen him handle it all in practice. I think just handling a game against an NFL defense that’s schemed up to defend him. It’s just hard to predict what’s going to happen when the ball gets kicked off. You can only see so much in practice. You can only see so much in a preseason game. There’s no substitute for live game reps. We don’t know, but again, we want to minimize the times where he has to make plays for us. I think that’s when you get yourself in trouble.”
On if we’ve seen the last of Hoyer with the Browns:
“No, I wouldn’t say that. I certainly could envision a scenario where we go back. I don’t understand when some people say that’s a true one-way street. We don’t know the results. I hate to deal in hypotheticals with the negative, but I wouldn’t want to go on record saying we’ve seen the last of him.”
On if the decision to switch quarterbacks was pretty unanimous:
“Yeah, I didn’t talk to as many people as I did (last week), but everybody I talked to felt good about it.”
On if there was any pressure subtle or otherwise from ownership or the business-side of the building:
There are no games scheduled for today.