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NFL Combine, the Next Step.


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NFL Combine provides the next step to remaking the Cleveland Browns for Mike Holmgren's revamped front office

By Tony Grossi

February 25, 2010, 2:10AM


David I. Andersen / The Plain Dealer“Any trade information will be funneled through Tom (Heckert) and me,” Browns President Mike Holmgren asserted in preparation for this week's NFL Combine in Indianapolis. “Everyone’s [here], so you get a chance to bump into people and talk. We’ve already made phone calls, laid groundwork, opened the door, at the very least to have a conversation about any number of things."


• Browns and agents for Josh Cribbs will meet in Indy beginning today

• Browns reach settlement with Kokinis

• Top QBs will (again) skip drillsINDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL scouting combine marks the coming-out party of the new Browns' management team.

President Mike Holmgren, General Manager Tom Heckert and their new staffs of aides and personnel experts arrived on Wednesday for the seven-day football convention that is the modern combine.


Also on hand, of course, are coach Eric Mangini and his staff for their second combine as Browns coaches. But this will be a whole new ballgame for them and the Browns.


A year ago, Mangini and then-rookie GM George Kokinis were the Browns' decision-makers. Now Holmgren and Heckert are in charge and making their own observations on the 330 invited players in attendance. They will also be the ones planting the seeds of potential trades and deals with the hundreds of NFL and team executives and player agents prowling the corridors of Lucas Oil Stadium and the bulging city hotels.



Gus Chan / The Plain DealerBrowns GM Tom Heckert (right, with coach Eric Mangini and President Mike Holmgren) said the Combine is only a part of the remaking of the Browns' roster, coupled with free agent decisions. “We hope to get some things done in free agency and then do the rest in the draft," Heckert said. "But that’s a big ‘if’ — especially with free agency.”While scouting, interviewing and examining the players are the main purpose for the combine, the rapid-fire NFL calendar requires teams to juggle draft preparations with pressing roster decisions.

March 5 begins the NFL free agent signing period and trading period. Holmgren and Heckert have yet to make conclusions on which of their 13 free agents (seven are restricted) to try to keep. They will not announce which restricted free agents will be tendered -- and for what draft-choice compensation -- until March 4, Holmgren said.


Foremost in the minds of Holmgren and Heckert are the obvious questions about the quarterback position. Do Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn stay or go? Do the Browns trade for a new starter or seek one in free agency? Do they draft one and how high?


"It's part of the whole process," Holmgren said. "There are four things we're looking at. First we have to get a good handle on who our quarterbacks are in the building. Then I've got to look at the free agent list, who's out there in case you want to make a change. Then you have to look at the draft and who might be available if you're willing to pop early. That's a question. And fourth, are there any trade possibilities?


"So it's a little early [to draw conclusions]. I'm getting all the information I have to have to hopefully make an intelligent decision, not the least of which is knowing our guys better. I'm still learning about them, believe it or not. I've looked at all the film, but I haven't talked to the guys much, which I want to do."


Last year, Mangini was in position to take USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, but he didn't know enough about Anderson and Quinn to pull the plug on them. Instead, Mangini plied his Jets connection to pull off the first of three draft-day trades. The seeds were planted here.


"Any trade information will be funneled through Tom and me," Holmgren asserted. "Everyone's [here], so you get a chance to bump into people and talk. We've already made phone calls, laid groundwork, opened the door, at the very least to have a conversation about any number of things. I think that's where you start.


"I think everybody's thinking the same way. It probably accelerates when you bump into them at the combine. And then, prior to the time free agency starts [it heats up again]."


Heckert said the team's draft strategy is dictated by needs filled in free agency and trades, which start eight weeks before the draft on April 22-24.


"We know what we'd like to have happen, obviously not specific player-by-player," Heckert said. "We hope to get some things done in free agency and then do the rest in the draft. But that's a big 'if' -- especially with free agency."


So first things first, and that means this week inspecting the college players. Holmgren rued the decision of several higher-rated quarterbacks to not throw at the combine. He also doesn't like the new format of interviewing players.


Teams used to send gophers out to the headquarters hotel lobby to grab selected players to interview. Now the process has restrictions. Teams are limited to 60 player interviews of 10-minute duration.


"You're in there from 4 in the afternoon till 11 at night," Holmgren said. Buzzers go off [when time is up]. I can't handle it."


Heckert and Mangini will sit together in all of the team's 60 interviews. Holmgren said he will "cherry pick a little and focus in on the guys I want to focus on." He has a select list of players he wants to observe closely and personally interview.


"As far as Tom and me are concerned, he's going to look through his eyes, I'm going to look through my eyes, and then when we come back that's when we hash it out and come up with a consensus," Holmgren said.



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I love this front office. Lerner has finally set it up excellently.


Things are going to be lookin up bigtime.


To be honest that has been said before.....however I agree and think this go around will at least produce some positive results.


Good football minds in places able to make football decisions...check


Good business and legal minds to help steer the team so it remains in sound financial condition and best able to take advantage of any advantages presented.....check


A owner who has a pretty thick wallet and isn't one to step in and gum up the works....check




If this group can't get things going in the right direction, it shows absolutely no skill at all is needed in running a NFL franchise and pure blind luck is the only element that is needed.



Get lucky, you win. Don't get lucky, lose.


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We've had horrible luck, but that was from short cutting and injuries etc. They also never drafted for the system they wanted to run. Combined, this admin should go well. These guys won't let injuries take them down.

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