Browns executive V.P. of football operations Sashi Brown said plenty on Monday about the bungled trade for Bengals quarterback A.J. McCarron. Browns coach Hue Jackson opted to say nothing.
“Let me first start this off, I know Sashi addressed you guys earlier today so I am going to leave that at that,” Jackson told reporters on Monday. “I am not going to take any questions about anything that happened here last week. You may try; I am not going to answer, I am going to be very honest with you. What I want to talk about is our football team. 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. We are playing Detroit and that is what is the most important thing.”
That preamble didn’t block all questions about McCarron. Jackson was asked whether he felt the need to talk to current starting quarterback DeShone Kizer about the situation, given that the attempt to acquire his replacement necessarily undermines his status as the leader of the team’s offense.
“Again, I really don’t want to even get into that,” Jackson said. “DeShone is fine. DeShone is our starting quarterback. He is well and I don’t think there is any issues at all.”
Apart from calling claims that the front office tried to sabotage the deal “wholly untrue,” Brown defended the failed effort by calling it simple in one breath, complex in the next.
“It is a lot simpler than what has been written truly,” Brown told reporters. “This is just a matter of getting to a deal too late in the process. I think both sides, both Cincinnati and us tried our damnedest to try to get the paperwork in at the last minutes, and we are talking about minutes and seconds before the trade deadline ended. We were on the phone with the NFL at the time to try to make it happen. It did not happen. I do think Cincinnati in earnest tried. I know we did everything humanly possible to get it done. It just didn’t happen. It is truly that simple.”
So did the Bengals, but not the Browns, submit the paperwork regarding the trade on time?
“It is too technical to try to simplify that way,” Brown said. “There is no paperwork that either side got in that would allow a deal to happen, and it is truly that simple. They had our paperwork, we had theirs and then it was incumbent upon us to send it in.”
That’s the closest thing to responsibility for the failure that Brown came to admitting. The reality continues to be that the process is indeed ridiculously simple. When the two teams have an agreement, each team separately communicates the deal to the league office, with the current standard for the message being email. When the league office gets an email from each team containing matching trade terms, the deal is done. Then, within 15 days, the teams submit the formal paperwork documenting the official deal.
Put simply, the Bengals did what they needed to do before 4:00 p.m. ET last Tuesday to effect the trade, and the Browns did not. The failure was the result of incompetence, or design. Reasonable minds may differ on which explanation is worse. Regardless, the whole thing was and is a bad look for the franchise that remains the worst in the NFL, with one win in 24 games since its latest effort to reinvent itself in a league that is rife with parity.
For most of its teams, that is.