HEAD COACH BIILL O’BRIEN
Can you talk about the progress the defense has made only surrendering three touchdowns in a game once over the last seven games?
“I think the coaches and the players together really take into account that this is a league of improvement. I think that they really work very hard in the meeting room to try to get better every day. It’s a one day at a time approach. That’s what it has to continue to be. There’s a lot of good practice reps. There’s good give and take in the meeting room. RAC (Romeo Crennel) obviously does a great job, and the players, they play hard and they practice hard. That’s hopefully something that continues.”
What kind of challenge does Cleveland’s offense present given how well Browns QB Baker Mayfield has been playing?
“Big challenge. He’s a great young quarterback. He can throw from the pocket, he’s an accurate passer and obviously he can extend plays. We’re behind. They’re ahead of us relative to this week. So, we’ve got a very challenging week ahead of us. I know our players understand that. We played Monday night. They played Sunday. So, they have a jump on us. We have to do as good of a job as we can to get ahead in the meeting room and on the practice field as best we can so we can be prepared for the challenge on Sunday.”
Do you have to say anything to your players that this isn’t the ‘same old Browns’ or is that something that’s understood?
“It’s definitely understood. This is a team – Gregg Williams does a great job on defense. He’s a very unique defensive coordinator that presents a lot of challenges to you that you really do not see on a week-to-week basis. It’s a very unique defense that we have to spend a lot of time getting ready for. Then, Freddie Kitchens, who’s a good friend of mine, has coached under Bill Parcells, he’s coached under Bruce Arians. He’s doing a great job with their offense. Like I said, this is a big challenge – big, big challenge. They’ve improved every week. You can see their improvement, and we have to have a good week of practice here.”
What are your thoughts on the identity of your team as a running team?
“I think you have to be able to run the ball. I really do. I know that the league and the stats say that it’s a passing league. I think we’ve thrown the ball pretty well. I think last night Deshaun (Watson) threw four or five incompletions. I think he had two or three drops. He would’ve been up there to almost an 85 percent completion percentage. I think in the end, we’ve got to – our football team, based on what we preach and the type of guys we try to bring in here – we want to be a physically-tough, smart football team. We feel like we have to be able to stop the run and we feel like we have to be able to run the ball. Now, look, some defenses, some offenses make it difficult to do that. We’ve got to do what we have to do to win the game, but we feel like we have to be able to run the football.”
When you have a team on the ride you’re on and inching toward the playoffs, what’s the value of having a player like WR Demaryius Thomas who has big-game experience in that locker room?
“Let me say this really clearly – this is no offense to your question because you ask great questions – but we have not done a thing. There will be no talk from me about anything other than the game last night and then moving on to Cleveland. I will tell you that Demaryius Thomas is a great pro and we’re really fortunate to have him on our football team. He did a great job last night, but we’re not going down the road of inching toward anything other than inching toward the meeting that we’re going to have or inching toward a staff meeting at 11 o’clock.”
How pleased are you that the team is taking the attitude of one day at a time?
“It has to be that way. It has to be that way. This league is the most humbling professional sports league there is. If you start to take the cheese, you start to drink the Kool-Aid, you’re going to get humbled. That is something that we talk about to our players. What I’ve learned in this league, it’s never as good as you think it is and it’s never as bad. Our players need to just show up, get their lift in today, get rehab, get going and be ready to go to work tomorrow.”
Do you have an update on WR Keke Coutee’s injury?
“I don’t know, yet. I would say this week, relative to injuries, on a short week you guys are going to have to go by what’s said on the injury report because I’m behind on all of that right now, to be honest with you.”
Is there anything you can do with a player who’s dealing with a recurring injury?
“Yeah, it’s tough. It’s tough. (Keke Coutee) is a great kid. He never had that problem at Texas Tech. So, I don’t know. I think it’s something that – it’s tough. I don’t know the extent of it right now. I think that it’s a day-to-day and I think he’ll be trending toward being able to play against Cleveland, but just overall dealing with that type of injury for a young player is not easy.”
By saying, ‘We haven’t won anything,’ you seem to be minimizing a great accomplishment and a franchise record, but that’s not your intention, is it?
“No, I’m not minimizing that. I think it is something that the players should be very proud of. There’s no doubt that to be able to set a franchise record with what Gary Kubiak did here in the years that he was here winning seven in a row and then we’ve won seven in a row. Now, eight in a row. I’m not trying to minimize that, but in the end, we haven’t done anything other than that – which I think is important that this organization is proud of that – but what is the goal? Is the goal to be known as the first team that came back from 0-3 to win eight straight? That’s great, but the goal this week is to get better and try to understand how we’re going to be able to beat Cleveland.”
After the Bills game in Week 6, did you decide this team needs to run the football?
“Well, I think that every week is dictated by what we see with the opponent and we try to do as good of a job as we can. I think that we took stock of this offense after Buffalo, after certain games in the beginning of the season and just tried to find out what the identity was. I think we found a little bit of an identity and we have to try to keep that going, but again, we have to do what’s necessary to win the game. Whatever’s necessary to win the game, we have to be prepared to do that.”
How has the run blocking been?
“It’s been good. It’s been good, and Dev (Mike Devlin), and Timmy Kelly and Danny Barrett, those guys have done a really good job of spending time in the running game with the players. You don’t get a lot of contact-type practices during the week, so they do a good job of installing it, showing it on tape, walking through it, practicing it and it’s definitely improved.”
You mentioned there are a lot of people who don’t get enough credit, does Quarterbacks Coach Sean Ryan get enough credit?
“Sean’s done a good job. Sean’s a good football coach, he spends a lot of time with Deshaun (Watson). He spends more time with Deshaun than I do, and he does a really good job. I don’t think it’s easy to be the quarterback coach. I just think he does a really good job.”
Is there anything you can prepare ahead of Monday Night Football to prepare for the short week that follows?
“It’s hard because you definitely look at the schedule when the schedule comes out, but it’s so far away from when that will actually occur. So, you have to think about, ‘OK, this is how I see it going, maybe we’ll let them sleep in a little bit or we’ll think about what we want to do relative to padded practices’. But then – relative to the health of your team, where your team’s at, some of the things you need to get done – that’s really something that’s decided basically last night after the game and then today, but you try to plan ahead, no doubt about it.”
How much tougher is it to play on a short week?
“It’s tough. It’s tough, I mean, I think that everybody has to do it. So, I know all 31 other teams have to do it, but the players have to be mentally focused, they have to do a good job of taking care of their recovery from the previous game and they’ve got to really flip the page, turn the page very quickly to a Cleveland team that’s on a roll, playing well, playing with a lot of confidence, got a really good, young quarterback, No. 1 draft pick. So, it’s going to be a challenge.”
Are you at a point where you can call more designed runs for QB Deshaun Watson?
“Yeah, I think that – somebody asked me that last night, and we offensively, he has a lot of choices whether it’s in the passing game or in the running game. So, we’re able to do a lot of different things with him. Sometimes teams – really a lot this year, probably based on what we did last year, sometimes teams take that away and they force you – because these team that we go against – think about the coordinators that we’ve gone against, some of the best in the league. Last night, Dean Pees, I mean some of these guys – so they do a good job of taking away some of that. So, maybe it looks to you guys that we’re not doing something, but it’s just dictated at some point in time by how the defense is playing us on that particular play.”
How do you determine how to manage the running backs and not let one take too much of a beating?
“We talk about that a lot, Danny (Barrett) and I. I think Danny does a really good job with that. He has a good feel for that, we talk about it going into the game. ‘What it is going to be here? Is it going to every two series? Are we going to do it by play count? Are we going to do it by carries? Are we going to do it’ – sometimes if Lamar (Miller) has a few carries in a row, we’ll tell him, ‘hey be honest with us.’ He’ll come out, (Alfred) Blue will go in and keep a fresh back in there, but we really do spend a lot of time trying to put thought into that.”
What did you think about WR DeAndre Carter’s performance?
“DeAndre Carter’s been a very impressive guy since the day he walked in here. The first day he was here, he was here at 5:45 in the morning. He was out there walking in with me. He’s been a very good pro since the day he walked in here and he understands. He’s a very hard working guy. I think when you’ve been released and you’ve been down the road of being kind of out of a job, I think that he understands what it takes. Hopefully that attitude will continue because he’s somebody that’s definitely helped us since he walked in the door here.”
How did RB D’Onta Foreman look at practice last week?
“Foreman’s doing better. I don’t think he’s all the way back, though. I really don’t. I think we’ve got to do a good job with him. He does a good job communicating with me on where’s he’s at. I think he feels better, I think he feels good. We’ve got a little bit more time on that decision relative to that window, so we’ll see how it looks this week again. We’ll make a good decision No. 1, based on him – the player and where he’s at – then secondly, based on the team.”
How critical has the veteran leadership been during this turnaround?
“Yeah, critical. I mean, I don’t think you can overstate the leadership of J.J. Watt, the captains: Johnathan Joseph, Tyrann Mathieu, Brian Peters, Deshaun Watson, Hop (DeAndre Hopkins). Then, you have Kareem Jackson, D.J. Reader, Benardrick McKinney and then you go over, you’ve got Nick Martin. Now, you’ve got Demaryius Thomas, who hasn’t been here that long, but has been in some big games over the years. I can name more guys. You’ve got guys on special teams – Johnson Bademosi, Brennan Scarlett – that’s one thing that I’ve really enjoyed about this team. This is a very, very good team when it comes to the character and the type of guys we have in that locker room. That’s something that, no matter what happens, I will always remember about this team. This team is a really tough, hardworking football team.”
What did DE Christian Covington do to have the best game of his career?
“Yeah, I think our front presents a lot of problems. Some guys get left one-on-one, and they win the one-on-one matchup. We’ve got a front that’s – I think most coaches would agree – when everybody’s healthy and you’ve got to deal with 99 (J.J. Watt), you’ve got deal with 90 (Jadeveon Clowney) and 59 (Whitney Mercilus), it’s hard. I know how hard that is when we go against great fronts. We go against great fronts. It’s very difficult when they have more than one guy. So, I think Christian took advantage last night and played probably his best football game to this point. Christian’s really, really taken the coaching to heart and he’s really improved. I thought he played his best game last night.”