Being an NFL General Manager isn’t an easy job. There is a substantial amount of pressure to assemble a winning roster and continuously look towards the future from a financial and player standpoint. While the 2020 off-season was the first one for Andrew Berry, it’s hard to guess that based on everything he’s done.
This year’s off-season has been extremely unique because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. There has been a learning curve for every NFL team, but it has been even more challenging for teams like the Browns who have a new staff and a new system for everyone to learn. Andrew Berry has displayed tremendous leadership week in and week out holding the coaching staff and players accountable. Everyone appears to be on the same page and adjusting nicely to the new normal.
Coaching Staff & Free Agency
The first thing to be noticed is the coaching staff that Berry has helped put together. Once Kevin Stefanski was hired, he and Berry worked together to bring in various other staff members that share the same philosophies and vision. This is the first time in years that Cleveland seems to have organizational alignment from top to bottom, and while that should be a normal thing for a team, it just simply hasn’t been for the Browns in the past. There is a completely different feeling with Andrew Berry and company running the front office.
When Free Agency started, fans were anxious to see what Berry would do to fill the many holes on both sides of the ball. There were several players that made so much sense for them to target, and those players were exactly who they went after. Every move produced by Berry and his team made so much sense. They landed big names like Jack Conklin and Austin Hooper, immediately filling one major hole on the offensive line and adding even more talent to the tight end position. This spoke volumes to Berry’s belief in Baker Mayfield and it sent a message to him which essentially is, “I’m here to help.” In addition to Conklin and Hooper, Berry added Case Keenum to mentor and backup Baker. Keenum has experience with Kevin Stefanski, so he will be able to help Mayfield adjust to his coaching style and methods.
On the defensive side of the ball, Berry also made solid moves. Linebacker BJ Goodson, Safety Karl Joseph, and Defensive Tackle Andrew Billings are a few notable signings. The beauty of all of this is that Berry didn’t spend a boatload of money. Almost every signing is on a cheap, one year contract and Conklin got 3 years $42 million. Several of the defensive signings will prove their worth and either earn a longer deal or be off the team in 2021. This is smart for Berry to do because it motivates the players and weeds out the ones that aren’t meant to be on the roster anyway.
Andrew Berry also knocked the 2020 NFL Draft out of the park as well. It’ll take a few years to see which of the picks pan out, but on paper, Berry had an A+ draft. Selecting Jedrick Wills at 10 was a great pick and it was who they wanted all along, so it’s a win-win. Grant Delpit, Jacob Phillips, and Harrison Bryant are a few of the other tremendous selections from Berry that proved he has an eye for talent and knew exactly what the team needed. Wide Receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones in the 6th round might end up being a massive steal as well. Overall, Andrew Berry demonstrated poise, intelligence, team awareness, and composure in his first NFL Draft.
There are a few other Free Agent signings that we’d like to see, but overall Berry had an exceptional off-season. It is staggering to notice the differences between him and former GM John Dorsey. “The Dorse” might have had an eye for talent, but he neglected several needs that were exposed in the 2019 season. Trading for Odell Beckham Jr was a flashy move that a lot of us loved, but he barely paid attention to the offensive line or depth at several other positions. Andrew Berry did a great job addressing key needs, adding depth, and assembling a compatible staff.
Be The Solution Program
On top of everything Berry did on the football operations side of things, he might have shown the most leadership with the launch of the Be The Solution program. After the tragic death of George Floyd, and the following protests around the world, Berry challenged his employees via email to “Be a part of the solution”, and gave them these tasks:
1. Spend at least 8 minutes and 46 seconds (in honor of Floyd) on one of a number of educational or dialogue items provided in the email and submit a short written or video reflection on what they learned or will do moving forward
2. Sign up for any social activism initiative
3. Donate anything to a social activism cause
In response, Berry would donate $8,460 in honor of George Floyd and other recent victims to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund if at least 50 employees did the challenge. In less than 24 hours, more than 50 employees had it completed and the Haslam Family pledged to match the money that was raised and contribute it to an organization of the employee’s choice. Now the Browns’ have created the #BeTheSolution campaign where fans can get in on the challenge and help raise even more money.
We won’t know anything until the team takes the field in 2020, but it sure feels like we’re in good hands with Andrew Berry. Time will tell, but success could very well be imminent!