Sashi Brown on failed trade: 'It just didn't happen'

Sashi Brown knew the questions were coming.

Quarterback questions of every type, flung wildly at the Browns executive VP of football operations on Monday by beat writers desperate for answers.

Answers over last week's heavily botched trade with the Bengals for AJ McCarron, a no-go swap that hit the skids when the Browns filed their paperwork to the NFL after the 4 p.m. ET deadline, nixing the deal.

Answers from Cleveland's front office over why the Browns passed on a pair of quarterbacks in Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson, who spent the first half of the season lighting up defenses as two of the NFL's glowing new stars.

Looking a little tired, but keeping calm, Sashi explained his way through a team-building process that has added talent, but not a permanent answer at the most important position in sports.

"It's a lot simpler than what's been written," Brown said of the McCarron trade gone wrong. "Truly, 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 minute -- we're talking 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 and 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."

Asked to explain Cleveland's role in the mess, Brown seemed to acknowledge his front office's mistake, saying: "They had our paperwork, we had theirs, and then it was incumbent upon us to send it in."

Whispers swirled last week over in-fighting between Hue Jackson's coaching staff and Cleveland's team-builders, with Pro Football Talk reporting that ownership went "nuclear" on the front office after failing to land McCarron. Rumors also circled that Brown's crew intentionally sabotaged the deal, a point he strongly denied.

"When you're in this situation ... things are going to get written that way. That's wholly untrue," Brown said. "I think we were all in there together -- Hue, myself and a couple of other staff members that work on these things at the time we were trying to get the trade done -- so I'm not worried about that internally. Externally, I can just put it to bed. That's just not the case. Nothing we would ever do to try to make up a trade, to sabotage a trade, it just wouldn't make any sense."

Brown called Cleveland's brass a "transparent, collaborative group, particularly at the top," noting that Jackson was in the room during the team's efforts to acquire McCarron, saying the head coach, "in particular, is really my partner in a lot of these discussions."

"He knows the efforts that went into trying to get the deal done and it didn't happen," Brown said. "At the end of the day, it's our job to make those things happen. In terms of getting the actual transaction finalized, we're all disappointed that it didn't happen."

Brown was asked why the team would be willing to part ways with a second- and third-round pick for McCarron -- a mostly untested player -- one day after the Niners surrendered nothing more than a second for the highly prized Jimmy Garoppolo.

"I think AJ's a guy who's experienced in our system, obviously has played in some NFL games," Brown said. "Hue's got a lot of familiarity with him. For all of those reasons, he's a young quarterback who's shown some talent and promise on the field and has familiarity with our system. That's a very rare combination."

The grilling then moved on to Cleveland's increasingly infamous draft-day decisions to pass on Wentz and Watson, two of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the NFL. Brown wouldn't blink, but acknowledged the team is always evaluating past decisions.

What else can he say? The rise of Wentz, especially, stings with a fervor. Looking the part of a prototypical AFC North passer, the big-bodied quarterback was sitting there for Cleveland two offseasons ago before the Browns shipped the No. 2 overall pick to Philly for a boatload of future selections.

These kind of decisions can tear apart an organization and lead to mass dismissals up and down the food chain, but Brown on Monday issued zero panic about his future.

"I think that's not the way you go into it," Brown said of worrying over job security. "Obviously, if we're racing to try to get as good as we can as fast as we can, we would have a different strategy. That isn't ours. We want to be sustainable. We're going to be good. When we get there, we'll be good for a long time. ��� At the same time we're disappointed in the results and we own those and we'll get those better."

Calm thoughts from the top on a massively dramatic week in Cleveland. The question is whether this patient front office -- building a football team their own way, on their own clock -- will keep the patience of ownership for another offseason.

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