BEREA — Executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown and vice president of player personnel Andrew Berry made the trip to El Paso, Texas, to get an up-close look at the kid who grew up in the Browns’ backyard.
North Carolina quarterback and Mentor High School graduate Mitch Trubisky started fast, struggled for a stretch, then rallied late Friday in the Tar Heels’ 25-23 loss to Stanford in the Sun Bowl. Two of Cleveland’s top decision-makers were there to evaluate it all.
The Browns will have the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the draft — a loss Sunday to the Steelers guarantees No. 1 — along with Philadelphia’s first-round selection. So Brown and Berry spent the week attending bowl games of some of the top draft prospects, including Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett.
Trubisky went 23-for-39 for 280 yards and two touchdowns but committed three turnovers — two interceptions, including a pick-six, and a fumble in which the official knocked the ball loose on a scramble.
He led a 97-yard touchdown drive in the final two minutes, capping it with a 2-yard scoring pass. He was sacked on the 2-point conversion try to tie.
Trubisky, a junior, led the Tar Heels to an 8-5 record in his only season as the starter. He completed 68 percent for 3,748 yards, 30 touchdowns and six interceptions.
He has eligibility remaining and is expected to announce soon whether he’ll enter the draft. He would be in the mix to be taken with the No. 1 pick.
Coach Hue Jackson was focused on game preparations and said he didn’t know Trubisky was playing.
“But since you said that, I will definitely take a shot and look if I can,” he said. “We are going to see all of these guys as we move forward, all the prospects that are out there and evaluate them accordingly.”
Jackson said he’s paid a bit of attention to the bowl games and will ramp up his draft preparation following the season.
“There will be another time to really see the guys and really focus in,” he said.
Jackson values game film above all other scouting tools.
“The videotape says a lot about a player. They have to play football,” he said. “Workouts and all of that is a huge part but there is nothing like watching a guy progress through a season and watching him play from Game 1 to Game 12 or however many games they play.”
A GOOD CAUSE
The victory over the Chargers last week was great for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. The win spoiled the 0-16 parade planned by a group of fans and the organizers donated the $10,000 raised to the food bank. The Browns matched the gift, and defensive coordinator Ray Horton said he and his wife will donate $5,000 to the cause.
“That is a great idea to help other people,” Horton said. “A lot of the coaches and players obviously came here for parades, not the kind that was going to happen. I am glad that we did cancel it.
“Next year, hopefully, they will give us a parade for doing it the right way because we want to do what Pittsburgh did. We want to win the AFC North.”
ON THE LINE OF FIRE
Jackson said he hadn’t decided who will start where on the offensive line against the Steelers but wants to see different combinations. That is expected to include Cameron Erving moving from center to right tackle, Austin Pasztor from right tackle to right guard and Anthony Fabiano making his first career start at center.
Fabiano is an undrafted rookie out of Harvard and was originally signed by the Ravens. He spent 11 weeks on the Browns practice squad before being activated. He’s been practicing at center but said he’s never made a regular-season start there at any level.
“I am fully prepared and ready to play at center this week,” he said. “It is everything. It is a great opportunity. You have to take advantage of it if it comes your way.”
PASTRAMI BECAME PIEROGI
Defensive lineman Jamie Meder was excited to be named AFC special teams player of the week after blocking the tying field goal attempt against the Chargers.
“It is great just to be recognized,” he said. “I am happy it happened, and I am happy I was there to make it.”
Then he had to set the record straight following left tackle Joe Thomas’ postgame comments. Thomas called Meder “Pierogi Prince of Parma” and said he would be playing the accordion in a polka band over the weekend.
Meder said he can’t play the accordion and isn’t in a band.
“Music for me, I just listen to it,” he said.
And the nickname started as “Pastrami Prince of Parma” before changing foods. Meder said it’s been around since Week 1 but only became famous after the win. Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor prefers “The Meder Man.”
Jackson made it official: Quarterback Robert Griffin III will start against the Steelers. He was knocked out of the Chargers game with a concussion but returned to practice Thursday.
Cornerback Joe Haden (neck) and running back Duke Johnson (ankle) were limited in practice and listed as questionable on the official injury report but said they expect to play.
Cornerback Trey Caldwell (hamstring) was ruled out, and outside linebacker Cam Johnson (groin) listed as questionable after not practicing all week.
For the Steelers, defensive end Stephon Tuitt (knee), tight end Ladarius Green (concussion) and safety Robert Golden (ankle) were ruled out.
Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman was fined $18,231 for roughing Griffin and defensive tackle Damion Square fined $9,115 for a face mask.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or [email protected] Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.