INDIANAPOLIS — Browns coach Hue Jackson kicked off the scouting combine Wednesday morning, taking the podium in front of a group of reporters.
The Browns are in the spotlight with the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft and six in the top 65.
Here are some highlights from Jackson’s time at the podium, then meeting with the team’s beat writers.
** If the Browns take a quarterback at No. 1, would they have to start him right away?
“Would we have to? I would hope not,” Jackson said. “There are going to be other opportunities as we all know. We have free agency right upon us as well. We also have opportunities of the quarterbacks that are on our football team right now.”
After DeShone Kizer went 0-15 as a rookie in the winless 2017 season — and Jackson didn’t have a quarterback with an NFL win on the roster — he’s eager to have a quality veteran that can start and let the rookie sit.
And Jackson wants to avoid the training camp quarterback competitions the Browns have held with little success seemingly every season. He wants to name his starter in the spring.
“Oh, yeah. Everybody wants to do that. There’s no question,” he said. “You don’t want it to be a competition. You want to know who the quarterback is and move forward, but sometimes that doesn’t play out that way. We’ve had that happen like that and, here in Cleveland, too many times, let’s just be honest.
“We’re going to try to solve it, but if we don’t, then we got to do what’s the next best thing for us.”
** Like many fans, he’s tired of trading down in the draft.
“Yes, I am. Let’s draft players,” he said. “Again, if it’s the right fit for us and it helps our football team, we’ll do whatever we feel is best, and I think that’s important, too.”
** How much say will Jackson have in the No. 1 pick and selecting a quarterback under new general manager John Dorsey?
“It’s going to be a collaborative effort by us,” Jackson said. “Through the personnel department with John, through the coaching staff, you know we have a new coordinator in Todd Haley, we have a new quarterback coach in Kenny Zampese, so I think we’ll all have input. But at the end of the day, I’m sure me and John will sit down and put our heads together on what’s best for our organization.”
** He’s disappointed USC’s Sam Darnold won’t throw Saturday during the quarterback workouts.
“We wish he would throw, would like to see him throw,” Jackson said. “But at the same time, there’s going to be other time to have an opportunity to watch him work out and do those things. But do I wish he was throwing here this weekend? Yes, I do, to watch him compete with the other guys. But at the same time, that’s not going to hinder us making a decision about what kind of player he is for our football team.”
** The impending decision of left tackle Joe Thomas whether he’ll retire or return for another season. It’s expected to come before free agency, which starts March 12 with a two-day negotiating period.
“I’ve talked to Joe Thomas several times and I think Joe is going to make a decision hopefully fairly soon here, but it’s on his time,” Jackson said. “Joe has been a tremendous Cleveland Brown, has done anything and everything we’ve asked of him, so I think it’s only right that we give him the opportunity to work through this and make the best decision for him.”
Jackson added Thomas has been putting on weight after dropping at least 10 pounds following surgery to repair the torn triceps tendon that ended his season and consecutive snaps streak at 10,363.
“He knows how to get himself ready to play if he decides to play and for us as an organization, we’re going to do everything we can to be prepared whether he plays or he doesn’t play,” Jackson said.
** The status of Josh Gordon off the field.
“Josh has been great. Josh has been outstanding,” Jackson said. “He’s having a really good offseason. Obviously, he’s got to continue to do so and continue to do the right things, but I truly believe that Josh Gordon is going to have a great year for us.”
Jackson said the Browns will tender Gordon as an exclusive rights free agent. He said the organization hasn’t discussed an extension for Gordon, who would be a restricted free agent after 2018, but is open to the idea down the road.
“We want Josh Gordon to be a Cleveland Brown for a long time,” Jackson said. “We’ll see where that all goes, but again, he has to do his part in that and we hope he will and I’m sure he will.”
** Jackson’s promise to jump in Lake Erie after going winless.
“Oh, I’m going in. When? Everybody wants to know when. I’m going to plan that here pretty soon,” he said, adding he will use the stunt to raise money to fight human trafficking. “It will be tied to our foundation, the Hue Jackson Foundation, and hopefully I can get the whole organization to go jump in with me. It’s going to be a cleansing of the Cleveland Browns. That’s what it will be.”