Andrew Berry couldn't afford to let the disappointment from the Browns' season-ending loss Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs linger too long.
Berry, Cleveland's GM and EVP of Football Operations, admitted he needed a few days to digest the result from the AFC Divisional round that knocked the Browns out of their first playoff visit in 18 years. Everyone on the Browns did, too, after a season full of triumphs not experienced by the franchise in decades came to a close.
But Berry's focus is now fully turned to getting the Browns back to that game — and the final two games after that — next season. With the offseason arriving in Cleveland, Berry and his crew of assistants and scouts will be back in the spotlight to re-equip the roster with even more talent.
"Over these next couple weeks, we're going to go through a full self-assessment," Berry said. "Not just with the roster, but with football operations, schemes — you name it — to make sure we have a really good beat in terms of our planning entering the offseason."
In his first offseason as a general manager last year, Berry never specifically speculated on which positions and areas of the team he was looking to improve the most. He always believed every position could be improved, and he was steadfast on never tipping his hand about which positions, if any, he was specifically targeting most.
That approach won't change this offseason, either. Berry reiterated he was truly looking for ways to improve every spot on the 2021 team. He doesn't want to feel complacent about any of the current areas of strength on the Browns, and he doesn't want to over-analyze any portion of the team that may be viewed as a weakness.
"We can have improvement anywhere," Berry said. "It's probably too early to make any declarative or definitive statements, but we certainly understand the strengths and weaknesses."
Berry did, however, acknowledge that the team's biggest moves last offseason came on the offense. His two big-ticket free agent signings in tight end Austin Hooper, who caught four touchdowns in his first season in Cleveland, and right tackle Jack Conklin, who was named to multiple All-NFL teams, were difference-makers for the efficiency of the Browns' offense, which shined in both the run and pass departments and finished 14th overall in the NFL.
Berry said the Browns certainly will look to improve the defense this offseason, but he won't compare their efforts in boosting that side of the ball to last offseason. The Browns finished 21st in the league defensively and have several players who are set to become unrestricted free agents March 17, when free agency begins under the new league year.
"I think it's a fair observation to realize that the resources that we had this past year going into this past fall were predominantly oriented to support the offense and support the quarterback," Berry said. "But that doesn't mean we didn't make some investments all across the team. We certainly think we can boost the defense going into 2021."
So how will Berry evaluate external resources and players to potentially add? The logistics of how the NFL will uphold or change its usual offseason schedule are still uncertain due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Berry doesn't believe any changes will affect the Browns' preparations for the 2021 draft class or future free agents.
Berry, as well as the rest of the NFL, were informed of one major change to the schedule: The scouting combine will not contain in-person workouts, which instead will only take place at college pro days, and all interviews and psychological testing will be virtual and there will be limited in-person medical exams.
Just because some of college football's best draft prospects won't be together in Indianapolis for a normal combine doesn't mean Berry and the Browns won't be prepared.
"I don't really see that as an impediment," Berry said. "We went through a whole spring where it was going to be virtual, really on-the-fly mid-process. At this point, all of us know how to use Zoom and FaceTime. We did a ton of player virtual interviews last spring, and it seems like that will continue into this year. I don't see any reason that we can't work through the spring again and have a nice process in place and have a high quality draft."
The Browns proved this season they can be successful despite working primarily in virtual settings, and that included the front office. They're prepared for a second virtual offseason should those circumstances be necessary but are looking forward to when the league can resume normal offseason procedures.
No matter how the next eight months will look, Berry and his crew will be ready to improve the team and position the Browns for another run to the playoffs.
"We feel like we're in a good spot as we enter the new year," he said. "We still have a long way to go in terms of our planning and getting with our coaching staff once they have a little time to relax a little bit, but we're in a good rhythm. We'll be ready to go."