Gerard Warren isn’t exactly nostalgic for his early days with the Browns.
The 33-year-old Patriots defensive tackle is about to play in his first Super Bowl, and he was quick to detail the differences between this experience and the four up-and-down seasons (2001-04) he spent in Cleveland.
“The difference is, for one, the structure of the organization,” Warren said. “If your team is built for success, then you can draft successfully, and not try to just say, this one player’s going to change this whole thing around.”
When Butch Davis took over as coach of the Browns in 2001, he made Warren his first draft pick, hoping the behemoth would pair with Courtney Brown for years to come. That never materialized, and Warren endured a troubled relationship with Browns fans.
“I accepted it,” he said. “I said, ‘Hey, I got a tough mountain to climb,’ you know, being drafted so high. I knew I was going to be going to not so great of a team, but I saw the potential in Cleveland, and I knew we had a chance to be winners.”
“We were climbing. We were 2-14 the year before I got drafted, to 7-9, to 9-7 and the playoffs — and then back to 5-11.”
Warren had a little smoke coming out of his ears at this point. That 5-11 team largely was the result of a cap-space-driven roster purge that sent a flurry of veteran leaders packing from the previous season’s playoff squad.
Even now, Warren couldn’t help but peer back on a situation and a team that could have been more than it was.
“You don’t get rid of the core,” he said, indicating that, in New England, that isn’t about to happen.
— Marc Sessler