BEREA, Ohio -- From 25 different starting quarterbacks and season-ending injuries to recently added players in the early days of training camp to eight head coaches, Cleveland Browns fans have been through quite a lot since the team’s return to the National Football League in 1999.
And yet, game after game, season after season, fans flock to the team’s Berea headquarters for training camp, as well as FirstEnergy Stadium on Sundays in the fall for games, and that kind of support has been appreciated by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam.
“I think we have phenomenal fans,” Haslam said prior to Saturday’s practice in Berea.
“Phenomenal fans. The support, no matter where we are in the country, and particularly in northeastern Ohio and Cleveland, is really strong. And we’ll just continue to work hard every day to give them the kind of team they deserve, and I think we’ll get there. I’m very confident we will.”
The Browns have posted just two winning seasons and made one trip to the postseason since their return to the NFL, and under Haslam, the struggles of the organization have continued.
Over the last two years, the Browns have gone 4-28, and the record has not been much better since Haslam officially purchased the team in October of 2012.
In four complete seasons under Haslam’s ownership, the Browns have posted a 15-49 record, which is tied with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the NFL’s worst mark over that same stretch. Factoring in the remaining games of the 2012 season after the closing of the sale, Haslam’s Browns have gone 19-54.
“Did I at the time? No, we had no clue,” Haslam said of the pain of Browns fans. “Dee and I had no clue. Do we realize it and share in that pain now? Absolutely. I think Dee says this as well or better than I do; we share in that pain and share in the responsibility for helping to erase that pain.”
Cleveland Browns go through Day 2 of Training Camp
At the same time that Haslam has owned the Browns, the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians have seen resurgences in their organizations.
Following the return of LeBron James in the summer of 2014, the Cavaliers have made three straight trips to the NBA Finals, including bringing home the city’s first major sports championship since 1964 with an historic win over the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals, and despite facing a multitude of injuries to their starting rotation last summer, the Indians made it all the way to Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.
“They set a good example for us,” Haslam said. “We don’t worry as much about that as we just focus on what we control and we’re entirely focused on building a better program and better football team here.”
Although being Cleveland’s most maligned sports organization has tested Haslam’s patience, he is committed to building the organization the right way so when things do turn around, the fans will be able to enjoy sustained success.
“We’ve obviously struggled since we’ve been here, but I don’t think what we’ve done over the last 12 months that you could point to anything that looks like a shortcut,” Haslam said. “Some people have said we should have been more aggressive in free agency or done this or done that, but whether it’s free agency or the draft, we’re trying to build things for the long run.”