BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns overhauled the front office and coaching staff during the offseason ahead of the 2016 season, but the multitude of changes did little, in the short-term, to help the organization change their fortunes.
With coach Hue Jackson and executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown in charge, the Browns struggled their way to a franchise-worst 1-15 record in 2016, and it took until the second-to-last game of the year for Cleveland to get that one victory. And yet, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is confident the organization is going in the right direction.
“I think it might be more appropriate to go back and say what lessons can you take from the beginning, and I think the most important thing you have to do in any organization is get the right people in place,” Haslam said.
“I think that’s why we feel good now because we feel we have the right people in place with the individuals we mentioned.”
Knowing there were plenty of questions about cohesion between the front office and coaching staff because of pre-draft reports citing anonymous sources who said one half of the building wanted defensive lineman Myles Garrett and the other faction wanted to go after former Mentor High School quarterback Mitch Trubisky with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Ultimately, the Browns settled on Garrett at No. 1.
“I know you always want to know how our group is functioning together and I think very well,” Haslam said. “They’ve now been together for about a year-and-a-half and I think A.B. (Andrew Berry), Sash, Paul (DePodesta) and Hue are working together extremely well. I think this year’s draft was an example of this, and I think everybody knows the assets we’ve accumulated for next year’ draft, so we feel good about that.”
Although the Browns have selected 24 players over the last two years in the NFL Draft and rebuilt their roster with young talent, Haslam feels the team is still “in the early stages” of its process of turning around the fortunes of an organization that has not been to the postseason since January of 2003.
“I think we are putting in process a good team,” Haslam said. “Everybody's going to want to know, 'Well, how many games do you think you'll win?' I'm not going to say that, but I think you'll see an improved football team this year.”
When Haslam rebuilt the front office with Brown, young personnel director Andrew Berry, Brown, a contracts lawyer-turned-football-operations vice president, and Paul DePodesta, who spent two decades in Major League Baseball, he took much criticism from the national media.
However, given the two other turnarounds Haslam has attempted in his five-year tenure as owner of the Browns, he wanted to try a different path.
“The example of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again the same way,” Haslam said. “We just felt like we needed to change and do things differently, and it was through a combination of probably more luck than skill that we were able to put those people together, and like I said, I feel really good about them both as people and, obviously, with their abilities to help put together a really good team.”