BEREA, Ohio -- For the past two years, the Cleveland Browns have been plagued by players making headlines for all the wrong reasons, and those issues were accompanied by 22 losses, including 18 setbacks in their last 21 games.
As such, Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam made changes to the coaching staff and in the player personnel department in an effort to change a culture of an organization with just two winning seasons and one playoff appearance since returning to the NFL in 1999.
In order to make the culture shift necessary to compete in the AFC North Division, the Browns felt the need to change the type of players they sought to add to the roster. And with their 14 picks in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Browns not only added productive college players, but also, athletes who they believe could represent the organization in a positive manner.
“It’s an important, really central aspect of what we’re going to build here,” said Sashi Brown, the Browns’ Executive Vice President of Football Operations. “We want guys who are passionate about football, but also, good citizens, good members of the Cleveland community and good teammates. Emmanuel (Ogbah) and Corey (Coleman) both are that.
“They’re hyper-competitive guys who aren’t afraid to be coached hard and want to get better and be great. I know you all picked that up as a theme, and Emmanuel is no different. Both of these guys are loved by their coaches. We expect them to come in day one and compete, but also, be great teammates even before they get on campus. I know a couple of the guys have already reached out to both players.”
According to first-year coach Hue Jackson, the Browns dug deep into the players’ backgrounds through the pre-draft process in order to make the best decisions possible for a team that has just six first-round picks from the last 10 years still on the roster.
“First of all, you find out and you dig more about the person, and you kind of understand their background and their history and what they’ve done,” Jackson said. “Normally, what you see is what you get, but I think on top of that, for me, is I’m looking for a guy who has true desire, who wants to be great, who’s willing to go through the grind, because we all know that pro football is a grind.
“Pro football is tough. It’s not for everybody. Everybody can’t do it. I think the guys that we’ve picked thus far have really demonstrated that quality that they really love football and that they’re willing to come into a culture that’s changing and be a part of something that’s new and different and exciting. They have to fit in with the rest of our guys and be willing to accept the things we do here and how we do it.”
Those whom the Browns brought into the fold through the 2016 NFL Draft feel they have a unique opportunity to change the culture, and that is something very intriguing to them.
“I have a great vibe from this group,” defensive lineman Emmanuel Ogbah said. “We all came together. They brought us in to change this program. We all have a mindset to be better at what we do, so I feel like we have a lot to prove to the Browns family for drafting us, that we are very grateful and we will put in the work for them.”
Quarterback Cody Kessler added, “When you get around the program, you can kind of feel that vibe and energy, and it feels so positive. Everyone is just so excited to get started and the players feed off of that. Like what Corey said, the fans are awesome. All I keep hearing about is the Dawg Pound and how exciting it is, and I love that. I love playing in college games where the fans were so into it, and the city of Cleveland, apparently, has that. I’m excited to get the first taste of it.”