CANTON, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam wants to right the ship that has run aground in Berea over the course of six straight double-digit losing seasons.
The Browns last finished a regular season above the .500 mark when they posted a 10-6 record in 2007, and it was a 4-12 season under coach Rob Chudzinski in 2013 that set off a whirlwind of changes to the coaching staff and front office.
In addition to Chudzinski's dismissal in the hours after a 20-7 loss at the Pittsburgh Steelers last December, Haslam fired general manager Michael Lombardi, promoted interim GM Ray Farmer and dismissed chief executive officer Joe Banner in early February. Those last three moves came just two weeks after Mike Pettine was hired to be the Browns' head coach.
"We just felt it was better to make the changes in personnel, in our coaching situation and other leadership positions sooner rather than later," Haslam told the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club Monday. "I know there was criticism in how long it took us to hire Mike Pettine, but in my business, and there's a lot of business people in the crowd, when you're conducting a search as important as a head coach, I don't think you should be judged on how quickly it took.
"I'm really excited about the leadership group we put together with Ray and Mike Pettine, and then, really excited about the team we're putting together. I think it's important to understand, you don't go from being 4-12 to 12-4 in one year.
"Believe me, I'm the most impatient in the room, but I think we solved a lot of our team's needs, and I think we positioned ourselves, next year, so that we can settle a lot of the needs. We also have $35-40 million left in cap room. I think we're on the right track to putting together a real good football period over a long period of time."
Haslam praised Pettine's hire because he is a "Cleveland kind of guy."
"He's a very smart man," Haslam said. "Second of all, if you look at his picture, he's tough. He is a tough guy. It's not just his look. He's a tough guy.
"He grew up in football. His father was a legendary high school football coach. His record was something like 340-30-2, and he won numerous state championships. In fact, Mike coached against him five times and never beat his dad."
Before Pettine coaches the players, it is Farmer's responsibility to get them to Cleveland, whether it be through free agency or the draft, and Haslam is more the confident in his young GM.
"Ray Farmer is also a smart man," Haslam said. "When we were interviewing for GM jobs, we interviewed Ray last year and almost hired him. We brought him in as the No. 2 guy, and he got an opportunity to be the Dolphins' GM, but passed on that. I'm very thankful that he did because Ray is only 39 years old, and I think he's one of the bright, young talents in the game."
Haslam watched intently as Pettine and Farmer worked in concert in the 2014 NFL Draft last weekend. In addition to acquiring an extra pick in each of the first, fourth and sixth rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft, Farmer drafted cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Pierre Desir, quarterback Johnny Manziel, linebacker Christian Kirksey, running back Terrance West and offensive lineman Joel Bitonio in this year's draft, all of whom Haslam expects to add depth and production to the roster.
"They were unbelievably disciplined in getting players we need," Haslam said. "We picked a cornerback. Then, we picked a guard because we're going to run the ball. In this kind of weather and this division, you have to be able to do that. Then, we picked a linebacker who can cover a receiver and cover tight ends and running backs. Then, we picked a running back, and then, we picked another cornerback.
"Quarterback aside, we think we added five quality players, four of which have a really good chance to start next year. I think they'll be Cleveland Brown-type football players. That means they'll be tough, hard-nosed, disciplined, passionate. When you take these guys and add them to the free agents we signed, I think we've transformed our football team in a pretty substantial way. Talk is cheap. We'll know a lot more when we tee it up against Pittsburgh for the opening game."