BEREA, Ohio -- Sometimes, things have to get worse before they get better, and in the National Football League, the Cleveland Browns know that more than most organizations.
After going 3-13 during the 2015 season, one full of suspensions of a top player and off-the-field antics of a former NFL quarterback, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam decided to reconstruct the coaching staff and front office, but that has yet to yield fruitful results.
Under the direction of Coach Hue Jackson, an overhauled roster full of inexperienced players posted a 1-15 record in 2016, which earned them the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Despite winning only one game in 2016, Haslam promised patience during the latest rebuild.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I understand that we only won four games in the last two years and only won one last year, so we’re very realistic about where we are,” Haslam said. “At the same time, we’re going to be patient and we’re going to do it right.
“We’re going to build through the draft, selectively use free agency and not take shortcuts and try to produce a team that will consistently win games. As we’ve said many times, and haven’t done yet, provide the fans of Northeast Ohio with the kind of team they deserve in the Cleveland Browns.”
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.
“There's no way to explain to anybody what is getting ready to happen,” Haslam said. “So the learning curve has been extremely steep. It's been way harder than we thought. To answer your question, I don't think we ever would have thought we'd be talking about coming off winning four games in our last two years in our third and fourth years in.
“It's tough. It's hard. I think I've said it's embarrassing. At the same time, we have learned a lot. In life, I've learned you learn a heck of a lot more through the hard experiences than the easy ones. I now think we're positioned to put the organization, the team in a much better place than we've been.”
As the Browns continue their work through training camp, Haslam knows the team will always be evaluated on wins and losses, but he is looking deeper into the minutiae of the practices and games to define the direction of the organization.
“I think it’s how our team performs,” Haslam said. “Do we come back? Do we win close games? Do we come from behind and win a game? Do we beat a good team? Do we win a game on the road? Are younger players getting better? Both Hue (Jackson) and Paul (DePodesta) talk about small wins. I know they’re setting goals for the individual players, small wins for them individually, so I think it’s a collection of all those types of things.”
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