CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns’ organization has known nothing but struggles on the field and changes to the front-office and coaching staffs while undergoing many roster turnovers since returning to the National Football League in 1999, and the upheaval continued after the 2019 season.
With the Browns posting just a 6-10 record despite improving the talent on the roster with the acquisition of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the offseason and the emergence of Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb, changes came again as the Haslam family parted ways with coach Freddie Kitchens and GM John Dorsey in the hours and days following last Sunday’s season-ending loss at the Cincinnati Bengals.
Although the changes seemingly have been constant, as this is the Browns’ fifth coaching search since the Haslams took ownership of the team in 2012, they are confident top-tier coaching candidates will want to fill the vacancy.
“Despite all the changes we’ve made, I think it’s a very attractive job,” Haslam told reporters at team headquarters Thursday. “Everybody in the NFL knows how important football is in this area. I think everybody understands we have a really good young quarterback and a really good core group of players, so we’re excited about the opportunity to work with these candidates over the next week or two or however long it takes.”
Although the Browns are going through yet another change, this time around, there is no shortage of talent on the roster with which new coaches and a general manager can work to reverse the fortunes of a team that has not won a division championship since 1989 or been to the playoffs since 2002.
Between quarterback Baker Mayfield, Chubb, defensive end Myles Garrett, receivers like Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, as well as cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams, the Browns have an impressive corps of talent under the age of 25.
“If you look over the last couple of years, I think the first thing you have to do is really understand the players in place and it’s really important to know your own team,” Haslam said. “Everybody looks at who we add, and I think it’s really important also to look at who we subtract.
“Don’t get me wrong. There could be some changes in the roster, but we have a pretty solid group of core players who are all extremely young. I can’t imagine anybody wanting to change that group.”
Discipline and turnovers derailed the Browns’ once-promising hopes to break the NFL’s longest playoff drought, which now stands at 17 consecutive years dating back to the 2003 season.
The Browns officially were eliminated from postseason contention with their 31-15 loss to the AFC North Division champion Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland on December 22, a game that allowed Baltimore to clinch home-field advantage for as long as they remain in the playoffs.
The Browns last qualified for postseason play during the 2002 season.
In addition to missing the playoffs for the 17th straight time, the Browns finished the 2019 season with a sub .500 record for the 12th consecutive year. The Browns last finished above .500 when they had a 10-6 record in 2007.
“We just did not feel like we had the right people in place to move forward like we’d like to, and believe me, this kind of change is hard,” Haslam said. “It’s not something we want to do. I think I started out by saying it’s certainly something we’re not proud of, but something we’re determined to get right this time.”