BEREA, Ohio — Being a Cleveland Browns fan may require more patience this season, as owner Jimmy Haslam said this team will not be judged solely by wins and losses.
“Wins and losses are a part of it, there’s no doubt about that,” Haslam said Saturday in his annual early training camp media gaggle. “But I think it’s how our team performs. 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 (coach) Hue (Jackson) and (director of strategy) 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.”
The Browns are in the second season of what Haslam in January of 2016 called a multi-year rebuild. He agreed with DePodesta’s assessment that the Browns had “torn (the team) down to the studs” and emphasized he and the organization would stay patient because it believes in the people in place — Jackson, DePodesta, vice president of football operations Sashi Brown and vice president of player personnel Andrew Berry.
“It’s hard,” Haslam said. “All of us want to win and win immediately. Most of you don’t know me that well personally, but I’m am extremely impatient person. But I think we’ve learned the hard way if you want to do this and do it right building through the draft and being patient and getting the right people in place is the right way to do it.
“So it’s hard, but it’s unequivocally the right thing to do.”
The Browns had 14 draft picks in 2016 and 10 this season, including first overall pick Myles Garrett. They have five first- and second-round picks in the 2018 draft. But in the four full seasons Haslam has been an owner he’s had three head coaches and three general managers, and those four teams have gone a combined 15-49, including 4-28 the last two seasons.
Haslam said there was no way to prepare himself for what he was taking over when he was approved in October of 2012.
“I think I’ve said this numerous times — I think we’re the second-newest owners — there’s no way to explain to anybody what is getting ready to happen,” he 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.”
Haslam also said he and his wife and fellow owner Dee had “no clue” when they took over how deep the level of frustrations felt by fans.
“Do we realize it and share in that pain now? Absolutely,” Haslam said. “I think Dee says this as well or better than I do; we share in that pain and share in the responsibility for helping to erase that pain.”
With the Browns in year two and the “early stages” of a major rebuild, Haslam concedes 2017 may be yet another season that requires patience.
“Last year was harder than we thought, OK?” Haslam said. “None of us are exactly sure what’ll happen this year. I know we’ll be a better team.
“So I think 2018 — and I’m not hedging my bets — 2018, 2019 you should see a substantially better football team.”