“We’ve won 23 games in the last five years, won 14 games in the last three, so we’re not going to go 13-3 next year,” Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam said.
That one line out of his recent interview with the Cleveland media at the NFL League Meetings on Tuesday sent the wretched Cleveland Sports media into convulsions, and rubbed many a Browns fan the wrong way. From my perspective though, I heard something a little different. I heard a team owner in Cleveland finally being objective. Finally, a guy who will tell you the cold, hard truth, regardless of if its what you want to hear or not. Seriously, for how many years have the Lerners and Modell before them pumped up average-at-best, league-bottom-feeders-at-worst teams to be something they were not? Don’t get me wrong, the pathetic media in Cleveland eats it up, and the fans are so desperate for something resembling a respectable football franchise that so do we. It has never been based in reality however. You need only to take a step back, look/listen/read the opinions of the national media on what our Cleveland Browns are/have been, and a very different image starts to form.
Our defense, with the signings we’ve made thus far, and the assumed picks early in the draft, has the POTENTIAL to be good. By good, I mean top 1/3rd of the NFL. That’s a realistic assumption, based on where they were last year, who they brought in, what those upgrades mean, and the guy leading the show (Ray Horton).
The offense, however, stands to be one of the very worst in professional football. Brandon Weeden is a below average NFL Quarterback, and he’ll be over 30 this season, which is only his 2nd in the NFL. Trent Richardson is a beast, but he’s injury prone and has no support from the passing game. The offensive line is solid, but we didn’t fill those holes at Guard, which aren’t going to help overworked T-Rich one bit. We have one exceptionally talented young receiver (Gordon), and one who the jury is still out on (Little). We have zero viable tight ends. We potentially have no fullback. And ending where we began, we have an old, inexperienced waste of a 1st round pick at Quarterback. The Browns will never, ever, ever be a winning football team until they can address the gaping hole at the most important position on the field (QB).
Haslam/Banner/Chud are smart enough to realize that this is not the draft to find the future Quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. Sure, there are some interesting prospects, but those usually fail here in Cleveland, and we need to wait until there is a “sure thing” type QB prospect, or at least something close. Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib, even Matt Barkely are interesting prospects, but they aren’t sure things. Andrew Luck was a sure thing. RGIII was pretty close to a sure thing. Now, don’t get me wrong, you can get lucky. You can stumble upon a great quarterback. But, the chances of finding a Tom Brady are a lot slimmer than waiting to find a Peyton Manning. And much more based on chance.
So, knowing that we won’t have a terribly effective offense this season, Haslam and Co are doing the smart thing, hedging their bets and tempering expectations at home. Its hard for Cleveland fans to hear, I know, but its the truth and its smart. The Browns only spent about half of their massive cap room on free agents. They haven’t traded away any draft picks. They are holding themselves to being committed to building a team the right way, for the long haul. You do that through the draft and through developing young talents. Let teams like Miami try and buy wins, because I guarantee you that they don’t get far like that, and they mortgage their future on a couple extra wins for a couple years. Its bad business, and its not how you run a franchise.
So no, Haslam didn’t tell you what you wanted to hear. But he told the truth, and if you look past the headline, he said the right thing. A few more parts of that interview that I found
“I wish we could have done on offense what we did on defense but you’ve got to spend your money selectively and smartly. A lot of it had to do with the players who were available. I’ve got high confidence we’re going to be a lot better on defense. I think Chud and Norv will do a great job with their offense. I’ll just continue to state this. You’ll get tired of hearing me say it. This is a process, and we’re in it for the long run and we’re going to do it over several years. We’re going to do it the right way. I don’t want to be sitting here two years from now and we’re cutting two players because we didn’t use the cap wisely.
I agree. There were too many boom-or-bust offensive players available (See: Mike Wallace), and too many guy that just didn’t fit into a Chud/Norv system. Why spend money on the wrong parts?
“I think you can have internal competition and you can have external competition. This is the first time I’ve gone through free agency, and of course you have the draft. It’s still a pretty long time till camp, right? I think we start officially in mid-July. I think we’ll see how things shape up.”
The cynical Browns fan in me read that and as “WE ARE DRAFTING A QUARTERBACK”. Breathe Shawn, breathe.
“I don’t see us doing Hard Knocks.I think it interferes with your basic football operations. I think you’ve all heard me say this and I tell everybody in the building this every time we have a team meeting: We’re all about winning games and, two, giving the fans a great experience. If you’re doing anything besides the two of those, you’re not working on the right stuff.”
Couldn’t agree more. I’m glad we’re not interested in becoming a circus like the Jets or the Dolphins. We don’t need that crap in Cleveland.
“We talked about it a lot at these meetings and I think we continue to improve there. Not just with the Browns, but what every team has to worry about — and (President) Alec Scheiner’s main job is what we call fan experience, game day experience. The experience is so good at home now. Let’s face it, Cleveland in November, December, can be a pretty tough place, weather-wise, so why don’t I stay home and sit on my couch and watch three games at one time or watch whatever I want to and I can grab a beer right here, etc.?
“I think what every NFL owner’s got to do is make that three and a half hours of the game better than it is at home. We’ve got to give you some things at the stadium you can’t get at home. We spent two hours this morning talking about it in the meeting. I’m not ready to share that, but there’s a lot of great ideas. Minimal impact for the ’13 season but I think some pretty dramatic impact in ’14 going forward.”
I don’t really care too much about PSL’s, or not having PSL’s, but I think this little bit gives you an insight into the way of thinking of the guy who owns our team now. And I’ve got to tell you, I like what I see. He’s smart, he’s got a mind for business, and he’s focused on the right things. Even if I have major gripes with some of the players on our team, for now I feel a little better knowing that Haslam is the guy steering the ship.