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Browns owner Jimmy Haslam: 'We'll be a better football team' this year

Posted at 12:59 PM, Aug 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-01 12:59:55-04

The Browns may not have a winning season this year, but they will be a better team.

That's according to owner Jimmy Haslam.

In a press conference over the weekend, Haslam said the team is headed in the right direction.

"I can’t guarantee that we’re going to have a winning season after going 3-13," he said. 'I do think we’ll be a better football team. I know we’ll be a better football team. I think, as I said at the first, we’re directionally correct and we have pretty good fans who will understand that this is a team. We’ve only practiced two days, but I do think we’ll play hard, and I think fans appreciate that. Off what we saw in the spring and what we’ve seen these first two days – obviously, we have a long way to go – I think these guys will work hard and play hard and I think our fans will appreciate that.”

Read more from Haslam below:

On the Haslams’ message to the Browns earlier this week and mentions of eliminating distractions:
“Let me say this because I think it’s really sensitive: It was at Hue’s direction that we talked to the team. I want everyone to understand that there’s no way we would ever go talk to the team without his full endorsement. Matter of fact, we pushed back – Are you sure you want us to do that? We had a good conversation. There were two basic messages. One was preparation and two this is our expectation of you as a Cleveland Brown both on and off the field. We listed three or four things that were important in preparation, and one of them is eliminate all the distractions from your life and that can run the gamut – we all know and understand that – but eliminate the distractions from your life.”

On his realistic mindset yet still having confidence in Jackson and current leadership’s ability to improve the Browns:
“I would just reiterate what we said earlier. First of all, Hue brings a tremendous energy level to the building. There’s absolutely no doubt about it. I believe you want your head coach to be the pacesetter for your organization. He certainly does that. You all have been here at practice enough to know and understand that. Second of all, the collaboration, the working together between player personnel and coaching is outstanding. Outstanding. Those are a couple of reasons that give us real cause for optimism.”

On if he still holds the belief that it is important to see improvement toward the end of the season, particularly with a young Browns team:
“Yeah, I think so. I don’t know where we rank in terms of youngness, if you will, in the NFL, but it has to be toward the lower end. That’s one of the issues we had with our last couple of teams. We weren’t really good and we weren’t all that young. This is no question a very young team. None of us know exactly where the roster will settle out, the 53 and the 46 and even the 63, but I think with young players and the schedule is the schedule. We start out with five of seven on the road with some pretty tough games. Hue talks every day about getting better every day, just try to get a little better every day. It’s our hope that although we hope to get off to a good start that the team will be better at the end of the year than it is at the first of the year.”

On the Haslams’ message about the Browns eliminating distractions, given recent situations involving WR Josh Gordon, RB Isaiah Crowell and LB Armonty Bryant:
“That’s a good question, a fair question. Let’s just take them one at a time. We have a history with Josh. We haven’t seen him in a year and a half, almost two years. He hasn’t played in a long time. I know there was a lot of consternation over his leg injury. I personally think – this is me talking – it’s a blessing. I think Josh needs to come in here, get reoriented, learn his teammates, learn the new coaching staff, learn the plays and get his life settled. We certainly appreciate the NFL allowing him to be in the building during that time period, which I think is crucial. These players need structure, particularly ones that have struggled a little bit with life issues so I think having Josh in the building will be a really good thing for him. Everybody in the organization is going to do everything they can to help Josh be successful, but Josh at the same time ultimately has to make good decisions. If he does, then he’ll be with us a long time, and if he doesn’t, he understands the repercussions. The Crow deal was terribly unfortunate. It was inexcusable. There’s nothing you can say. There’s nothing positive about what happened. I do say this –we know Crow well – that’s not who he is. He made a big mistake. He’s paid a large penalty for it. I think a true test of character for all of us is when we get knocked down, or maybe knock ourselves down in this case, how you get up and handle it is how you judge people. Crow, I’m not sure he could have done anything better since he did that terrible incident, two or three weeks ago. We’re proud of how Isaiah’s responded. Armonty understands very well our expectations. Unfortunately, the way the league rules work, he cannot be in the building during those four weeks. He has come in here so far and worked very hard and been a model citizen. We have high expectations for our players. We talked about what a privilege it is to play in the NFL, the NFL shield, how they need to set an example for young kids all around the country and people all around the country, particularly here in Northeastern Ohio, where everybody loves the Browns. We have high expectations and we’re not going to put up with those kind of distractions.”

On if Browns fans must endure one more losing season because it may take a year to build a strong foundation for moving forward:
“First of all, I think we have unbelievable fans. I really do. They are tremendously loyal. The support of the Browns, not just in Northeastern Ohio, but all around the country is phenomenal. We have unbelievable fans. I can’t guarantee that we’re going to have a winning season after going 3-13. I do think we’ll be a better football team. I know we’ll be a better football team. I think, as I said at the first, we’re directionally correct and we have pretty good fans who will understand that this is a team. We’ve only practiced two days, but I do think we’ll play hard, and I think fans appreciate that. Off what we saw in the spring and what we’ve seen these first two days – obviously, we have a long way to go – I think these guys will work hard and play hard and I think our fans will appreciate that.”

On how well suited Jackson is to lead players who have faced off-field challenges:
“There are a lot of reasons we hired Hue, but he’s been around. I mean that in a positive way. He was a head coach for a year in a difficult situation. He’s worked in several different organizations under several really good head coaches so he has experience. One thing I’ve noticed about Hue is, although he’s high energy, he’s pretty consistent every day. He doesn’t say, ‘We were great today’ or ‘Terrible.’ He’s pretty consistent so I think those two things will serve him well. I think Hue has been with some franchises where he’s had some players – you’re not going to have 53 model citizens every year; we understand that – and I think he knows how to deal with those people as men and make them not only better players but better men.”

On what convinced him to allow Gordon to return to the team:
“First of all, it wasn’t my decision. You have to understand that’s a decision that falls in Sashi, AB and Paul and Hue. Because of Josh’s history, are they going to involve Dee (Haslam) and I? Yes. I think Hue said it well – Josh deserves a restart. I’m going to reiterate again, he understands very, very clearly what the expectations are here, what he can and can’t do. Time will tell whether he can live up to them. We’re going to do everything we can to support him, and hopefully, things will work out well.”

On special advisor and Pro Football Hall of Fame RB Jim Brown’s role with the Browns and his involvement with Gordon’s reinstatement:
“Jim is not only the greatest player ever, probably, but Jim is well respected around the country. I don’t know how often you all get to talk to him, but he’s unique for being a famous football player, a civil rights activist, a movie star. He’s very low key. You almost have to ask him what he thinks, but he’s very thoughtful and he’s well respected by the league. He’s had some input. What specifically it was, I don’t know, but I know he’s well thought of by the leadership of the NFL and he’s certainly an asset to this franchise.”

On what excites the Browns about having QB Robert Griffin III:
“That’s probably a better question for Hue. He’s obviously a tremendous athlete. He’s been a model person since he’s been here, worked hard and he’s early in his career and showed potential to be a big time quarterback. Somebody asked about Hue, there were a lot of reasons we hired Hue, but his expertise is on the offensive side of the football and specifically in developing quarterbacks. You all see where he is in practice most of the time. Where is he? Standing right behind the quarterback, heavily coaching them hands on. Hue can have a very positive impact. I think all of us need to be patient with Robert. He hasn’t played in two years and he’s still only 26-years old. It seems like Robert has been around because he broke in at 22 and had that big year that he’s been around forever, but he’s I guess only played a half-year or three-quarters of a year since then, but we’ll see. We’ll see a little bit more today.”

On changes to the Browns’ business operations and if the team foresees hiring a president to oversee all business operations:
“Dee and I have now positioned our businesses in Tennessee where we are here a great deal more. The business side will report to the two of us. We’ve kind of divided things up. It’s been educational and good for us. We’ve needed to learn more about that side of the business and I think have. We have no plans to do anything different any time soon.”

On how much the Browns player development lacked in the past and what inspired the team to focus more on that area:
“I don’t have anything to compare it to. I just know that the NFL is extremely competitive. Anything we can do to help our players be better players and better people, we are going to try to do. That’s one of the areas that Paul will obviously focus on.”

On how much the ‘circus atmosphere’ that surrounded former Browns QB Johnny Manziel the past two years impacted the Haslams’ sharing a message with the team to eliminate distractions:
“Almost none. There is no denying that [distractions] were there, but almost none. Like I said, this was Hue’s idea. He wanted us to talk to the team. That’s what drove us to do it. To be honest, Dee had listened to a talk and she said, ‘You ought to listen to it,’ on being prepared. Like most ideas that I come up with, I got them from somebody else so that’s really where that came from.”

On what would constitute a ‘good season’ for the Browns:
“I don’t want to go there. That’s one of those trick ‘gotcha’ questions. Listen, we could win four or five games and feel good about things or we could win eight – I’ve said that every year we’ll all know when we stand here on January 1 if we are improving as a football team. Like I said, we’re going to have a young team. You’ll see a lot of these young guys today. We’re going to have a young team next year because we’ve got another 11 or 12 picks.”

On if ownership would like to see a change in policy regarding suspended players’ ability to be at team facilities:
“I would never speak for any of the other 31 owners. That would be inappropriate. I do think, as you all know, we had the commissioner (NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell) here on June 17. I applaud him for coming out and visiting the franchise because that’s where all the action happens. I think he has a great appreciation, and we talked for 20-25 minutes on the phone whenever the decision on Josh came out on Monday afternoon. He understands. He met with Josh personally, talked to him for I think an hour and a half, a pretty extended amount of time. He understands the need for structure. Roger knows how we feel on that, that we think it is helpful for these young men to be in the building. We think that we can help them as much as anybody, not by being easy on him. Listen, there is something that needs to be said for having to be here at 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and eating well and if nothing else, knowing you’re going to be work out and be in the team meetings. It don’t think any of us would argue it. Yes, we will continue to push for that.”

On if the Cleveland Cavaliers’ championship and Cleveland Indians’ affects the Browns’ mindset and desire to win for fans:
“We couldn’t be happier for the Cavs. (Cavaliers majority owner) Dan Gilbert was over at our house a couple of Sunday’s ago. We couldn’t be happier for him and his organization, LeBron (James) – just an unbelievable performance. The same thing for the Indians. Our hats off to them for the trade they made. Those are not easy decisions to make. We’re very happy. I think even more when you see that, when the Cavs won on that Sunday night, the first text was from my dad, and before I read it, I had one from Hue. I think all of us when you see the love of sports from the fans – you all appreciate this much more than I do since you all have lived here longer – it makes us want to win even more for these great fans.”

On the Cleveland Cavaliers’ championship parade:
“I was not at the parade. Two points impressed me: obviously, the size of the crowd – 1.3 million is just a phenomenal number – but I think equally important and I think this has been under-reported is the behavior. I think there were like no arrests, no problems. Those two things say a lot about the city and this area.”

On why Goodell visited Berea:
“Just what we said, just to come out. We talk to the commissioner a fair amount. We had seen him in Charlotte in late May. He said, ‘I’d like to spend some time with you guys.’ I said, ‘Do you want us to come to New York?’ He said, ‘No, why don’t I get (NFL chief operating officer) Tod Leiweke and why don’t we come visit you? That happened to be a good day to visit. Obviously, it was unfortunate, but it was fortunate in a way that he could attend (late Browns executive vice president) Bryan’s (Wiedmeier) memorial service because Bryan had worked in the NFL and obviously had a long-term relationship with Roger. We’re obviously glad that worked out, too.”