Browns owner preaches patience, won’t ‘blow things up’
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — In his strongest statements yet regarding the direction of the Cleveland Browns since taking over as owner in 2012, Jimmy Haslam vowed to be patient and not make more changes if things go poorly this season.
“We’re not going to blow things up, OK? I think we are on the right track and not blow things up,” Haslam said after Saturday’s practice, which was the first in pads. “I understand why people might ask that after a couple bumps in the road the first couple years. I think we are putting together a good foundation.”
As Haslam enters his third full season of ownership, there are lingering questions about the futures of coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer. But on the third day of training camp — the Browns’ first in full pads — Haslam is saying he’ll stay the course no matter which way the upcoming season goes.
“I think it’s unfair to say you have to win X amount of games because injuries happen, schedules are harder, easier than you think. It’s a tough league,” Haslam said. “You have to look at the body of work over a period of time. I feel good about where we are versus two years ago or even a year ago.”
Since taking over ownership from Randy Lerner in October of 2012, Haslam has had three head coaches and GMs. Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur, whom Haslam inherited from Lerner, were fired after the 2012 season while team president Joe Banner, general manager Michael Lombardi and coach Rob Chudzinski were dismissed after a 4-12 season in 2013 that finished with seven straight losses.
Last season, the Browns were 7-4 and in contention for a playoff spot before dropping their final five games. During the offseason, Farmer was suspended for the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s policy on using electronic devices during games.
There were also changes to the coaching staff, the most notable being John DeFilippo replacing Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator. Haslam did go on the offensive in shooting down reports that there is strife in his front office.
“I don’t think they were worth commenting on then, and I don’t think they are now,” Haslam said of the reports. “People who pride themselves on getting it right and holding us accountable, we accept that responsibility. At the same time, they need to hold themselves accountable and make sure what they report is accurate. Some of the comments about people in this building not getting along are just totally inaccurate.”
An example of improvement that Haslam has pointed to was a solid draft in 2014 as offensive guard Joel Bitonio, running back Terrance West and linebacker Chris Kirksey made big contributions. However, first-round picks Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel were disappointments.
Josh McCown, who the Browns signed during the offseason, is expected to be the starting quarterback on Sept. 13 when the Browns open at the New York Jets. As for Manziel, whose rocky rookie year was followed by a 10-week rehab stint, Haslam said the Browns still believe in Johnny Football.
“Despite what everybody reads and says, we’ve not at all given up on Johnny,” he said. “We think he has the potential to be a good football player. Now having the potential and doing it are two different things, but I think we’ve said numerous times that you’re not going to win consistently in this league without a good quarterback, and we’re trying to make that happen.”
Haslam has had some successes under his ownership, pointing to the team’s charitable work in Northeast Ohio, the $120 million renovation of FirstEnergy Stadium and changing the uniforms. However, Haslam acknowledged the ultimate barometer on measuring a team is in wins and losses.
NOTES: The Browns will hold a scrimmage at Ohio Stadium on Friday night, but Haslam said a decision on holding training camp next year in Columbus has not been finalized. ... DL Billy Winn was carted off the field after sustaining a right knee injury during an inside running drill. The team is awaiting medical tests to determine when Winn will return. Running backs Duke Johnson (hamstring) and West (calf) and offensive lineman Brandon Stephens (hamstring) were also injured. ... Pettine was not pleased with practice, which was a warm and heated session that involved a skirmish involving several players. ... Former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel took in practice along with current Buckeyes quarterback Cardale Jones, a Cleveland native.