Sunday, July 30, 2017

Haslam waxes realistic

It took him nearly five years since becoming owner of the Browns, but Jimmy Haslam III has finally chosen to be pragmatic about his billion-dollar acquisition.

In a let-your-hair-down session with the Cleveland media Saturday, Haslam seems to have convinced himself that success for this franchise rests in the future, and a not-too-distant future at that.

“Last year was harder than we thought,” he said of the embarrassing 1-15 season. “None of us are exactly sure what will 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. We feel real good about the people we have in place.”

In other words, Haslam’s pragmatism for the upcoming season helps him rein in any out-of-control thoughts of a winning campaign, let alone thinking about the postseason. He is mainly looking for (expecting?) progress.

“Are younger players getting better?” he said. “ (Coach) Hue (Jackson) and (Chief Strategy Officer) Paul (DePodesta) talk about small wins. I know they are setting goals for individual players – small wins for them individually.

“All of us want to win and win immediately. Most of you don’t know me that well personally, but I’m an extremely impatient person. But I think we’ve learned the hard way (that) if you want to do this . . . right, building through the draft and being patient and getting the right people in place is the right way to do it. It’s hard, but it is unequivocally the right thing to do.”

Jimmy Haslam impatient? Really? He almost defined the word with his knee-jerk decisions in the first four years of his stewardship with four different coaches and a merry-go-around in the front office.

It took five seasons of the most miserable football Browns fans have ever witnessed in a five-year span to produce a huge jolt of reality The Browns are 20-60 since Haslam took ownership of the club in early August in 2012 with five straight basement finishes in the AFC North.

Never in the oftentimes-glorious history of this franchise has it ever recorded a five-year span with a worse record.

As for this season, the owner appears to have learned to be cautious, if not downright reserved. “Everybody is going to want to know, ‘Well, how many games do you think you’ll win (this season)?’” he said. “I’m not going to say that, but I think you’ll see an improved football team this year.”

Of course it will be improved. When you are coming off a season when you win just one game, and they were fortunate to win that one, it is almost impossible not to be improved the following year.

File this Haslam quote for down the road, especially if the Browns get off to a slow start: “I think we’re fortunate to have Hue as a coach. I think he has established a great rapport here with the community, with the team, with us and I hope he’ll be our head coach for a long time.”

Haslam’s newfound patience and pragmatic approach to the 2017 season will be severely tested if the club is still looking for its first victory in October.

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