2018 is a very important year for the Cleveland Browns. It’s time for the franchise to start heading in the right direction. It’s year 20 of the new Browns franchise. The loyal fan base has waited long enough for the franchise to start winning on a year to year basis.
Owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam conducted their annual training camp state of the Browns press conference before day three on Saturday. The Haslams addressed many topics surrounding the team.
The players are optimistic about winning in 2018. What expectations do the Haslams have for 2018?
“That is hard to define right now – progress,” Dee Haslam said. “I think that we are going to see a lot of progress among our players. I really do.”
“We would echo (Head) Coach (Hue) Jackson’s comments,” Jimmy Haslam said. “We are excited to see their excitement and their optimism but a long way to go and a lot of work to do.”
Josh Gordon is currently away from the team. Will he return at some point this season?
“I think it is consistent throughout the organization – (General Manager) John (Dorsey) and (Coach) Hue (Jackson) have answered this question, and Dee and I have talked about it a lot – first of all, we are interested in Josh the person,” Jimmy Haslam said. “We respect his privacy, and until Josh gets back to camp, we are going to focus on the players that are here.”
Is it time to part ways with the talented but troubled wide receiver?
“This is a difficult situation. Josh has clearly struggled with addiction – he would tell you that – over a long period of time,” Jimmy Haslam said. “I think that we saw a different Josh Gordon here in the spring and during workouts. He is working hard. We are going to continue to work with the person and try to help him out both personally and professionally until it does not make sense.”
With Gordon’s status unclear, there has been discussions about signing veteran wide receiver Dez Bryant. Is that a good idea since there are issues with the former Dallas Cowboy as well?
“That is more of a question for John,” Jimmy Haslam said. “I think what you see out of John and his group is that they are continually looking to make the team better. We are talking to a lot of people. We had two guys working out earlier today. We’re going to continue to whether it is our ninth offensive linemen or a former star receiver for another team, we are going to continue to look at any and everybody we can to make our team better. I do not think Dee and I will ever comment on individual players we may or not be looking at, but John is working hard to make the team better every single day.”
The NFL is trying to a policy in place in regards to the National Anthem. Do you have any comments in regards to the ongoing controversy?
“The league and the players association are looking to come up with a win-win situation,” Jimmy Haslam said. “I think that there is cautious optimism on both sides that it will happen. Until that happens, I do not think that we have any comment. I will say this and I know that Dee will want to jump in here, too, that we have learned a tremendous amount during this process.”
“You have all heard us say this before. We have worked very closely with our players. Dee and I have always been involved in the communities. We have been involved in a lot of different ways. But we have become actively involved here in some issues that affected the players. We look forward to continuing to work with our players to make Northeast Ohio, Ohio and hell for that matter, the U.S. a better place to live and work. We are going to focus on that for now.”
“The players are really active in working on a plan for social justice reform in our area,” Dee Haslam said. “They want to get out and be volunteers and really dive deep. We have hosted [neighborhood equality and unity] summits. We focus on what we are doing and the positive impact that we are having. That is really our focus. We are excited about it.”
The Browns became just the second team in NFL history to go 0-16. How can the players and coaches get past all the losing that has taken place in previous seasons.
“Our fans have been unbelievably supportive,” JDee Haslam said. “Cleveland is just the greatest town to be in if you are a football organization. We have great, loyal fans. I really believe that there is a lot of energy. It is a really great team that has been assembled. We really have not thought about the past. We have been looking towards the future. It is pretty easy because the excitement that we have here and the players that we have here, and the coaching staff is really excited.”
Since taking ownership, you have hired and fired numerous general managers. Is John Dorsey going to help turn the franchise around?
“Everybody has different styles, and we would never say anything about anybody who is not here anymore, you guys know that,” Jimmy Haslam said. “I just think we are comfortable with the direction John has taken the team. We are not there yet, and John knows that, Dee and I know that.
“I want to go back to what was said, I guess the question was about Dez Bryant. They are working hard every day to make us a better team. We will look at any and everybody within reason to try to help us get better. Whether it is the 53rd player or the eighth player, we are going to take a look at them. I give this staff tremendous credit for doing that. They are working people out every day and looking at people all of the time, and that is what you have to do to get better.”
What about the fan base? Is there concerns that they are losing that loyalty they have shown in years past?
“Absolutely, I think you always worry about your fan base,” Dee Haslam said. “That is one of the things that we talk about a lot is taking care of our fans. I think you worry about your fan base, but this is an unbelievably loyal fan base. The Browns fans are just incredible. We are just kind of overwhelmed with how enthusiastic and loyal they are as a group of people.”
“That has not been fun for them or us,” Jimmy Haslam said.
Can the Browns win now or is this going to be just a step toward winning?
“We are not going to do anything that is going to be a one-year flash in the pan,” Jimmy Haslam said. “At the same time, we feel pressure to win. We feel the responsibility that we haven’t won before. We feel the fans’ pain, too. Our fans deserve better, and hopefully starting this year, they are going to get it.”
The Browns are being featured this year on HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks.’ Why is 2018 the right time to have the team featured by the cable network?
“Everybody has to take a turn so we knew we had to take our turn at some time and felt like it was probably our time to do it,” Dee Haslam said. “It is a very professional group of people who are here. They are very impressive. We hardly see them or pay attention to them. I know they are doing their job. Now that they are here, we are kind of excited about it and think it will be good for Cleveland. I think it will be very good for Cleveland.”
“The other thing is we would not have done it if Hue was not comfortable with it,” Jimmy Haslam said. “If Hue had said, ‘No, I don’t want to do it,’ we wouldn’t do it. He had that experience in Cincinnati. He was comfortable with it. We are moving forward. So far, it has been zero distraction. That is our main focus is that it doesn’t distract the team from getting ready for the season because that is what we are all focused on.”
The Haslams also addressed concerns about FirstEnergy Stadium, development in Downtown Cleveland and their confidence in head coach Hue Jackson.
Scott Piker is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Browns.