BEREA, Ohio — Jimmy and Dee Haslam purchased the Cleveland Browns in 2012. After five coaching changes and zero winning seasons, both are confident this is finally their year.
The Tennessee businessman and his television producer wife admitted the past seven seasons have "been painful," but expressed confidence that quarterback Baker Mayfield will lead the team to the playoffs for the first time in 17 years.
"We have not only a really good quarterback; he is also a really good leader who loves the football. We were fortunate to have the first pick that year, and John and his team made a great pick in Baker. Obviously, he is going to be a part of our franchise for a long time to come," said Jimmy.
Cleveland went 7-8-1 last season — its best record since 2007 and dramatically raised its national profile by acquiring Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from the Giants and signing running back Kareem Hunt after his release by the Chiefs.
"We are excited for the organization, the players, the coaches, the personnel, ourselves and everybody who puts in the time and hard work but we are most excited - you know the area as well or better than we do - for the fans because these are the greatest sports fans I have ever been around. They deserve to have a really good football team," Jimmy said.
The Haslams said negotiations to keep Hunt around the team during his eight-game suspension are ongoing with the NFL.
"Kareem understands what he has to do to continue to be a part of the Cleveland Browns," Jimmy explained.
The owners also promised to "absolutely never" change the franchise's logo-less helmet during their annual training camp news conference.
As we close in on opening day in the NFL one thing is certain, the Browns and the Haslams have come a long way in seven years but the climb to the top is just beginning.
"Our track record against particularly Pittsburgh and Baltimore and even Cincinnati is not very good. Enough talk. We have to go out and win games now," Jimmy added.