The Cleveland Browns enter the 11th week of the regular season at 4-5 and in second place in the AFC North Division after a 24-18 victory over the Baltimore Ravens two weeks ago.
The Browns travel to Cincinnati Sunday, and trail the AFC North front-running Bengals by one-and-a-half games with seven to play.
And for owner Jimmy Haslam and chief executive officer Joe Banner, playing meaningful games in the month of November is “exciting.”
“It’s exciting and rewarding,” Haslam said. “You’ve been around here longer than I have, but to be playing games that count this late in the season, this deep in November, I think is very meaningful. To see the excitement in Northeastern Ohio with Browns fans is phenomenal.”
Like Haslam, Banner said the team has shown promise through the first nine weeks of the season.
“I think we’re super excited to be playing well, playing hard, having games that matter,” Banner said. “The things that I think are most important right now, and you look at those things are the way the team’s playing, the systems are getting installed and the coaches are coaching.
“I think there’s basis for people to be encouraged. It’s obviously a lot of fun to anticipate the game. We’re confident we’re going to play hard and play (well). They’re a good team. I think we’re starting to establish ourselves as a competitive team, so it will be a fun afternoon.”
Asked if he believes the Browns are ready for a run to the postseason this year, Banner said that he will wait and see how the rest of the season plays itself out.
“I think we’re playing at a level right now where the answer to that question is, ‘Yes,’ but when you’re a team in transition, you’re more susceptible,” Banner said. “It remains to be seen how things go the rest of the season. I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen.”
Banner has been particularly impressed by the way coach Rob Chudzinski has handled every challenge, including three quarterback changes because of injuries and production, as well as the trade of starting running back Trent Richardson four days before a road game against the Minnesota Vikings in week three.
“I’d be hard-pressed to think that in nine weeks, a first-time head coach could do any better than what he’s doing,” Banner said. “All of the measureables that you look to come up with, even if you wanted to create a yardstick for measuring at this point, I just think he’s doing an outstanding job.
“I tried to focus on issues around the development and coaching and young players stepping up and the kind of effort and culture change that we felt we needed. I’m really encouraged about that, and I’m glad that we’re this far into it and we’re playing games that matter. I think that develops character. I think it’s a great statement about where we’re heading.”