CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Browns are Cleveland’s team.
And owner Jimmy Haslam is honored to be at the top of an organization he feels is on the rise in the NFL. Haslam delivered that message to the Browns’ fans during “The Voice of the Fan, A Cleveland Browns Town Hall,” television special on WKYC, Channel 3 Thursday evening.
“It’s our team,” Haslam said. “I think it’s the community’s team; I think it’s Cleveland’s team. It’s Northeastern Ohio, and for our family to play a small part in that, is a real honor, and we’re tremendously excited about this year.
“We think we’ve got a lot of exciting days to come. I think it’s the best football community in America, and unquestionably, the most loyal fans in America. The fans sense that we are going to be a part of something special in building a long-term, consistent winner. The moves we made off the field and on the field this winter are going to pay off, and I think we’re going to see progress this year.”
Haslam, who ensured the team would not be affected by the federal investigation into his family’s company, Pilot Flying J, said he wants to turn the Browns into the NFL’s version of a consistent, small-market winning team, like the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA and Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals.
“What’s important for everybody to understand is we’re all-in,” Haslam said of his family’s commitment to Cleveland. “We’re all-in with Cleveland. We’re planning on being a part of this community and owning the team for a long time. This organization is not about me or our family. It’s about the team we put together on the field.”
Haslam was joined at the Town Hall by chief executive officer Joe Banner, coach Rob Chudzinski, general manager Michael Lombardi, and president Alec Scheiner, and each talked about the future of the Browns, everything from the on-field product to the game day experience for fans.
“We feel like there’s this energy penned up, and it’s dying to be unleashed,” Banner said. “It’s really amazing what the fans have been through and that they’ve still stayed. That’s part of what’s motivating us and exciting us. The thought of when we get this right and when we start winning these games, all of us together, and it’s a very exciting feeling.”
Lombardi added, “The passion has been here since the day I came back, and it’s always going to be. It’s where football was founded. It’s great fans all over. The helmet is significant of the people that root for the team, and I think everybody in Northeast Ohio wants a winner. I don’t think anything’s changed from the time I was here.”
Lombardi and Banner spoke on the philosophy of building the team, starting with the offensive and defensive lines, and laying the foundation necessary to win on a consistent basis. Their direction was clear early in free agency, when the Browns signed linebackers
“We went into the marketplace and competed for free agents that a lot of teams competed for, and we had to tell a compelling story about why this was going to be different,” Banner said. “We had to really tell the story of Cleveland and why it was going to be different moving forward.
“These players want to play for coaches they like and respect. They want to play in a scheme, and they want to play for a team that’s going to win in a city that has a lot of passion. We had to reenergize and shift the thinking that was going on around the Browns. The league is already starting to see the shift.”
In addition to the offseason changes to the roster, Scheiner has focused on improving the game day experience and how those newest Browns will be introduced to the crowd prior to kickoff.
“This is probably the most important aspect of what we’re doing because this translates to the field,” Scheiner said. “We know we have the best fans in the NFL. We want to have the best home-field advantage in the NFL.”