From the start of the 2013 schedule, Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam told anyone who would listen that he would measure the success of the team based on what sort of progress it showed during the season.
As he discussed during a news conference Monday in the aftermath of Sunday’s firing of coach Rob Chudzinski, Haslam said he need to see the Browns perform “better in the last three games” than they did in the first three. The Browns lost 10 of their last 11 games by an average of more than 10 points per game to finish with a 4-12 record.
Without placing on exact number on a victory total he expected, Haslam did set a clear goal in his first full season as the owner to improve the foundation of the team, which starts in large part with the players and coaches demonstrating collective improvement over the course of the season.
Statistically, it is hard to argue that the Browns improved over the course of the 2013 campaign. Early in the season, the Browns established one of the league’s best statistical defenses, ranking in the top 10 in many categories and as high as fifth in total defense before the team’s bye. The Browns ended the season ranked ninth in total defense and allowed just over 25 points per game.
Meanwhile, the offense struggled all season and scored just over 19 points per game -- ranking 27th in league scoring.
‘Importance of getting it right’
Throughout the press conference, which also included chief executive officer Joe Banner, Haslam displayed the conviction of a leader with a singular focus to win football games and change the culture of the Browns.
“We also understand the importance of getting it right,” Haslam said. “There’s nothing, and you all have every right to write it, that galls me more to read on Monday mornings, ‘Same old Browns.’ That’s not what we’re all about and that’s not what we came here for.”
During an interview Monday afternoon on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” Banner expressed why the timing of this decision is so critical and what the change signals for the fans and organization.
“What increases the urgency the most is the number of particular assets that we have available right now that we can’t misuse,” Banner said.
The Browns head into the 2014 offseason rich in assets which includes a reported $30 million in salary cap space, 10 picks in the 2014 NFL Draft and the second-youngest roster in the NFL. The team also includes a solid core of players, five of whom were selected to play in the Pro Bowl.
“I actually think this move should send a message to people that whatever it takes – and that includes putting ourselves in bad positions where we look bad and take a lot of heat – to get this right and win a lot of football games, we are prepared to do,” Banner said. “And whether you agree with that decision or disagree with that decision, it should provide you a lot of comfort because as people talk about the history here, they haven’t always had that. They have had people who have accepted things being okay or not so good. We are not going to do that. We are going to demand excellence and hold everyone accountable.
“That, in the long run, is going to pay off big for the people in Cleveland.”