PHOENIX -- Fresh off a 7-8-1 season with plenty of reason for optimism, Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam took to Phoenix this week for the NFL Annual Meeting at the Arizona Biltmore.
The message: This is just the beginning for both the Browns and the city of Cleveland.
The Haslams completed their purchase of the Browns in 2012, and while the team had struggled until 2018, they feel they're in a good position now as owners of one of 32 NFL teams. They also feel the future is bright for the team, but there's plenty of work to be done.
"I think we're a lot better, but you all know this because you've been here, we're two years from not winning a game," Jimmy Haslam said. "We still have a very young team. Last year the youngest team and this year it's still young. We all love Baker (Mayfield) and are very excited about his future but he's still a second-year QB. We have a brand new coaching staff. Our record against Pittsburgh and Ben Roethlisberger is not very good. I think we have to prove it on the field but we are excited."
The team's recent acquisition of superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has resulted in a spike in the excitement. It was a deal done with the approval of the Haslams, who credited general manager John Dorsey for a job well done.
"Ever since John has come here, he and his group have done a great job of building the team," Jimmy Haslam told reporters assembled on a patio at the Biltmore. "Although we have made great progress at wide receiver, to get a unique player like Odell -- hate to say once in a lifetime but it's certainly rare. I really attribute a lot of it to the relationship John and (Giants general manager) Dave Gettleman have, that mutual trust and you have to trust each other in a situation like that. The deal came together very quickly and we're obviously tremendously excited about the opportunity to get a player like that and what it will do for Baker, our team, etc."
The excitement is palpable and reaches far across the United States. Thanks to the boost from 2018 and the blockbuster Beckham deal, Browns fans are proud to let others know where their allegiance lies.
The Haslams have experienced it in their own travels.
"Everywhere you go, even here, somebody asks us about it," Dee Haslam said. "We visited some stores the other day in Arizona and California and we'd go in there and that's what people would ask about it. So you know what a big deal it is, right?"
A big deal, indeed.