"I think we are off to a good start with the first two days. The weather has been nice, cool. Players are excited. Coaches are excited. Great fan support, as always. The new setup that our fan experience group put in place has made for a better fan experience for the fans. Pads come on today. I think you heard (Head Coach) Hue's (Jackson) excitement last night when he talked to you all about that, and I think the players are excited, too. Feel good about the offseason. I think we accomplished what we said we would accomplish in terms of signing almost all of our existing players, adding some really good free agents and having, hopefully, what was not only a really good draft in '17 but position ourselves for '18.
"Hue asked Dee (Haslam) and I to talk to the team, which we did on Wednesday afternoon, their first afternoon back, and really talked about four things. I think it is important for the players to hear this. I told them the first thing we would tell them every year, and that is what a privilege it is to play in the NFL, how short of a time period that was and to make sure they made the most of it. No. 2, the importance of hard work. No. 3, particularly with our team with such a younger group, the importance of leadership. Then No. 4, our expectations of them on and off the field and in the community. Hopefully, that will help get us off to a good start.
"I know you all always want to know how I think our group is functioning together, and I think [we are functioning together] very well. We have now been together about a year and a half. I think AB (Vice President of Player Personnel Andrew Berry), Sash (Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown), (Chief Strategy Officer) Paul (DePodesta) and Hue are working together extremely well. I think this year's draft was an example of this, and I think everybody knows the assets that we have accumulated for next year's draft. We feel good about that. I would be remiss if I didn't say that I understand that we have only won four games in the last two years and only won one last year so we are very realistic about where we are. At the same time, we are going to be patient. We are going to do it right. We are going to build through the draft, selectively use free agency, not take shortcuts and try to produce a team that will consistently win games and as we have said many times – have not done yet but said many times – provide the fans of Northeast Ohio the kind of team they deserve in the Cleveland Browns."
On lessons from going 1-15 last season:
"It might be more appropriate to go back and say, 'What lessons do you take from the beginning?' The most important thing you have to do as the leader of any organization is get the right people in place, and I think that is why we feel good now because we think we have the right people in place with the individuals we mentioned."
On how difficult it is to be patient after a 3-13 season in 2015 and 1-15 season in 2016:
"It is hard. All of us want to win and win immediately. Most of you don't know me that well personally, but I am an extremely impatient person. I think we have learned the hard way that if you want to do this and do it right, building through the draft and being patient and getting the right people in place is the right way to do it. It is hard, but it is unequivocally the right thing to do."
On level of surprise that the Browns have not yet been successful since purchasing the team:
"[August 2] was the day that we were of course announced as owners. I have said this numerous times, you don't – I think we are the second newest owners – there is no way to explain to anybody what is getting ready to happen. The learning curve has been extremely steep. It has been way harder than we thought. To answer your question, I don't think we ever would have thought we would be talking about coming off winning four games in our last two years in our third and fourth years. It is tough. It is hard. I think I have said it is embarrassing. At the same time, we have learned a lot. In life, I have learned you learn a heck of a lot more through the hard experiences than you do the easy ones. I now think we are positioned to, like I said, put the organization, the team in a much better place than we have been."
On if he is still completely committed to continuity despite what happens this season, particularly after taking the team 'down to the studs' last year, as Podesta referenced earlier this year:
"I will just say what we said at first – we feel really good about the people we have in place, really good."
On where the Browns are in the process of building the team:
"I would say in the early stages. Paul's description of taking the house down to the studs is, I think, accurate. I don't want to say where we are in the rebuilding process, but I will just reiterate and really intentionally be redundant – I think we have the right people in place in the organization. I think we are putting in process a good team and everybody is going to want to know, 'Well, how many games do you think you're going to win?' I'm not going to say that, but I think you will see an improved football team this year."
On what the football staff has told him about how close the Browns are to fixing the QB question:
"You guys talk to Hue every day. We have had two practices. We have four quarterbacks out there working hard. All of them have potential, and it will be exciting to watch the competition. Like I said, that is a question for Hue."
On why Jackson, Brown and DePodesta are the right guys for this team:
"First of all, they are good people. You learn in life that is a good place to start. They are smart, and it is also a good blend of talent. You have people who have been in football all their life like Hue and AB. We often overlook AB, but although he is only 30 years old, he has a great background in football. You have someone like Sashi who has been in the NFL a long time but has only been on the football side for a few years. He is very smart, very bright, very strategic. Then you have Paul, who is one of the smarter, more strategic people that I have ever been around. I think it makes for a very good blend of talent and a really strong executive team."
On if the Browns expect to be 'turned around' by the 2018 season and see the results from the team's plan:
"I have to be real careful how I answer this, but we actually talked about it for a long time, and that is why I had to come back to you on your timetable. Last year was harder than we thought. None of us are exactly sure what will happen this year. I know that we will be a better team. I think 2018 – I'm not hedging my bets – 2018-2019 you should see a substantially better football team."
On if there is concern that the Browns may be losing status in Cleveland, given the success of the Cavaliers and Indians:
"We have said on numerous occasions that we root as hard for the Cavs or the Indians as hard as anybody does. We went to all of the Cavs playoff games. We were at every one of the World Series games in Cleveland and the seventh game. We have the utmost respect for what (Cavs Owner) Dan (Gilbert) and (Indians Chairman/CEO) Paul (Dolan) have done for those organizations. They set a great example for us. We don't worry as much about that as we just focus on what we control, and we are entirely focused on building a better program and a better football team here."
On if there is concern the Browns are losing status with fans because the team has not been successful since returning in 1999:
"We have phenomenal fans – I mean phenomenal fans. The support no matter where we are in the country and particularly in Northeast Ohio and Cleveland is really strong. We will just continue to work hard every day to give them the kind of team they deserve, and I think we will get there. I'm very confident we will."
On if he realized the amount of pain the Browns fan base has been through and if he inherits that pain:
"Did I at the time? I had no clue. We had no clue. Dee and I had no clue, but do we realize it and share in that pain now? Absolutely. I think Dee says that better than I do that we share in that pain, and we feel the responsibility for helping to erase that pain."
On if inheriting Browns' fans pain can lead to taking shortcuts in the rebuilding process:
"We are not going to do that. We obviously have struggled since we have been here, but what we have done over the last 12 months, I don't think you can point to anything that looks like a shortcut. Some people might have said that we should have been more aggressive in free agency or done this or done that, but I think whether it's free agency or the draft, we are trying to build things for the long run."
On if signing 30-year old free agents a few years ago was an attempt to jumpstart the team:
"I think that was a result of our inexperience, which I will take responsibility for. There might be a time to do that when you are close to winning a Super Bowl, but that is not where we were or where we are. That is why we made the decisions we did in the offseason, and the majority of people we sign are relatively young players."
On measuring success for the 2017 season:
"I think we will all know. If I were you, I would ask the same question: wins and losses or what will you know. Listen, wins and losses are a part of it – there is no doubt about that – but I think it is how our team performs, how do we come back and do we win close games? Do we come from behind and win a game? Do we beat a good team? Do we win a game on the road? Are our younger players getting better? Both Hue and Paul talk about small wins. Individual players, I know they are setting goals for the individual players with small wins for them individually. It is a collection of all of those types of things."
On if the Browns need to see a 'big performance' out the past two years' draft picks to properly evaluate the front office:
"You all have watched this game as long or longer, than I have. It is tough as a rookie to come in. I know we are all excited about (DL) Myles (Garrett), (DB) Jabrill (Peppers), (TE) David (Njoku) and DeShone (Kizer), etc., but it is tough for rookies to come in and really tear it up. You can go back and look. There are a few exceptions, the Cowboys had a couple last year, but for the most part, it takes a guy into his second or third year. It will be interesting to see for example how (DL) Emmanuel Ogbah does in his second year, how (WR) Corey Coleman does in his second year. Do not get me wrong, I hope that they all tear it up in the first game against the Steelers, but it is not the end of the western world if they do not. We are going to give them some time. I think by their second or third years, if they are not producing, then I think you are going to be concerned. You have got to be realistic. The adjustment between college football, particularly the way it is played now, and pro football is dramatic."
On how to know if the Browns are selecting players correctly if it takes two or three years to properly judge the picks:
"I think that is where the patience comes in. I think not only are we accumulating good players, hopefully, but we are also accumulating a significant number of draft picks. We will have five picks in the first two rounds next year – two ones and three twos."
On the Browns selecting Garrett and not Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky, give reports that there was a debate between groups within the organization but was resolved, and if it is an example of the team's system working:
"Let me say a couple of things: I have told the group this and you all have been a part of organizations, if there is not healthy debate, then I do not think it is a healthy situation. I think there needs to continually be healthy debate. We have lots of healthy debate here, which is important for the overall growth of our organization. We are excited about Myles. I would never comment on somebody who is not with our team or who we did not pick because I do not see where it serves any purpose."
On traits that show Jackson could be a successful long-term head coach:
"Being a head NFL coach is a really difficult job. Hue does a lot of things really well, but leading men, he is exceptional at. There is not a lot of positive to say about a 1-15 season, but I do not think you could say that our guys were not motivated and did not play hard all the way up until the end. You all are around here every day. That is exceptionally hard to do. I just think he is really good at relating to and leading men."
On if there was anything about last season that 'shook belief in Jackson at all:
On Jackson's commitment to Cleveland with the launch of the Hue Jackson Foundation:
"It is outstanding. Hue Jackson is a quality person. I was thinking back the other day, I forget how it came up and some of you will remember this, but the day the NFL voted on what team or teams were going to go to L.A. – I think it was a Tuesday – we were right in the midst of making our final decision on who to hire as our head coach. We have done a lot of things wrong, but I think one thing that we did well is I said, 'Dee, you go to Houston and represent us and vote on L.A. I am going to Cincinnati and make sure we hire Hue Jackson as our next coach' because I knew that the next day there were going to be other teams interested in hiring him. I am glad we did that. Hue is totally committed and totally bought in. I think his and Michelle's commitment to the foundation is the kind of guy that he is. Hue is all in on everything he does."
On what it means that the Browns obtained their first choice as head coach when in past years the team may not have:
"I cannot say. I just think we are fortunate to have Hue as a coach. He has established a great rapport here with the community, with the team and with us. I hope that he will be our head coach for a long time."
On if he will fully support starting a rookie QB, if the coaching staff determines that is best:
"That is a decision that Hue will make. It is not like this is the first time that he has ever been through this. Sashi (Brown), AB and Paul will be involved, but it will be Hue's call at the end. Whatever they decide to do, we will fully support. They will go into it with eyes wide open."
On the recently published study regarding CTE:
"I think the more research that can be done on the neuroscience around brain injuries and the potential link to football, the better off we are. The NFL has committed $100 million to this type of research. The more research that we do, the better off we are."
On if he was bothered by criticisms that the Browns' front office selections of Brown and DePodesta were not typical for the NFL:
"It really did not. Somebody said, 'The example of stupidity is doing something over and over again in the same way.' We just felt like we needed to change and do things differently. It was through a combination of probably more luck than skill that we were able to put those people together. Like I said, I feel really good about them both as people and obviously, with their abilities to put together a really good team here."