Browns owner Jimmy Haslam stressed patience Saturday while painting a potentially bright picture of Cleveland's not-so-distant future.
Haslam, who spoke to the news media before training camp, said he's encouraged by the direction of the club without sugarcoating the past.
"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're going to be patient," Haslam said.
"We're going to do it right. We're going to build through the draft, selectively use free agency, not take shortcuts and try to produce a team that'll consistently win games and as we've said many times – haven't done yet, but said many times – provide the fans of Northeast Ohio the kind of team they deserve in the Cleveland Browns."
Haslam said those reasons for optimism start with an executive team that includes second-year coach Hue Jackson, executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown, chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta and vice president of player personnel Andrew Berry.
"The most important thing you have to do as the leader of any organization is get the right people in place," Haslam said, "and I think that is why we feel good now because we think we have the right people in place."
Haslam pointed to the group's collaboration this past offseason, which saw the Browns re-sign or extend several key players — including Jamie Collins Sr., Christian Kirksey and Joel Bitonio — fortify their offensive line and add a promising NFL Draft class.
It's part of an effort, Haslam said, to build Cleveland for sustainable success. And it's not always easy.
"All of us want to win, and win immediately," Haslam said. "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."
Haslam declined to lay out a list of expectations for 2017 and instead spoke of small victories.
Against that backdrop, Haslam said he expects to see the Browns take steps in 2017.
"Wins and losses are a part of it – there's no doubt about that – but I think it's 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?" he said.
"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."
Asked to define where the Browns are in their rebuilding process, Haslam pointed to a metaphor used by DePodesta, who likened it all to "take the house down the studs."
"I think we are putting in a process a for a good team and everybody is going to want to know, 'Well, how many games do you think you're going to win?'" Haslam said.
"I'm not going to say that, but I think you will see an improved football team this year."