TAMPA — **The plan is — and always has been — to win now.
Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown made as much clear Thursday afternoon, shrugging off outside concerns about the team's youth-laden roster and how it might fare this season.
"I think if anybody has been around our facility, they know how silly that is. We want to win, our expectation is (to win)," Brown said in a wide-ranging interview with reporters ahead of Cleveland's preseason game against the Buccaneers on Friday.
"Just because we have a younger roster doesn't mean we're at all trying to lose. I hadn't seen the comments but if that's a perception, I would say that's laughable. We're all competitive guys, we understand a part of what we need to do is build a winning culture here and everything that we've talked about and worked toward is aimed at winning.
"And there are no seasons off or, for us, even reps off," he continued. "We want to compete every play and win every chance we get. We go into the season wanting to win 20 games, and getting a win this week is important to us."
Indeed, the Browns will have chance to notch their first victory under first-year coach Hue Jackson against Tampa Bay after losses at Green Bay earlier this month and to Atlanta last week. In the meantime, the team has spent the past few days holding joint practices with a talented Tampa team in sweltering conditions.
Since the start of training camp, the Browns have focused on bolstering their strengths and addressing weaknesses as the 53-man roster still has yet to take shape. Of course, there's still ample time for Cleveland to improve before its season opener at Philadelphia on Sept. 11, though that window of opportunity is approached by the Browns with a sense of urgency.
Jackson said he's been encouraged by the considerable progress that's been made so far, whether it's an offense that looked electric against the Falcons or a bevy of younger players who have shown promise over the past few months.
The Browns and Buccaneers had their second practice together on Wednesday.
"Our players (have) responded. If anything, this team has allowed me and the staff to coach them and they have responded," Jackson said.
"Every time things have maybe been a little bit off kilter, when I bring it to their attention, they go and fix it. To me, that's our veteran leadership, it's our quarterback and the quarterback room and I think everybody has a piece of that.
"Everybody has done a great job of understanding that it's not going to go right all the time," Jackson continued, "but if we work at it and be accountable to each other, good things can happen."
Against that backdrop, Brown said he expects the Browns to compete to win while recognizing the challenges that come with fielding a young team.
Still, Brown said, that's not an excuse.
"We think we've made some strides this offseason to position ourselves for not just success but really sustainable success using our draft this year to not only help us acquire some picks to build in the future, but also really bring in a number of young guys who we feel like will be part of a core nucleus that'll be good for a long time," Brown said.
"But we also value the veterans in our locker room and understanding that they have a big role moving forward. We're going to Philly with the aim that we're going to win that game and we'll take it week by week. But our aim is to win all 16."