By Tony Grossi
The Morning Kickoff …
Managing expectations: Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said he’s excited about the additions his team has made since the 2013 league year began this month.
He likes the upgrade to the pass rush that free agents Paul Kruger, Desmond Bryant and Quentin Graves should provide and expects coordinator Ray Horton to field a “fun and exciting” defense that should “get after people.”
But Haslam is realistic. The offense, which was anemic last year (as usual), has been weakened by the exodus of kicker Phil Dawson, specialist Josh Cribbs and tight end Ben Watson. The Browns apparently are going to ask coach Rob Chudzinski and coordinator Norv Turner to wave a magic wand and turn a young nucleus of offensive players into stars.
There are no major additions to the offense in the works.
So, Haslam delivered a sobering message to fans in a sitdown interview with Cleveland-area reporters at NFL league meetings on Tuesday.
“We’ve won 23 games in the last five years, won 14 games in the last three, so we’re not going to go 13-3 next year,” Haslam said.
“I think what I stated back on Aug. 3 is we’re going to do this the right way. We didn’t spend all our money in free agency this year. We’re going to be very disciplined and fill gaps as they’re needed. Hopefully, we’ll have a good draft, and now that free agency is almost over – it’s not completely over -- we can look at the draft and what we can do there. We have six picks, so that’s a little bit of negative, but we have to do the best we can.”
With no major additions to offense – including the promised “competition” at quarterback – Haslam is managing his own expectations. And what are they for the 2013 season?
“I think only to improve,” he said. “What’s the definition of improve? I think we’ll all know. I think it’s a little dangerous (to set target for) wins and losses because injuries, breaks, etc., happen, but I think by Dec. 30 or 31 we’ll all know if we’re a better football team. We’ll probably know long before then. I expect us to be better, but this is a process and it’s gonna take a little bit of time.
“When I look at the 49ers and they have 10 guys in the Pro Bowl and we have three, and two of ours were special teams players. You can see talent-wise we still got a ways to go.”
Here are the major talking points of the Haslam interview:
On not adding (so far) any offensive upgrades: “I wish we could have done on offense what we did on defense but you’ve got to spend your money selectively and smartly. A lot of it had to do with the players who were available. I’ve got high confidence we’re going to be a lot better on defense. I think Chud and Norv will do a great job with their offense. I’ll just continue to state this. You’ll get tired of hearing me say it. This is a process, and we’re in it for the long run and we’re going to do it over several years. We’re going to do it the right way. I don’t want to be sitting here two years from now and we’re cutting two players because we didn’t use the cap wisely.”
On not adding (so far) a competitor to quarterback Brandon Weeden: “I think you can have internal competition and you can have external competition. This is the first time I’ve gone through free agency, and of course you have the draft. It’s still a pretty long time till camp, right? I think we start officially in mid-July. I think we’ll see how things shape up.”
On eliminating PSLs on future season ticket purchases: “I have an appreciation for keeping things affordable. I don't necessarily think that every seat has to have a PSL attached to it. Candidly, we want to keep the product -- I think our prices are the next to lowest in the league -- we want to keep the product affordable because our fan base … is tremendous and we want as many people as we can to come to the games so it was one we thought about a lot because we knew it would be a little controversial although the negative feedback's been very minimal. I think it's absolutely the right thing to do in terms of our fan base.”
On declining attendance in FirstEnergy Stadium: “We talked about it a lot at these meetings and I think we continue to improve there. Not just with the Browns, but what every team has to worry about -- and (President) Alec Scheiner's main job is what we call fan experience, game day experience. The experience is so good at home now. Let's face it, Cleveland in November, December, can be a pretty tough place, weather-wise, so why don't I stay home and sit on my couch and watch three games at one time or watch whatever I want to and I can grab a beer right here, etc.?
“I think what every NFL owner's got to do is make that three and a half hours of the game better than it is at home. We've got to give you some things at the stadium you can't get at home. We spent two hours this morning talking about it in the meeting. I'm not ready to share that, but there's a lot of great ideas. Minimal impact for the '13 season but I think some pretty dramatic impact in '14 going forward.”
On a future role for Browns legend Jim Brown: “Jim and I have spent a lot of time together … and I think we’ve established a really good relationship. I think sometime over the next two or three weeks, we’ll formalize that relationship and Jim will play the appropriate role with the Cleveland Browns. I think he feels good about it. We feel good about it, and I think rightly so. … It’s a big deal and that’s why I want to do it right. I think in the next couple weeks we’llannounce something.”
On not wanting to feature the Browns on Hard Knocks: “I don’t see us doing Hard Knocks. I think it interferes with your basic football operations. I think you’ve all heard me say this and I tell everybody in the building this every time we have a team meeting: We’re all about winning games and, two, giving the fans a great experience. If you’re doing anything besides the two of those, you’re not working on the right stuff.”
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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