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BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Embarrassed by the Browns' deplorable record during his tenure as owner, Jimmy Haslam promised patience will guide him going forward.
During his annual press conference at training camp, Haslam acknowledged last season's 1-15 record was "harder than we thought" but he's convinced he's hired the right people to turn around a Cleveland franchise that has never been more irrelevant.
The Browns are just 15-49 since Haslam and his wife, Dee, assumed full control of the team. They've made their share of mistakes along the way, but Haslam believes better days are ahead.
"I don't think we ever would have thought we'd be talking about coming off winning four games in our last two years in our third and fourth years in," he said. "It's tough. It's hard. I think I've said it's embarrassing. At the same time, we have learned a lot. In life, I've learned you learn a heck of a lot more through the hard experiences than the easy ones. I now think we're positioned to put the organization, the team in a much better place than we've been."
There's no way to go but up.
The Browns were barely competitive last season, losing their first 14 games before beating San Diego on Christmas Eve to avoid joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams to go 0-16.
The losing took its toll on Haslam, who has already made three coaching and twice swept out his front office since buying the team from Randy Lerner in 2012.
"We're very realistic about where we are," he said. "We're going to be patient and we're going to do it right. We're going to build through the draft, selectively use free agency and not take shortcuts and try to produce a team that will consistently win games.
"As we've said many times, and haven't done yet, provide the fans of Northeast Ohio with the kind of team they deserve in the Cleveland Browns."
It's not Haslam's nature to be patient. But he's had to learn to control his impulse to overhaul at the first sign of trouble.
And while the Browns are in the "early stages" of another rebuilding project, Haslam is convinced that coach Hue Jackson, executive vice president Sashi Brown, player personnel director Andrew Berry and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, have the blueprint that leads to victories.
"Our group is functioning together and I think very well," he said. "They've now been together for about a year and a half and I think A.B., Sash, Paul and Hue are working together extremely well and I think this year's draft was an example of this and I think everybody knows the assets we've accumulated for next year' draft, so we feel good about that."
The Browns have two first-round picks and three second-round selections in 2018, when Haslam expects the team to be closer to competing for a playoff spot.
In the meantime, he's not making any promises this season.
"None of us are exactly sure what'll happen this year, I know we'll be a better team," he said. "So I think 2018 — and I'm not hedging my bets — 2018, 2019 you should see a substantially better football team."
Not only has the losing taught Haslam patience and people make a difference, he no longer focuses strictly on victories to judge a success.
"Listen, wins and losses are a part of it. There's no doubt about that," he said. "But I think it's how our team performs. Do we come back? 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 younger players getting better? It's a collection of all those types of things."
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