The NFL is the ultimate zero-sum game. For every winner, there’s a loser. For every good team, there’s a bad team.
For most of the past generation, the Browns have been among the bad teams in the NFL. Owner Jimmy Haslam knows that, until this changes, the Browns will be the butt of jokes.
“Until we start winning, people are going to make fun of you,” Haslam said this week at the league meetings in Florida, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. “So it’s our job to get the right people in place to hopefully turn this thing around like we all want to see, and we’re cautiously optimistic we’ve done that.”
The right people may be in place behind the scenes. But whether the right players are in place is a different issue, especially with receiver Travis Benjamin, safety Tashaun Gipson, center Alex Mack, and tackle Mitchell Schwartz departing via free agency.
“We all knew they were good players,” chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta said in Florida, via Ulrich. “We want to get to that point where we have enough of a critical mass of our core guys that it makes sense to retain them all. . . . That day, I think we all felt like, this is going to be our hardest day, and if we can get past this, then it’s looking up from here, which is good. I think we’ll be in a position going forward to go retain a lot of those guys.”
Haslam had similar views.
“We had a plan in place, and I think you have to look at those situations individually,” Haslam said. “[They’re] good players who made good contributions to the organization, but we have a plan in place, and we’re not going to panic and knee jerk over things.”
So how long will it take to turn things around?
“I think it’s multiple years,” Haslam said. “On the other hand, we have a very competitive head coach who wants to win every game. But the key theme to take away is that we feel really good about the group we have in place. They’re working together extremely well, and we’re going to be very patient with them and give them time to develop the plan we put together.”
The real question is whether Haslam will have the patience to see the current plan through. It’s easy to commit when the record is 0-0. If/when the losses mount, will Haslam lose faith in his latest new-look front office and coaching staff?
The answer won’t be known unless and until the struggles of past years continue into 2016.