After Jimmy and Dee Haslam bought the Cleveland Browns in 2012, little went well for the organization.
Beginning with their first year as owners, and continuing until 2020, the Haslams’ hired and fired six coaches.
They are now on their seventh head coach in Kevin Stefanski.
Also during their tenure as owners, the Browns have put together a 44-99-1 record.
This includes the 2020 season.
14 starting quarterbacks have been employed under the Haslams’. (Current QB Baker Mayfield has easily outplayed the motley assortment of former signal callers).
In addition to these underwhelming facts, the Browns put together their only winless season in team history (2017) with the Haslams’ in control.
However, there is reason for optimism in The Forest City.
Beginning in 2020, things started to improve for the Browns and the Haslams’.
No longer is the team the laughingstock of the AFC (or NFL for that matter).
The team has a reigning NFL Coach of the Year, a first rate offense, new toys on defense, and they were only a handful of points from playing in the AFC title game last season.
This tweet is dedicated to Jimmy and Dee Haslam. As much as we the fans have been through, They have also weathered the storm and finally have the pieces in place to have success once again in Cleveland! The work has just begun, but the foundation is there. Here’s to the Haslams! pic.twitter.com/pqh7HCfzKX
— Jason Hand @BrownsHuddle (@BrownsHuddle) June 29, 2019
Begrudgingly, it may be time to admit that the Haslams’ are starting to turn around the fortunes of the Browns.
Given their roster and the talent at every position, this squad may be in the running for a Super Bowl berth in 2021 or 2022.
After much consideration, here are the Haslams’ three best moves taking over in 2012.
3) Firing Hue Jackson
The Haslams’ hiring of Hue Jackson in 2016 wasn’t that much of a reach.
Before taking the reins as the Raiders head coach in 2011, he was a respected offensive coach at both the college and pro levels.
As Oakland’s offensive coordinator in 2010, the team finished fourth in the AFC and sixth in the NFL in scoring (25.6 points per game).
The Raiders also finished fifth in the AFC and 10th in the NFL in total offense (354.6 yards per game), and second in the NFL and AFC in rushing (155.9 yards per game).
Additionally, they racked up more points throughout the ‘10 season (410 points) than in 2009 (197).
During his lone season as the chief decision maker, the Raiders failed to improve in the win column.
Their final record was 8-8, the same record former coach Tom Cable had in 2010.
Jackson may have survived to lead Oakland in 2012, but the death of long time owner Al Davis, a new GM, and discipline issues led the organization to cut him loose.
Between 2012-2015, Jackson coached in Cincinnati on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
Then, in 2016, the Haslams’ hired Jackson to be their new head coach after firing Mike Pettine.
Things did not start out well for Jackson in Cleveland.
In 2016, the team won only one game.
Then, despite promises of an improved team in 2017, the Browns did not win a single game for the first time in the organization’s history.
Even with a 1-31 record, the Haslams’ stayed with Jackson to begin the 2018 season.
When the team hit the halfway mark at 2-5-1, the owners finally realized the error of their ways and gave Jackson his walking papers.
Interim coach Gregg Williams then took the same squad for the remaining eight games and finished 5-3.
— ESPN Cleveland (@ESPNCleveland) October 29, 2018
It’s a stretch to call this a “best move,” especially since the Haslams’ actually thought Jackson would improve in ‘18.
However, they eventually acknowledged their gaffe and pulled the plug on the embattled coach.
2) Hiring Kevin Stefanski
After they let Jackson go, the Haslams’ decided not to keep Williams as their new head coach.
They also passed on Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski and settled on offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens.
We know by now that Kitchens underperformed in 2019 and was shown the door after the season.
Reversing course from their 2019 decision, the Haslams’ hired Stefanski away from Minnesota before 2020.
He has been just what the doctor ordered for Cleveland.
Breaking: The Browns are planning to hire Vikings OC Kevin Stefanski as their head coach, a source confirmed to ESPN. First reported by NFL Network. pic.twitter.com/c3SdjJtN8q
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 12, 2020
In his first year as a head coach, the Browns reached 11 wins for the first time since 1994.
They also made it to the postseason for the first time since 2002.
Then, they won a playoff game.
The last time that happened was also ‘94.
The Browns offense hummed along in 2020 and Mayfield had arguably his best year as a pro.
Stefanski did a masterful job bringing in established offensive coaches to help tutor their offensive line and work with their backs and receivers.
This past offseason, the team signed and drafted a number of players for their defense.
Suddenly, Cleveland is a dark horse candidate for the Super Bowl in 2021.
It took them a little while, but the Haslams’ finally found the right guy for the job.
1) Picking up Baker Mayfield’s Fifth Year Option for 2022
Although the Haslams’ gave Hue Jackson another shot in 2018, they were fortunate when the team selected Mayfield out of Oklahoma with the first pick in the ‘18 draft.
Baker had a strong rookie year, regressed under Kitchens in 2019, and performed very well this past season.
After getting pounded to the tune of 40 sacks in 2019, Stefanski and crew went to work, overhauling Mayfield and the play book.
The result was Baker’s lowest interception total of his career (8) and a QBR of 72.2 (his best as a pro).
The offensive staff tinkered with Mayfield to correct some of his footwork and pocket issues.
The result was a vastly improved record and a rare trip to the postseason.
Thankfully, this past April, the team picked up Mayfield’s fifth year option for 2022.
That seemed like a given before it happened, but given Cleveland’s quarterback carousel of the past two decades, anything was possible.
Keeping Baker for at least the next two years was a sensible move by the Haslams’.
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) April 23, 2021
For the first eight years of their ownership, the Haslams’ looked hopelessly out of their depth when it came to running a professional football team.
Fortunately, things are looking up for the organization.
Cleveland can only hope that the Haslams’ trust their people and continue to make good decisions in the future.