There have been plenty of storylines to take in from the first few days of Cleveland Browns training camp. The constant watch of backup quarterback Johnny Manziel. Wondering whether or not Terrelle Pryor can convert to a wide receiver and make the team. Trying to see if Josh McCown is a legit option to start for Cleveland.
One of the bigger things worth noting is how, for the first time since 2012, the coaching staff in camp is the same one the team ended the previous season with.
Owner Jimmy Haslam has developed a nasty reputation of having little patience for losing (in a place where it happens often, nonetheless). Since buying the Browns in 2012, he’s fired two coaches and two front offices. After hiring coach Mike Pettine and promoting Ray Farmer to GM before last season, many thought he would clean house yet again as the team lost five straight to end the year.
Both survived, and come into this season hoping to keep the streak alive. But, with Cleveland picked by many to have a rough season in 2015, there’s reason to believe an extra year is all Pettine and Farmer get. Haslam, though, claimed otherwise yesterday at practice when asked if the two were on short leashes.
“We’re not going to blow things up, OK?” Haslam said Saturday. “I think we’re on the right track, so we’re not going to blow things up.
“[I] Understand why people might ask that after a couple bumps in the road the first couple years. I think we’re putting in place a good foundation.”
For Pettine and Farmer, and even the fans in a sense, this was likely pleasant to hear. All the Browns have done since returning in 1999 is fail, rebuild and fail again. However, if I were them, I wouldn’t get too excited just yet.
Quite frankly, it’s easy for Haslam to give Pettine and Farmer a vote of confidence just days into camp. Ask him again this December if Cleveland’s wrapping up another disappointing season.
The fact of the matter is Haslam’s words don’t mean anything right now. He can rant and rave about how much he loves the place the team is in now. How he’s psyched to have a great foundation to build of off. How neat the concept of consistency is when you actually see it in person.
At the same time, if this season goes the same way every pundit thinks it will, the urge to clean house will be a whole lot stronger than it is right now.
Remember, everything was fine and well last year when the Browns were 7-4 and fighting for a playoff spot. Pettine and Farmer were each receiving their fair share of kudos for turning a moribund franchise around, while fans were enjoying the rare feeling of being above .500 deep into the season.
Then the losing started up again. Quarterback Brian Hoyer’s luck fell apart, Manziel came in to replace him and proceeded to fall flat on his face. A team once flirting with its first playoff berth since 2002 lost its final five games and took its rightful place at the bottom of the AFC North.
Suddenly, rumors of Haslam cleaning house started permeating again. There seemed to be more than a few within the Browns beat who thought the owner was about to hit the restart button for the third straight winter. Sure, he ended up keeping the current staff. But, as we all know, rumors don’t just come out of nowhere.
So, yes, it’s great to hear Haslam open camp by insisting he’s finally ready to create an atmosphere of consistency in a place you’d think was allergic to such a thing. Not having him trot out and claim it’s playoffs or bust for the current staff is more than a relief, especially considering the outlook for Cleveland this year.
However, I would urge everyone – including Pettine and Farmer – to take these words with a grain of salt.
The Browns are in dire need of consistency, and to have an owner who claims he’s willing to finally let such a thing develop in Cleveland is hardly a negative. At the end of the day, though, these things are tougher to say if the team you own is finishing up another 4-12 season.
Fans can rejoice in what appears to be a change in management style from Haslam all they want. I’ve seen this movie too many times to celebrate a potential Year 3 of the Pettine/Farmer regime this early.
Ask me in December.