Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Entering their sixth year as owners of the Browns, Dee and Jimmy Haslam appear to be doing more of the right things.
Fans wanted true football men making football decisions. Check.
Fans wanted no expenses spared and no stones unturned in upgrading the roster. Check.
Fans wanted the No. 1 overall pick used on a franchise quarterback hopeful. Check.
Fans wanted the quick-trigger coaching carousel to end. Check.
Now, about that last one.
When the Haslams finally discovered the virtue of patience, they applied it to a coach that won one game in two seasons. That Hue Jackson would be the first Haslam coach to see a third year -- despite a 1-31 record – leaves most fans flabbergasted and unconfident they will ever get it right.
Jackson was the first top coaching choice the Haslams were able to land. They bestowed him a mulligan no coach in NFL history has ever received.
“We are excited about Hue Jackson,” Jimmy said Saturday in his traditional training camp address now jointly attended by wife Dee. “I think our commitment to him has been unwavering and still is.
“I think we will see the real Hue Jackson. He has good quarterbacks, he has some skill players, he has veteran offensive line – now, we have to figure out left tackle – and three really good backs and a good defense.
“I think you have heard me say this several times: you have to give Hue credit for bringing in [offensive coordinator] Todd Haley, which I think will allow Hue to be the head coach.
“I think this will be the first opportunity Hue will have to do what we know he can do as head coach and as a leader. Even though Todd’s calling all the shots on offense, I think Hue will obviously have some impact there like he will on defense. We are excited to see it.”
Viewed a different way, you could say Jackson is out of excuses.
The character issue: While new GM John Dorsey has created excitement with an aggressive first transaction season, he also showed he hasn’t shaken off his Achilles heel in Kansas City.
That would be a blind spot for players with character issues. It created friction with coach Andy Reid and contributed to Dorsey’s demise with the Chiefs.
Dorsey’s first Browns draft included a risk-reward selection of Antonio Callaway in the fourth round. Callaway boasts a lot of football talent, but also had the longest rap sheet at Florida of any player in the 2018 draft.
And this week alone, Dorsey has worked out former Bengals bad boy Adam (Pacman) Jones, a serial NFL personal conduct policy violator, and reportedly entered into negotiations with former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, a notorious bad apple who this week threw a Twitter temper tantrum at his former team.
“We talk about [character] a lot, organizationally,” Jimmy said. “John, Hue, Dee, myself, the coaches and some of the personnel groups will have a thorough discussion of players’ ability, as well as any off-field issues there may or may not be and how they fit into our chemistry and culture.
“Between our staff and our personnel group, they know a lot of people throughout the league, so I think we can do pretty good background checks. I think you all know and have been around the game a long time, not everybody is as advertised either good nor bad, and it is up to our personnel group and coaching group to do a good job of checking these players’ backgrounds.”
Dee Haslam is one of five owners on the recently created NFL conduct committee.
On the issue of adding questionable character to the locker room, she said, “The personnel group sits down, and they are trying to build the best team possible. They spend a lot of time on that, and I am sure that they will ask our opinion or let us weigh in on it, but we really do let the personnel group and the coaching staff come together and make these decisions. It is really important for them to do that.”
This hands-off approach could be viewed as commendable, but there is a line not to cross and Dorsey is straddling it.
Other issues: The Haslams’ position on troubled receiver Josh Gordon is defensible.
“This is a difficult situation,” Jimmy said. “Josh has clearly struggled with addiction – he would tell you that – over a long period of time. I think that we saw a different Josh Gordon here in the spring and during workouts. He is working hard. We are going to continue to work with the person and try to help him out both personally and professionally until it does not make sense.”
The Haslams also deserve high marks for creating a healthy dialogue with their players and community law enforcement leaders on the issue of social justice reform.
They regret reacting slowly after players knelt for the anthem before the second preseason game last year. But they since have been as active as any ownership in furthering the conversation through several summits with community leaders.
“We should have … gotten with our players right away,” Jimmy said. “We waited a couple of weeks. Lesson learned for us, and I would argue for the country, if that does not sound embellished, just sit down and talk it through. Once we sat down around the table, we realized that we had a tremendous amount in common.
“We always respect our players. I think we came away from that meeting with more respect than we have ever had. Hopefully, they did the same. They are very comfortable with interacting with us in that manner about these issues.”
The Haslams are also right in initiating discussions about a long-range stadium and lakefront development plan 10 years in advance of when the Browns’ lease expires at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Now all they have to do is get the quarterback and coach right, fix the unfortunate uniform situation, and win something – and they’ll be on their way to a more peaceful tenure as owners of the most important sports team in Cleveland.