Browns owners realistic about team’s chances

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — After so many miserable seasons, including a winless one four years ago, numerous coaching mistakes, front-office flubs and busted draft picks, Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam finally have a legitimate team.

Maybe even a Super Bowl contender.

They’re optimistic __ and cautious.

“Listen,” Jimmy Haslam said Saturday at training camp. “With our record the previous few years, we’re realistic as to how hard it is to win in the NFL.”

But Cleveland’s strong 2020, which included an 11-5 regular-season record, the team’s first playoff appearance since the 2002 season and its first postseason win since 1994, has Browns fans believing their long wait for a title could be nearing an end.

The Haslams covered a wide variety of topics during their annual state-of-the-team availability. They revealed that Paul DePodesta, the team’s chief strategy officer credited with the Browns’ turnaround, signed a five-year extension last year.

The team never announced the deal, which aligns him with the contracts given to coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry. Stefanski was voted the AP’s top coach last season.

DePodesta was a surprising hire in 2016 because he lacked NFL knowledge after a successful stint as a Major League Baseball executive. He settled in, got himself up to speed and was the one who led the searches that ended with Cleveland hiring Berry and Stefanski following the 2019 season.

“It lines up with the other guys,” Jimmy Haslam said. ”That makes all the sense, and we’re super-excited about that. Paul’s not the type, you don’t need to announce something on Paul’s behalf, but he’s going to be with us for a significant amount of time.”

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