Dee and Jimmy Haslam (7.31.21)

Dee and Jimmy Haslam:

Opening statement:

Dee Haslam: “Hi, everybody. We are really happy to have you here in person at CrossCountry (Mortgage) Campus. A great day to have our fans here. We are really excited about that. It has been a long time. It is going to make all the difference to our players having our fans here cheering them on. It is really an exciting time for us. It has been a pretty hard time as all of you have been through. Getting our staff vaccinated 100 percent and our players almost 90 percent vaccinated is great work. We will continue to work on that. Really important for the organization and really important for the health and safety of our team so we will keep working on that. We are also really excited to get back to FirstEnergy Stadium. We are sold out – our season tickets are sold out. We can’t wait to have it full with fans for this really exciting year. Thanks for being here today.”


Jimmy Haslam: “Just to echo what Dee said, it was great to see the fans out here yesterday – I know you all were all here – and the excitement it brings to our players and just to everybody. We really can’t thank our fans enough for just what outstanding fans we have here. They are the best no question about it. (Chief Strategy Officer) Paul (DePodesta), (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Andrew (Berry) and (Head Coach) Kevin (Stefanski) continue to work closely together. I think they put together a good team. We are all realistic that, as Kevin continually preaches, there is a lot of work to do, but certainly feel directionally correct about where we are headed and how things are going. Really excited about practice today. Excited about the full scrimmage next Sunday. Certainly, excited about our exhibition games, having the Giants here for a couple of days and hopefully, get us ready for a big game in Kansas City on September 12.”


On if there is anything the organization did specifically to help the players with their decision to get vaccinated:

Jimmy Haslam: “I think the NFL and the organization have both done a really good job about talking about safety, and health and safety. That is what we preach every day in the NFL, and I think it paid off over a period of time. I think we are at 90-plus percent with the players and 100 percent with the staff. I think it is education of the importance of taking the vaccine.”


On if there is a need to temper excitement for the season, given the high expectations:

Jimmy Haslam: “With our record the previous few years, we are realistic with how hard it is to win in the NFL. I think Dee and I – I will let Dee speak – are very realistic about the role injuries play, breaks, etc. and just how hard it is to win in the NFL. We are excited that people are mentioning us the way they are, but we are also realistic about how much work we have to do and how hard it is to win in the NFL.”


Dee Haslam: “I think that Coach does a really good job of laying out each week and not getting ahead of ourselves. Take each game at a time, he talks about that all the time, and I think we look at it like that, too. It is game to game.”


Jimmy Haslam: “Today is July 31, and our last regular season game is January 10. That is a long time from now.”


On a potential contract extension for QB Baker Mayfield:

Jimmy Haslam: “I think Andrew has answered those questions. Those are best questions for him. He does a really good job for us. I think he has addressed that with you guys already. I will stick with Andrew.”


On how impressed he is by the amount of talent on the team:

Jimmy Haslam: “It is fun. I was talking to one of our senior talent evaluators. I always ask, ‘What do you think? What are you worried about? What do you like? What you don’t like?’ He said, ‘You know, it is clear that we have talent on the field, but now that has to move into wins.’ That is what we got to see happen now. It is exciting. It is fun to be at practice, exciting to see the athletes we have and exciting to see the staff we have.”


On if he could tell during some of the losing seasons that the talent was not there:

Jimmy Haslam: “I am not a football expert, but on the hook, we look good. On the hook, we look good, but it has to translate to wins, right?”


On WR Odell Beckham Jr. saying he feels even better mentally than last year despite the season-ending injury:

Dee Haslam: “I talked to him a little bit on the field yesterday or the day before, and he seemed to be in a great place and really excited about the season. It was great to see.”


Jimmy Haslam: “Hats off to how hard he has worked. He got hurt mid-to-late October and – you all have seen him run and cut – he looks tremendous.”


On DePodesta’s contributions to the Browns in recent years:

Dee Haslam: “Paul is incredibly smart. A great thirst for learning. Having him as part of the organization, guiding the process and being here consistently I think has made a huge difference.”


Jimmy Haslam: “I agree. Very, very smart. Gets up the learning scale very quickly. Has no ego, just like Kevin and Andrew. Is a good team player. Just an all-around great person to work with.”


On the long-term goal for Haslam Sports Group:

Dee Haslam: “We have our hands full right now. I think that is what we are focused on right now is the Crew and the Browns. That is a lot right now. That is our focus. I do not know what is down the road, but that is definitely our focus.”


On if Haslam Sports Group will be the main family business after selling a stake in Pilot Flying J in 2023:

Jimmy Haslam: “We still will own 20 percent of Pilot so we will still have a fairly significant stake in it, and it will always be part of our lives to be honest. Listen, we like sports and we like business. Dee said it right. We feel like we have both the Crew and the Browns in a good place here, but we need to make sure that happens before we add anything else.”


Dee Haslam: “Whitney (Haslam Johnson) and JW (Johnson) are very much involved in all of that so we do consider it definitely a family business.”


On their vision for expanding CrossCountry Mortgage Campus:

Jimmy Haslam: “We are actually excited, and you all see because you come in the back entrance and you see. It is exciting. I will be honest, it is not set in stone. The first goal is to make it even better for the players and the coaches and everybody who works here, the second is to make it better for the fans and the third is to help this community. I think we have a chance to do all that. We do not have concrete plans right now, but a lot of exciting ideas and (Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer) Dave Jenkins and his team are working on those every day. Obviously, we would like this campus to be part of the Browns for a long, long time to come. I will just reiterate what I said, we are excited about what this can be over the next several years.”


On what the Browns are hoping to add to CrossCountry Mortgage Campus:

Jimmy Haslam: “I think we can, particularly once we get by COVID, we can expand the experience here for our fans. You are always looking to see football operation-wise, and Andrew, Kevin will weigh in on what can we do to make it even better for our players. I do not want to get into too much, but I think there are some things we could do for this community in expanding it, also.”


On what has been most impressive about what Berry and Stefanski have been able to accomplish:

Jimmy Haslam: “There are a lot of things, but I would say just how they navigated last year. Let’s face it, you all have been around pro sports a long time, the NFL is hard. It is hard in ideal circumstances, and they came in with something called COVID that none of us really understood. We did not have any practices in the spring. We had no team meetings. Everything was virtual. Every morning between 5:30-6:00 a.m., you would wake up and check, and hope and pray that nobody tested positive, but lots of times, they did. We headed into a playoff game against Pittsburgh without our head coach. I think organizations reflect their leadership, and our team did not blink at all. That is because Kevin and Andrew – you all have been around them – they do not blink. They keep going. They do not make excuses. They understand there are going to be ups and downs. How they navigated last year was exceptionally impressive to us.”


On DePodesta’s contract status:

Jimmy Haslam: “Paul is going to be with us for a significant amount of time. Paul is not the type, you do not need to announce something on Paul’s behalf. He is going to be with us for a significant amount of time.”


On if DePodesta has a new contract:

Jimmy Haslam: “Yes, absolutely. It lines up with the other guys.”


On if Berry, DePodesta and Stefanski are all signed to five-year contracts:

Jimmy Haslam: “Correct. That makes all of the sense. We are super excited about that.”


On if Berry, DePodesta and Stefanski working together has lived up to expectations:

Jimmy Haslam: “I would say better.”


Dee Haslam: “Yeah, more so.”


Jimmy Haslam: “Paul is not here all the time, but they talk every morning at nine o’clock for an hour. They have worked together exceptionally well.”


On their level of concern that COVID protocols and regulations in the NFL and region may be much more restrictive in the fall based on rising numbers, despite decent vaccination rates in the area, and potential contingency plans:

Dee Haslam: “We have been focused on getting the message out that everybody needs to be vaccinated. The Delta variant is obviously something to be of concern, but everything we have been told, if you have had your vaccination, it is not as severe and it is much better. That is what we are hoping. Obviously, we will follow all of the safety protocols and keep up to date on what is going on. I do not think anybody knows at this point. Right now, we are looking forward to having our fans back, and that is what we are thinking about.”


Jimmy Haslam: “I would just add that we watch it here and we watch it at Pilot, and the cases are on the uptick. I would just encourage everyone to take the vaccine and take those shots if you have not already because it is important for your health and safety and it is important for the country.”


On a report that Haslam Sports Group was pursuing a purchase of the Minnesota Timberwolves and HSG issuing a denial:

Jimmy Haslam: “We have looked at a lot of different opportunities over the last year or two.”


On if Haslam Sports Group would prefer to concentrate its holdings in Ohio:

Jimmy Haslam: “It would make sense. We are used to operating all over the place. We evaluate things on a regular basis. Like Dee said, between Dee’s company (RIVR Media), Pilot, the Browns and the Crew, we have a lot going on.”


On how pleased they were that ODOT provided a grant for the city to evaluate the potential for a land bridge and other lakefront development opportunities:

Dee Haslam: “First of all, we are really excited that the city is looking at how to connect Downtown Cleveland to the waterfront. It is something that has been talked about since way before we were here and so many different plans have been put forward. I think the city is really serious. Obviously with the grant, they are really serious about getting something done now. We are obviously a big stakeholder on the lakefront. Having input there was really important so we enjoy working with them. Having input, we look at it as we are one of the pieces of the pie. Right now, we are on the waterfront. We plan to be there. We love where our stadium is. We think once it gets connected, it is just going to be a great experience for not just our fans but anyone who lives and works in Cleveland, and it creates this neighborhood that is so important to the vitality of downtown. That is why we are excited about it.”


On if HSG researched an opportunity to invest in the Cleveland Indians, given the team is currently seeking a minority owner:

Jimmy Haslam: “No, we have not. We have not talked to Paul (Dolan). Paul is a great friend and has done a great job with the Indians, but we have not talked about that.”


On how stressful gamedays were last year for them compared to past seasons:

Dee Haslam: “I think last year was the most stressful year. I spent half of the time out in the hallway pacing. Just the pressure and the expectations of winning is very stressful. I would have to say last year for me was as stressful as any other time. I do not know how Jimmy feels about that.”


Jimmy Haslam: “I think all of that is true. At the same time, it is a blessing and privilege to be an NFL owner or own any type of pro sports team. You have to balance the two.”


On if this year currently feels less stressful:

Dee and Jimmy Haslam “Today does (laughter). Check with us on September 12 (laughter).”


On if it is hard to take things day by day and not get caught up in external Super Bowl expectations when seeing the talent and potential on the Browns roster:

Jimmy Haslam: “It is really not (hard) for me. I will let Dee answer. It is really not because somebody could hurt and things happen. That is just reality. This is a long grind. It is six weeks until our first game. It is a long grind. We understand that, and we are not going to get too excited if we get off to a great start. Last year we lost our first game 38-7, and we did not panic. We came back and won, righted the ship and started playing better. I think you have to approach it that way, and certainly, Kevin and Andrew role model that perfectly.”


On when the Browns knew they had the right combination in leadership with Berry, DePodesta and Stefanski:

Jimmy Haslam: “Like I said, the job they did last year – and it just had to be the hardest year for anybody to lead a pro sports organization – told us a lot. We knew felt good from the get-go, but working through that like they did, seeing them work together and not panic when things happen – keep grinding, keep concentrating, keep building the roster and keep getting better – and we came out really feeling well.”


On what would constitute a successful season for the Browns in 2021:

Jimmy Haslam: “Dee, that is your question (laughter). We are not going to put that on the guys. We all have high expectations. At the same time, we are going to be here for a long time and think we are in a good position to have a good winning organization consistently over a period of time.”


On what RB Nick Chubb means to the team:

Jimmy Haslam: “A great player. An even better person. Can’t say any more than that. Very few people I have met like Nick Chubb.”


Dee Haslam: “A great team player.”


On if Chubb’s intangibles factor into the team’s desire to retain him:

Jimmy Haslam: “Absolutely. I think that would go not just for Nick, but we have a bunch of other players like that. We re-signed Myles because he is a great player but he is also a really good person. I think that is smart, tough and accountable, and that is what we are looking for. The rest is in Andrew’s court.”


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