COMMENTARY | Dear Mr. Haslam,
This letter is an attempt to collect a debt.
When you purchased the Cleveland Browns, you agreed to assume all debt owed by said company, despite much of the liability having been accrued by previous ownership and management over a number of years.
While I understand you have other important obligations (i.e., Pilot Flying J), the Cleveland Browns organization requires your immediate attention.
Cleveland Fans are Heavily Invested
We've invested more than $240 million to help pay for the stadium, including repairs and improvements. We agreed to pay for Personal Seat Licenses (PSLs) for the privilege of buying season tickets. We've invested countless dollars in Browns merchandise, and yes, some of us have even dressed up like dogs.
We've given our hearts to the team, and had them broken year after year.
Let Me Get to the Point: You Owe Us a Winning Product.
We have been strung along for far too long. Every year we hear "rebuilding" yet the team lacks a solid foundation. Do not attempt to tell us "the check is in the mail," or give us a "five year plan". We have done our part for fourteen years and we expect a return on our investment.
Rest assured the moves you made in the draft did not go unnoticed. We know it's hard to judge if a draft is good or bad until you see the team in action, but we're cautiously optimistic about your 2013 draft strategy. We appreciate your not wasting late round draft picks on what many considered a weak draft class. Reinvesting those picks for a stronger group next year could turn out to be a winning strategy.
A Three Year Plan
Although we'd prefer an immediate return on our investment, we understand that you have not been given a fair start and are willing to negotiate a payment plan. A five year program is out of the question, but a three year plan may be accepted on the condition you continue to show good faith. We will expect measurable improvement and evidence that a strong plan is in effect and aggressively managed.
Year One: Give us more than five wins and great communication. Last season five of the games were lost by less than a touchdown, so with new leadership and some fresh young talent this is not an unreasonable expectation. We will consider it a breach of contract if we see an all-around terrible game and hear you say "I like what I saw."
Year Two: We expect a winning season. You bought yourself an opportunity to pick up some quality performers from the class of 2014 that should allow you to trim the fat that may be causing the team to underperform. If it is necessary that you should have to add free agents to fulfill this obligation, we fully expect you to do so.
Year Three: We expect year three to be the payoff year with a team in the playoffs. We realize this may seem like a stretch, but so is asking us to buy season tickets every year for a team that doesn't try to improve. We're confident you can accomplish this.
Mr. Haslam, the draft may be over but you're still on the clock. Show us good faith and we'll support you in any way we can, including but not limited to filling the stadium. I'd like to say that if you fail to make good on this debt you'll see a sea of empty orange seats - but it isn't so. We're Browns fans and we're loyal to a fault.
We look forward to working with you on this matter.
John McCarthy and Browns fans everywhere
John McCarthy is a Yahoo! Contributor covering the Cleveland Browns and Indians as a Cleveland-based sports journalist and editor.Follow John on Twitter @i8paintchips.
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