On August 2, team owner Randy Lerner sold the controlling interest of the Browns to Tennessee businessman Jimmy Haslam. Haslam is the owner of Pilot Flying J travel centers and was previously a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The amount of the sale was in excess of US $1 billion.
The sale is complete pending approval by the NFL owners. A vote is expected in the next owners' meeting in October.
On January 23, the Browns hired former Tennessee Titans' assistant secondary coach Tim Hauck to replace Henderson as defensive backs coach. Hauck was on the Titans' staff from 2009–2010, and served as an assistant at the collegiate level prior to that.
^[a] On Draft Day, The Browns acquired the Minnesota Vikings' first-round pick (No. 3) for their own first- (No. 4), fourth- (No. 118), fifth- (No. 139) and seventh- (No. 211) round selections.
^[b] The Browns acquired the Atlanta Falcons' 2012 first- (No. 22) and fourth- (No. 118, traded to Minnesota) round selections and 2011 first-, second-, and fourth-round selections for Cleveland's 2011 first-round selection.
^[c] The Browns traded their third-round pick (No. 67) to the Denver Broncos for their third- (No. 87) and fourth- (No. 120) round picks.
On July 12, the Browns selected WR Josh Gordon of Baylor with a second round pick in the supplemental draft. The Browns will forfeit their second round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Gordon became only the second player drafted by the Browns in the supplemental draft, the other being QB Bernie Kosar in 1985.
On May 10, starting DT Phil Taylor tore his left pectoral muscle while doing bench presses in the weight room. Taylor, the Browns' 1st round draft choice in 2011, will be out for several months and may miss the entire season.
A member of the Browns' grounds crew killed himself at their practice facility in Berea, Ohio, a team spokesman said Sunday, December 2, 2012. The man's body was found Saturday morning, December 1, 2012, at the facility in suburban Cleveland, the same day Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher committed suicide after killing his girlfriend. Browns spokesman Neal Gulkis confirmed to The Associated Press that a team employee died of a suicide, but provided no other details. He released a statement calling the man a good friend and an outstanding employee and saying the team's heartfelt condolences go out to his family.
The Browns opened their season against the Philadelphia Eagles. They would get their first points of the 2012 season when Phil Dawson kicked a 43-yard field goal to make the score 3–0 for the only points of the opening quarter. The Eagles responded to tie the game at 3–3 when Alex Henery kicked a 42-yard field goal followed by Michael Vick finding Jeremy Maclin in the end zone on an 18-yard touchdown pass to make the halftime score 10–3. Heading into the 3rd quarter and extending into the 4th, the Browns scored 13 unanswered points starting with Dawson's field goals from 42 (for the only score of the quarter) and 22 yards out shortening the Eagles' lead from 4 to just a point from 10–6 to 10–9. And then, the Browns retook the lead when D'Qwell Jackson ran for a 13-yard touchdown for a 16–10 game. However, the Eagles were able to complete the comeback as Vick found Clay Harbor on a 4-yard pass making the final score 17–16.
The Browns started their season 0–1 for the 8th straight year.
After a tough home loss to the Eagles, the Browns traveled on the road to take on the Bengals for Round 1 of the Battle Of Ohio. With less than 2 minutes, the Bengals scored as Pacman Jones would return a punt 81 yards for a touchdown making the score 7–0. The Browns responded with Phil Dawson's 50-yard field goal to come within 4 at 7–3. In the 2nd quarter Andy Dalton found A.J. Green on a 10-yard touchdown pass making the score 14–3 for an 11-point lead. The Browns followed up with Trent Richardson running for a 32-yard touchdown making the score 14–10 but the Bengals pulled away as Mike Nugent nailed a 39-yard field goal for a 17–10 halftime lead. In the 3rd quarter, the Bengals went right back to work when Dalton found Brandon Tate on a 44-yard touchdown pass to increase their lead to 24–10. Again, the Browns tried to rally by coming in just a touchdown short with Brandon Weeden's first NFL career touchdown pass: A 23-yard pass to Richardson to make the score 24–17. The Bengals pulled away in the 4th quarter as Dalton found Andrew Hawkins on a 50-yard pass making the score 31–17 but again, the Browns tried to rally by coming within a touchdown as Weeden found Greg Little on a 24-yard pass making the score 31–24. After this, the Bengals moved ahead by double digits for the first time since leading by 14 in the 3rd quarter with Nugent's 37-yard field goal for a 34–24 lead. The Browns tried to rally a comeback but could only come away with 3 points as Dawson nailed a 25-yard field goal for a final score of 34–27.
With the loss, the Browns fell to 0–2. Also, with the Steelers' victory over the Jets, the team now sits in sole possession of last place in the AFC North as well as losing by a certain number of points increasing as the weeks go by from losing to the Eagles by a point in Week 1 to losing to the Bengals by 7 points in Week 2.
The Browns returned home for a home game against the Bills. Again, the Browns fell behind and would never lead a game for the 2nd straight week as Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick found T.J. Graham on a 9-yard touchdown pass for a 7–0 lead followed up by Fitzpatrick finding C.J. Spiller on a 32-yard touchdown pass for a 14–0 lead. The Browns got on the board in the 2nd quarter when Trent Richardson ran for a 6-yard touchdown to make the score 14–7 at halftime. However, the Bills went back to work in the 3rd quarter as Rian Lindell nailed a 37-yard field goal to take a 10-point lead of 17–7. The Browns tried to rally coming within 3 points of the Bills when Brandon Weeden found Travis Benjamin on a 22-yard pass coming with 3 at 17–14. However, the Bills pulled away and wrapped this game up as Fitzpatrick found Steve Johnson on a 9-yard touchdown pass for a final score of 24–14.
With the loss, the Browns fell to 0–3 with their loss by a certain number of points worsened to 10.
The Browns traveled to Baltimore to take on the Ravens on Thursday Night Football. After a scoreless first quarter, the Ravens scored first in the second quarter as Joe Flacco found Torrey Smith on an 18-yard touchdown pass (with a failed PAT) for a 6–0 lead. The team increased their lead as Justin Tucker made a 45-yard field goal to make the score 9–0. Finally, the Browns scored not long before halftime when Trent Richardson ran for a 2-yard touchdown, making the halftime score 9–7. After the break, the Ravens went right back to work as Flacco used a QB sneak 1-yard run for a 16–7 lead. However, The Browns drew within 6 points as Phil Dawson nailed a 51-yard field goal, making the score 16–10. But then, the Ravens pulled away as Cary Williams picked off Weeden and returned the ball 63 yards for a touchdown, making the score 23–10. In the fourth quarter, the Browns tried to come back as Dawson nailed two field goals from 50 and 52 yards out making the score 23–13 and then 23–16, respectively. However, the Ravens took control of the game and the Browns' record dropped to 0–4 on the season, losing their 13th straight game against a division rival and their 9th straight game against the Ravens.
After a tough road loss to the Ravens, the Browns went to face against the Giants on the road. They drew first blood taking a 7–0 lead as Trent Richardson ran for a 15-yard touchdown followed by Brandon Weeden finding Josh Gordon on a 62-yard touchdown pass leaving the Browns with a 14–0 lead. Finally, the Giants were able to get on the board when Eli Manning found Victor Cruz on a 3-yard pass to shorten the lead 14–7. In the 2nd quarter, the Browns moved ahead by double digits again as Phil Dawson kicked a 32-yard field goal for a 17–7. The Giants then again responded by scoring 17 unanswered points before halftime starting by coming within a touchdown off of Lawrence Tynes' 29-yard field goal making the score 17–10. Then the Giants were able to tie it as Ahmad Bradshaw ran for a 4-yard touchdown for a 17–17 score before the Giants took the lead as Manning found Cruz again on a 7-yard pass making the score 24–17. Tynes not long before halftime would make the score 27–17 with his 40-yard field goal. The Giants went right back to work in the third quarter as Manning found Cruz a 3rd time on a 28-yard pass increasing their lead to 34–17. Then the Browns tried to rally a comeback but only came away with Dawson nailing a 41-yard field goal making the score 34–20. Then in the fourth quarter, David Wilson ran for a 40-yard touchdown making the score 41–20. The Browns wrapped up the game scoring with Weeden finding Gordon again on a 20-yard pass for a final score of 41–27.
The Browns dropped to 0–5 on the season. And with the Saints' win over the Chargers on Sunday Night, they remain the league's only winless team.
The Browns returned home for Round 2 of 2012's Battle of Ohio. The Bengals got off to a fast start in the first quarter as Andy Dalton found Jermaine Gresham on a 55-yard touchdown pass making the score 7–0 for the only score of the period. The Browns then managed to tie it as Brandon Weeden found Josh Gordon on a 71-yard touchdown pass for a 7–7 game before the Bengals moved back into the lead with Dalton's 4-yard pass to A.J. Green making the score 14–7 at halftime. The Browns went into a frenzy of points in the 2nd half starting scoring 13 unanswered points starting in the 3rd quarter when Phil Dawson nailed 2 field goals from 41 and 38 yards out making the score 14–10 and then 14–13 respectively. And in the fourth quarter, they took the lead as Montario Hardestly ran for a 1-yard touchdown for a 20–14 lead. The Bengals came within 3 as Mike Nugent kicked a 44-yard field goal making the score 20–17. But the Browns increased their lead with 2 straight touchdowns as Weeden found Benjamin Watson on a 4-yard pass followed by Sheldon Brown who returned an interception 17 yards for a touchdown making the score 27–17 and then 34–17. The Bengals tried to rally a comeback as Dalton found Green again on a 57-yard pass. But the Bengals failed to rally and therefore lost this game by a final score of 34–24 as the Browns managed to snap their 4-game losing streak to the Bengals as well as their 13-game losing streak to division rivals as they improved to 1–5 with the win.
The Browns traveled to Indianapolis to take on an Andrew Luck-led Colts offense. The Colts were able to score in the first quarter as Andrew Luck ran for a 3-yard touchdown making the score 7–0 for the only score of the game. The Browns responded in the 2nd quarter coming within a point when Brandon Weeden found Greg Little on a 14-yard pass (with a failed PAT) making the score 7–6. Then, Luck ran for another touchdown this time from 5 yards out to make the score 14–6 at halftime. The Browns came within a point again in the 3rd quarter as Weeden found Josh Gordon on a 33-yard pass making the score 14–13 but the Colts wrapped things up with Adam Vinatieri's 38-yard field goal followed by a scoreless 4th quarter making the final score 17–13 as the Browns' road record at this point of the season was 0–4 while their record overall was 1–6.
In rainy and windy conditions, Trent Richardson would score the game's only touchdown running from 26 yards out for a 7–0 lead. The Chargers managed to get on the board as Nick Novak score a 43-yard field goal before halftime making the score 7–3. The Chargers would then score the only 2nd half points in the 3rd quarter with Novak scoring a 31-yard field goal making the score 7–6. The Browns' defense would then hold a game where the opponent doesn't score a touchdown winning by only a point and increasing their record to 2–6 and their home record to 2–2.
The Ravens took a 14–0 lead after the first quarter, but the Browns took the lead with five consecutive field goals from Phil Dawson. However, the Ravens retook the lead for good in the fourth quarter. With their 10th-straight loss to the Ravens, the Browns went into their bye week at 2–7.
The Browns came into Cowboys Stadium leading 13–0 at halftime. However, the lead was blown as the Browns were outscored 20–7 in the 2nd half with the Cowboys kicking a late field goal to tie the game at 20–20 and send it into overtime. There, the Cowboys would kick the game-winning field goal, dropping the Browns to 2–8 and 0–3 against the NFC East.
Although the Steelers scored first on a 53 yd interception return by Lawrence Timmons, the Browns benefited from eight Pittsburgh turnovers and the Browns defeated the Steelers 20–14. This was the first Browns victory over the Steelers since Week 14 of the 2009 season, and only the fifth time the Browns beat the Steelers since returning to the NFL in 1999. The Browns would become the only AFC North team on the season to successfully defend their home territory against the Steelers. After the game, it was announced that team president Mike Holmgren would leave the Browns effective immediately.
Behind Brandon Weeden's career high passing day (364 yds), the Browns defeated the Oakland Raiders 20–17, snapping a 12 game road losing streak, and their first consecutive wins since Weeks 2 and 3 of the 2011 season.
Helped by a 93-yard punt return by Travis Benjamin (the longest punt return for a touchdown in franchise history), the Browns defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 30–7 for their first three game win streak since 2009, improving their current season to 5–8 and 3–0 against the AFC West. With losses by the Bengals and Steelers (both 7–6), the Browns still remain in playoff contention moving up to only two games behind their two longest rivals. This remains the Browns' most recent December victory. As of January 2015, the Browns have lost 12 consecutive December games.
With the loss, the Browns fell to 5–9 and were eliminated from the postseason contention. This loss clinched the team's fifth straight losing season and 12th in the 14 years since rejoining the NFL. The Browns were 4–4 in home games.
With the loss, the Browns dropped to 5–10 on the season, and as a result they officially clinched 4th-place in the AFC North for the second straight season since they still remained two games behind the 3rd-place Steelers (7–8), who got booted from the playoff race by the Bengals earlier that day.
Next week the Browns look to win in Pittsburgh for the first time since 2003, and sweep the Steelers for the first time since 1988.
After a tough loss at the Broncos, the Browns traveled to Pittsburgh for game 2 of the 2012 series. The Browns were able to tie the game at 3–3 and then 10–10. However, they were overpowered by the Steelers as they scored 14 unanswered points to make the final score 24–10. The Browns would go on to lose the game finishing 5–11 for the season. They finished 1–7 in games away from home.
On December 31, the day after the final regular season game, the Browns fired head coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert. In two seasons as Browns head coach, Shurmur posted a record of 9–23, including a disappointing 2–10 mark within the division (1–3 vs. the Bengals and Steelers and 0–4 vs. the Ravens).
On December 26, T Joe Thomas and K Phil Dawson were recognized for their individual accomplishments by being named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster. Thomas, who will be the starting left tackle, is making his sixth consecutive appearance in the Pro Bowl, while this is the first Pro Bowl appearance for Dawson in his 14-year career.