In recent years, no one has bothered asking whether the Cleveland Browns still suck. They do. They have. No question.
Until this year — maybe.
It’s at least worth asking the question: are they still a total mess? They’re clearly a bit of a mess. While they star on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” we may just see whether the Browns are still the picture of dysfunction. They may be a healing organization, but there will be plenty dysfunction to see.
Here’s what we’re working with:
- Their head coach Hue Jackson has a fetish for the phrase pied piper, and generally comes off as an idiot in front of cameras.
- Their offensive coordinator Todd Haley once reportedly shattered his pelvis at the bar, Tequila Cowboy.
- Their defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was at the middle of the Bountygate Scandal.
- Their star receiver Josh Gordon, for a long time, couldn’t stop smoking pot.
- Their supremely talented draft pick, Antonio Callaway, also had issues with pot. But that’s not even the least of Callaway’s worries (see: his charges for credit card fraud and sexual assault).
- Their top draft pick, Baker Mayfield, may or may not be legitimately comparable to one of the Browns’ biggest draft busts in the team’s history in Johnny Manziel.
- Their best player and left tackle Joe Thomas retired in an offseason when they drafted a quarterback at No. 1 overall. They’ve got to find a serviceable replacement, and there isn’t an obvious one.
Alright, deep breath. That’s a lot of messed up crap. We’ll get a front row seat with the help of HBO.
But there is reason to believe it won’t be all bad. After all, “Hard Knocks” has long done a good job painting fairly incompetent people, like former Rams coach Jeff Fisher in 2016, as competent. There’s also reason to see a positive likeness of this Browns team and believe they’re for real.
While Jackson will imminently look foolish, Browns general manager John Dorsey and his revolving wardrobe of Browns sweatshirts should be the show’s star. He’ll be a stabilizing force on the show, just like he seems to be in the franchise since arriving.
Mayfield doesn’t seem like Manziel. That should (hopefully) become immediately evident. While Mayfield is probably going to start, the Browns signed Tyrod Taylor as a bridge quarterback in the event Mayfield isn’t ready Week 1. Gordon and Callaway haven’t gotten suspended yet. Trade acquisition Jarvis Landry, while overpaid, is a legitimate, proven football player, who is a positive locker room presence.
The Browns have a lot of problems. But perhaps, with the help of Dorsey, they’re beginning to develop solutions. “Hard Knocks” should be a fun look inside an organization in the throes of decades of dysfunction.
And perhaps we’ll be surprised to see an ebbing level of dysfunction.