‘Hard Knocks: Cleveland Browns’ 1×01 Review: I Was Actually Entertained by the Browns?

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It’s a known truth that the Cleveland Browns is a franchise cursed. Cursed with bad luck. Cursed with too many failed draft picks to name. Cursed with not just bad, but terrible quarterbacks. Cursed with losing again and again and again. Cursed with never having learned how to change that losing culture.

“No more freaking losing,” Hue Jackson, who went 1-31 as head coach in two seasons and still somehow has a job, says at one point during HBO’s Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Cleveland Browns.

Well, let’s hope so. Or, in the other 31 fan bases that are not the Browns, let’s hope not. Let’s be honest, the Browns being a perennial loser is one of the few constants in this world. It’s like knowing, the grass is green, the sky is blue, puppies are adorable, and the Green Bay Packers suck. All constants, all truths.

Honestly, I shudder to imagine a world where the Cleveland Browns aren’t bad. It’d be the equivalent of pigs flying. Or the apocalypse happening. Though with all of the bullshit happening in our world today, the Browns being good would definitely fit the world flipping on its side.

In the opening sequence of the Hard Knocks’ premiere, we’re presented with the radical change happening in Cleveland sports. Where Lebron James’ departure still stings with the pain of a thousand knives. Where fans want so desperately to believe that the Browns can deliver them anything more than a perfect, winless season. Where it’s hard to have hope when a team has fooled you once, twice, thirty times.

But the premiere preached one message loud and clear: This isn’t your father’s Cleveland Browns. Or, at least that’s the goal. There was even a cleanse — getting rid of that losing stink that has festered over the course of several decades. The Browns aren’t just tired of being losers. They’re determined to prove it.

Look no further than the Browns’ offseason to see that this team is headed in a new direction. With a defensive powerhouse in Myles Garrett, last year’s No. 1 pick, already in place, the Browns went out and drafted Denzel Ward to help strengthen that secondary.

But it’s typically been the offense that has been the source of many woes for this beguiled franchise. So what do you do? Trade for superstar receiver in Jarvis Landry, to complement the dangerous Josh Gordon. Sign a veteran quarterback with plenty to prove in Tyrod Taylor. Oh, and duh, draft your future franchise quarterback Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick.

I typically either really enjoy Hard Knocks or really hate it. It really depends on the team. And I can’t believe I’m actually typing this, but I actually enjoyed this Browns premiere. That’s right. I actually got enjoyment from the Browns that doesn’t involve the Bears beating them. Or laughing in just how cursed this franchise has been. The way that Hard Knocks is framing this season — incorporating the cast of characters — is brilliant. You have the young, charismatic superstar in Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett the humble punisher, Jarvis Landry the passionate leader, and Hue Jackson the heart that keeps them together.

“This is going to be the start of something great,” Jackson tells his team not only because he has to but he actually believes it. This very well could be the start of something good, maybe great. After all, there’s nowhere to go but up when you go 0-16.


Three Stars


1. Baker Mayfield | If there was any doubt heading into Hard Knocks that No. 1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield and his charismatic demeanor would be a star on this show, that’s immediately put to rest. Well, as immediately as the six minutes it took for Baker to finally appear on screen. That was a shock. Honestly, I’m personally offended that Baker wasn’t in the intro. Might have to rewatch for educational purposes, but that was certainly surprising.

Fun facts about Baker: He likes Taco Bell, loves Bob Evans, loves his momma, is not an early bird, has terrible penmanship, bought an RV as his rookie initiation (QBs only!) and wouldn’t be caught dead jumping out an airplane. He also has a terrible singing voice, but the fucker somehow makes that endearing. I also think he might love Diet Coke — and if that’s true I’m willing to propose right here, right now.

You’re either a Baker Mayfield fan or not. I’m definitely a Baker Mayfield fan. I love his don’t-give-a-fuck attitude when it comes to harsh critics and his charismatic personality and the natural leadership he seems to thrive in. It’s going to be fun to watch him on Hard Knocks and beyond.

2. Hue Jackson | If you’d have told me that Hue Jackson — a coach that’s won exactly one game in two seasons and still managed to keep his job — would somehow find his way onto my Three Stars list, I’d have either laughed in your face of nodded vigorously. But there’s no denying that Hue Jackson will act as the heart of Hard Knocks. Everyone has a role: Baker Mayfield is the charismatic star, Myles Garrett the humble destroyer, Jarvis Landry the passionate leader, and Jackson is the persistent force that keeps them all together.

I don’t know how I missed it, but this was the first time I learned that Jackson lost his brother and mother within two weeks of each other. He lost his brother eight days before camp and lost his mother during camp. And yet, there he is out on the practice field coaching his players, leading his team, and giving this game everything he’s got. Damn it, how the hell did this show make me like Hue Jackson?

Also, I totally called it with Jackson making good on his promise and jumping into the lake after the Browns went 0-16 last year. Though he totally should have done that solo. No need to punish the Browns fans anymore than they’ve already suffered.

3. Carl NassibThe last time I thought about Carl Nassib I was half laughing and half concerned about how many penalties he accrued when the Browns played my Chicago Bears on Christmas Eve last season. But Nassib proved to me that he’s so much more than that guy that cost the Browns a potential victory in a winless season. Apparently, Nassib is quite the mathematician.

Hard Knocks gave us a glimpse inside the defensive line room and, color me shocked, there wasn’t any actually football discussion. Rather, it was Nassib explaining to his fellow linemen how to accrue a shit ton of interest or something. Also a bonus at the end of the episode: Nassib did the math when it comes to time spent, not wasted, on Instagram. If you spend 2 hours a day on Instagram, that equates to one month out of the 12-month year. Sorry, Carl, you’re the only one ashamed here.

Look, the Bears have had a freaking rocket scientist at quarterback in the past (Craig Krenzel, God help me I’m drowning in mediocrity and bad quarterbacking), but I’m seriously going to have to look into Nassib’s college major. He had to be a business major. He’s going to be one of those guys that, after football, goes on to have an uber successful business where he’s laughing at all of us. Well, he’s probably doing that already being a millionaire in the NFL.

But, hold up, apparently Nassib bought a Rolex to impress Taylor Swift when he went to one of her concerts? Again, how am I missing out on these gems? I mean, you’re a millionaire so a Rolex is probably nothing to him…even if he’s watching his money.


41 Things You Need to Know About the Hard Knocks Premiere


Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Cleveland Browns airs Tuesdays at 10pm on HBO.

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