When it comes to the National Football League, it’s the secrets of what goes on behind the scenes that has always been intriguing. It’s kind of like Hollywood in that way. But Hollywood doesn’t bring you inside meeting rooms and locker rooms for an up-close and personal look at how an NFL franchise operates.
Whether it’s Amazon’s All or Nothing series, which follows a team for an entire season, or the show that started it all, Hard Knocks, which chronicles a team throughout its training camp, there’s nothing like getting to see something you shouldn’t be seeing. It’s part of the allure. It’s why I sit through them all — even the ones with teams I despise, like the Dallas Cowboys. But there’s something so appealing about seeing what goes on behind closed doors. To quote Hamilton: “I wanna be in the room where it happens.” So the next best thing? Hard Knocks.
The Cleveland Browns will be featured on Hard Knocks’ 13th season, and there are plenty of intriguing storylines to start thinking about. Whether it’s Baker Mayfield or the new receivers or Hue Jackson, there’s plenty to be watching for.
But this isn’t the Cleveland Browns team you’re expecting. This isn’t a team that’s going to go 0-16 or even 1-15. At least, it’s highly unlikely after all the moves they’ve made. Dare we hope that the Browns might actually be, I don’t know, not bad? I don’t know. I don’t think I can live in a world where the Browns aren’t the worst team in football. It just doesn’t seem right.
Here are 5 storylines we’re excited to see play out:
1. The Baker Mayfield Show
From the moment it became evident that the Cleveland Browns would be featured on the new season of Hard Knocks (due to the criteria of it all), I found myself praying for the Browns to draft Baker Mayfield. Because he’s the kind of guy that you want to feature. He’s the kind of guy that’s going to have everyone talking. He’s the kind of guy that was born to be in the spotlight. As Mayfield heads into his rookie season, he sits behind veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor, whom the Browns traded for in the offseason. It’ll be intriguing to watch Mayfield lay his foundation in Cleveland and working with Taylor and these new weapons John Dorsey brought in this offseason. Mayfield might not be the starter on the field come week 1. But you better your ass he’ll be the starter in Hard Knocks’ focal point.
2. Upgraded Receiving Corp.
Cleveland was certainly the talk of free agency and trades this offseason as their 0-16 record drove them to make some bold and necessary moves. For once, the optimism that Browns fans cling to early in the offseason…actually makes sense. Like, it’s logical thinking. The Browns brought in Tyrod Taylor and drafted Baker Mayfield. They already had a good defense. Now, they have a receiving corp. that is going to be an exciting one to watch in newly acquired Jarvis Landry and returning veteran Josh Gordon. There’s also former first-round selection Corey Coleman and rookie Antonio Callaway, who look to add some flashes behind those two vets. There’s a lot of talent in that receiving room. Not to mention a lot of charisma, which is great for television.
3. Dead Head Coach Walking
Hue Jackson believes that he did a good job last season as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. That’s after he led his team to a 0-16 record, extending his two-year record to 1-31. Not exactly the results that spell confidence, but the Browns must’ve seen enough to keep him around for another season. Although that’s perhaps the closest thing to a miracle one can get, especially in a results-driven league like the NFL. I wonder if we’ll get an open with snippets from the Browns 0-16 season and the calls for Jackson’s job? Because Jackson had a lot of quotes that a media outlet could have fun with. Hard Knocks loves a good underdog story. And what’s a better underdog story than a 1-31 head coach in sports’ most unfortunate city looking to get this once great team back to glory? Or just more than a single win, honestly. But most importantly, will we get to see Jackson make good on his promise to jump into Lake Erie since the Browns went 0-16? Because if we don’t get that, then what are we even doing here?
4. Defensive Promise
When you hear 0-16, you assume that everything is bad. Not just bad, but dumpster fire bad. All around. Because, try as you might, it’s pretty difficult to go 0-16 in the NFL. But the 0-16 Cleveland Browns, despite their horrid offense, actually had a pretty good defense that put its offense in positions to win only to blow it. The Browns have a good defense, not a great defense. Because if they had a great defense, that defense would’ve been able to win them at least one game. That’s what dominant defenses do. But with more experience and the core group they had with Myles Garrett and bringing in first round pick Denzel Ward, the Browns have the chance to become even better. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is doing something really special in Cleveland. And he has a chance to do something great.
5. Fandom Woes
There is no fandom more beguiled or cursed than that of Cleveland fans. Or, in this case, Cleveland Browns fans. While far from the only franchise that has long made its fans suffer, the Browns have mastered it like a fine art. Why not just make your fans suffer when you can torture them? Why not fire a coach that’s gone 1-31 when you can keep him? Why keep drafting high in the first round of the NFL draft when you can take the worst players? Why be a good team when you can be the Cleveland Browns? No doubt a focus of this Hard Knocks will be the long embattled fanbase. But perhaps this time, the narrative will favor a more optimistic direction.
Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Cleveland Browns premieres August 7 at 10pm on HBO.