The Browns will be on ‘Hard Knocks’ in 2018. Here’s what we want to see
Welcome to the NFL, Baker Mayfield.
The NFL announced Thursday that the Cleveland Browns will be featured on the next season of HBO’s Hard Knocks. They were one of six teams that couldn’t decline being the subject of this upcoming season, as per the NFL’s rules.
Those rules were simple: teams don’t have to be on the show if they have a first-year head coach, have been in a playoff game in the past two seasons, or have appeared on Hard Knocks in the past 10 years. That left the Browns, 49ers, Broncos, Chargers, Ravens, and Washington.
We’re hopeful the Browns can provide more excitement than recent seasons of the show. Last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneershad its moments, but was so-so overall. The year before, starring the Los Angeles Rams, was perhaps, the dullest season of Hard Knocks yet.
The Browns, coming off an 0-16 season, have been so bad for so long and have several potentially interesting storylines entering 2018. Here’s what we want to see when the new season of Hard Knocks debuts on Tuesday, Aug. 7:
1. Behind the scenes for one of the NFL’s most dysfunctional franchises
The Browns are one of the most unstable franchises in the league. They have churned through head coaches, general managers, starting quarterbacks, and have an owner who has his share of non-football problems.
Head coach Hue Jackson is their attempt to establish something even remotely along the lines of stability and synergy — and he’s posted a 1-31 record over the past two seasons. Many thought he would be fired this past offseason, but the Browns are taking one last grasp at keeping this crew together before they hit the big red button, which presumably is prominently featured on Jimmy Haslam’s desk with the words “FIRE COACH” on it.
Jackson is an interesting character himself, and seeing him either rise to the occasion in what is a make-or-break year or completely fall apart would make for good viewing.
We don’t want him to fail for our amusement, though it should be fascinating to see if any of that dysfunction will appear on the show. Surely, there will be plenty of it to film, but whether or not it makes it past editing is the real question.
2. Building the Browns should be fun, even when it’s bad
It’s not like we’re rooting for chaos. The Browns coming off well and gaining some support from the general NFL fan base would be great to see! They’re underdogs (even if it’s mostly their fault), and presenting a likable team would be a win for the Browns.
They’re trying to build an actual team, too. They traded for several notable players this offseason, including quarterback Tyrod Taylor, wide receiver Jarvis Landry, and safety Damarious Randall. Then they added potential immediate contributors like Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward, and Nick Chubb in the draft. Now Jackson has to sell the locker room on believing in what he’s trying to do.
3. Jackson will jump into Lake Erie, and that might make the broadcast
At the end of the the 2016 season, Jackson promised that the team would not be 1-15 again.
“No. I’ll be swimming in that lake [Erie] over there somewhere. That’s not happening,” Jackson said.
The Browns went 0-16, worse than the season prior, and Jackson has said he still plans to keep his promise and jump into Lake Erie. He said he was waiting for the weather to get a bit warmer. Last week, the club announced Jackson would take the plunge on June 1 — and donate $100 to charity for each team staffer who joined him.
Razzing the coach could be for a good team-building exercise. Especially punctuated by Jackson promising the Browns will improve so he doesn’t have to do it again.
4. Welcome to the NFL, Baker Mayfield
The Browns shocked quite a few people when they selected Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick in the draft. Love him or hate him, Mayfield has all the confidence and personality to make for good viewing.
Mayfield could turn a lot of people around on him, and those that are already sold should enjoy seeing what the Browns have in store for their first-year quarterback. Mayfield isn’t lacking confidence, and whether you want to see him humbled with a “welcome to the NFL” moment or you want to see him prove his doubters wrong from the get-go, he should be fun to watch.
While Mayfield isn’t guaranteed the starting job by any means, we’ll still get to see his competition with Taylor, a quarterback who always seemed to get the raw end of the deal with the Buffalo Bills. Sign me up.
5. John Dorsey failing to hide his disdain for being on Hard Knocks
Not many teams actually want to be on Hard Knocks. New Browns general manager John Dorsey made it clear earlier in May that he was no exception.
“I don’t think there’s anything good that comes out of Hard Knocks, but we’ll see,” he said on ESPN Cleveland 850.
When the announcement was made, Dorsey tried his best to play nice.
“Like many, I was reluctant about being the featured team on Hard Knocks but once we sat down and talked about it as an organization, I feel a lot better and understand why the time is right,” Dorsey said in a release. “Hue and I both feel like this team is in a good place and that we are in the process of building something that will lead to success. Being a part of Hard Knocks will give our fans the opportunity to see how passionate the people in our building are about winning and how excited we are about getting to work and preparing for the 2018 season.”
Dorsey deserves credit for helping the Browns make moves this offseason, but, likely to his chagrin, he couldn’t keep the team off the show. He’ll probably have to be on the series at some point, and when he does, maybe he’ll play ball. Or even better, maybe he’ll roll his eyes throughout.
6. A Joe Thomas cameo
This March, Browns stalwart left tackle Joe Thomas decided to call it a career. Thomas is a funny guy and he hosts a weekly podcast with another former Brown, Andrew Hawkins. So we hope he’ll make an appearance — even if all he does is make a silly face.
7. Myles Garrett talking about dinosaurs
One of the only highlights of the Rams’ season on Hard Knocks was when Will Hayes discussed dinosaurs — specifically, how he doesn’t believe they ever existed. Myles Garrett, the Browns’ 2017 No. 1 pick, has also been known to talk about dinosaurs. Unlike Hayes, though, Garrett is a huge fan of them.
Even if the topic of dinosaurs doesn’t come up, the show should make it a point to spotlight Garrett. He’s a unique dude with a lot of interests and he has the potential to be a breakout star this season — both on the field and on Hard Knocks.