With the NFL Season set to begin in just over one week, the NFL team with the worst record in the past 24-months is working diligently to make a complete 180° turnaround. The jobs of the coaching staff and players are at the mercy of their own talent. Some players will not get a roster spot going into the NFL season. Likewise, if more “Ws” than “Ls” are accumulated on the Cleveland Brown’s record, most likely there will be a mass exodus of the coaching staff. This is the temperament of the NFL. One could make all of the right calls, not miss any tackles, and assemble the best talent possible; yet still not make expectations.
It’s still serious business, but in the spirit of the three previous episodes, shenanigans ensue, starting with the music selection during practice. An offensive lineman requests the soothing ballads of Al Green instead of the usual mix of rap and heavy metal, prompting questioning of manhood jokes from other players and the offensive coordinator. This was mildly humorous, but the “You play hurt” montage by Jarvis Landry, involving a staged clip of Landry forcing players in casts and wheelchairs to play, is very crafty and raises spirits. Ironically, the next preseason game against defending Super Bowl champs Philadelphia Eagles is plagued with injuries.
Quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield are in a fierce but gentlemanly competition for the starting quarterback position. The former injures his hand during the match against the Eagles. Despite the replay showing Taylor’s hand bent in an extreme angle, there were no fractures or a dislocation. Mayfield is now tapped to lead the offense, and he is batted around the field like a beach ball at a pool party. The game is one of the ugliest in recent NFL preseason history. Not because of a lack of action and effort by the combatants. Quite the contrary. But the only points scored was a field goal and a safety, all by the still rising Cleveland Browns. The Eagles were so impressed with the heart displayed by the Browns that their Defensive Coordinator told a Browns player: “I never played but if I did, I would want to play like you.”
The Browns are seemingly acclimating to all challenges that arise. But high performance comes at a cost. Taylor and several players sustained mild but performance deterring injuries. All parts of this well-oiled machine are needed to work towards a winning and playoff reaching season. The next episodes of Hard Knocks will feature the conclusion of the preseason and the exploits of the “do or die” 2018 official season.