Written by Chris Walker (@cwlkr20)
Whose idea was it to put the Cleveland Browns on television? Seriously, who thought putting the NFL’s perennial losers after an 0–16 season and characters like Jarvis Landry and Tyrod Taylor on TV would be a good idea? Because, honestly, get that man paid.
Sure, they fit the criteria, but it’s still odd that these lovable losers are the focus of HBO and NFL Films’ Hard Knocks. Yet, here we are with the Cleveland Browns’ preseason being covered by probably a hundred cameras & microphones. The story of the NFL’s worst team is spellbinding television.
Which is kind of the point, isn’t it? Whenever you put anything on television, you want the audience to be entertained and take something away from it. For Knocks, the point is to show the other side of NFL teams — humanizing players and staff, making them feel a little closer to you, the normal viewer. Not a season of Hard Knocks goes by without some player standing out because his eccentricities get a segment. Sometimes we get former Los Angeles Rams player William Hayes believing in mermaids, but not dinosaurs, for example. In essence, it’s a beautifully shot and put together marketing tool, with the purpose of generating interest for the upcoming season.
The HBO/NFL Films reality show began in 2001 from the mind of music video director Marty Callner. The docuseries works in real time, turning around everything for week to week coverage over the span of 5 weeks, from the start of training camp to final roster cuts. The production team makes viewers feel like they have cameras and microphones everywhere to tell an in-depth story about the making of a team. Hell, the camera work and editing has garnered the show several Sports Emmys.
And that product is entertaining — when the lens is focused on the right subjects. And boy oh boy are the Browns it. Sure, there’s no Jeff Fisher 7–9 speech, literally just Rex Ryan as a person, or even Vince Wilfork in overalls, but I’d like to think the Browns aren’t short on personality or bravado.
Cleveland spent the recent offseason adding spices to the pot, in order to go from preseason champs to well, a regular season win or two. After a winless season and keeping a one-win-in-two-seasons head coach, you want to know what the hell is going in that house. On top of that, Cleveland’s best player will play the majority of the season, they’ve brought in a good starting quarterback and a three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, and possessed the first and fourth overall picks in the NFL draft.
All of these decisions have contributed to some good television, so far. Three episodes in, we have had Jarvis Landry “bless em” and work on being a leader. America has learned how to pronounce Tyrod (Tuh-rod) Taylor’s name correctly. Hell, offensive and defensive coordinators, Todd Haley and Greg Williams, respectively, look ready to fight at a moments notice, which means we’re all taking bets on who wins (thanks, Supreme Court!). There’s even the heartwarming (and awkward) with Devon Cajuste relationship with his death-defying father being highlighted.
Personally, I love the Browns’ QB RV, for one reason — if you’re going to haze an overall number one pick and future addition to the carousel of starting Cleveland quarterbacks, Baker Mayfield, I feel like having him spend some of that $21.85 million signing bonus on an RV is smart. Good idea, Drew Stanton.
All in all, the point of Hard Knocks is to generate interest for the upcoming season with an in-depth look on the players and staff, which it’s done in spades. The NFL as a whole could use any win that it can get, for a variety of reasons; by putting the Browns cast of characters on television, they’re generating press that isn’t the usual run of the mill reporting on injuries and previews of teams and their schemes to get to the Super Bowl.
And going forward with the last two episodes in this season, hopefully we learn a little about how Josh Gordon is doing. Maybe we’ll see Todd Haley fight Gregg Williams again, or even more of the out-of-the-box/draconian punishments of Jackson. Or maybe Brogan Roback will somehow spin his breakout turn into a reality show move for himself. Because if reality TV has ever taught me anything, sometimes the smallest thing, can be spun into a good post-career move, if you play your cards right.