Cleveland Browns football officially returns this Sunday in Philadelphia. Take that as positive or negative all you want, but it’s clear local expectations are a little bit different this time around.
Instead of pinning ill-fated hopes on getting to an actual playoff game, most fans are simply talking about what positives they want to see from the Browns this season. Progress from the numerous rookies. Josh Gordon following the straight and narrow for once. Robert Griffin III turning his career around.
Fact is most people are content knowing wins are going to be few and far between for Cleveland, so this year is all about establishing a good foundation to build on.
I’d love to see all of that, too. But, if there’s one thing I want to see above all of this, it’s pretty simple – I’d love to see a Cleveland coach win at more than just a press conference.
For all intents and purposes, Hue Jackson has reinvigorated a team which has essentially become the Webster’s definition of failure. Fans and players alike were thrilled the Browns hired a coach who was actually in demand, who didn’t force everyone to say “…I didn’t know that guy was even in the league.”
At the same time, all we’ve gotten so far from Jackson is some impressive press sessions and practices. As of Sunday, we’ll finally be able to see what he can do when it comes to coaching a team which knows very little outside of losing.
Jackson’s time has come. He talks a big game, better than everyone before him. He has the entire fan-base thinking positively despite the fact last year was soul-suckingly dreadful.
At the same time, if the Browns have proven anything, it’s that they can hire a coach who knows how to win a press conference. Sure, they don’t end up winning a single thing besides that. Still, fans have talked themselves into previous hires simply because they presented themselves well in front of a microphone.
Remember Romeo Crennel? How personable he seemed at his introduction? Just a pure players coach, what a perfect addition.
Or how about Rob Chudzinski? A Cleveland guy. On and on he went about how excited he was to coach the team he grew up rooting for. Remember when he mentioned chewing on dog bones in the Dawg Pound? Man, that had fans geeked.
What about Mike Pettine? With his blue-collar, Stone Cold Steve Austin look, he just seemed perfect for Cleveland football. All that talk about needing to “bloody your nose” in the brutal AFC North. This guy gets it.
All three of these different personalities convinced Browns fans there could be a light at the end of the tunnel thanks to a strong introduction. And they all had one other thing in common – on-field disaster.
This is a trend which hopefully comes to an end with Jackson.
Again, that he’s been able to bring positive vibes to a franchise coming off one of its worst seasons is nothing short of a miracle. Veteran players (what’s left of them, anyway) have taken notice and expressed excitement. Rookies are raving about Jackson’s passion and desire to build a winner. Fans are eagerly watching clips from his intense practice sessions, thrilled to see a coach no longer babying his players.
However, the great atmosphere can be dashed in minutes if an unprepared team takes the field on Sundays and losses pile up in brutal fashion. We’ve already seen such a scenario take place numerous times. Suddenly, we’re no longer impressed by passionate answers to media questions, instead wondering why yet another coach can’t seem to succeed in Cleveland.
For this season, success likely isn’t going to be seen in the win-loss record. Instead, it needs to show in a team that’s ready to play, unlike so many seasons past. It needs to show through a group of players who won’t start mentally packing it in the second the season seems lost.
This is how Jackson can prove he’s more than just a great speaker. By giving the fans something they haven’t seen in decades – a team which is pointed in the right direction.
We thought Cleveland had the right guy in charge many times before this year, all because said coach knew all the right things to say when he was introduced to us. Jackson sure did, too. However, he can set himself apart from the previous failures by finally doing more with this team besides giving inspiring responses to local beat writers.