Remember last week, when I praised the Cleveland Browns for their current plan at quarterback? When I said naming Tyrod Taylor the outright starter over rookie Baker Mayfield was the right thing to do? When I used the words “win-win”?
I should’ve known using that kind of positive language about the Browns would backfire. It always does.
Today, it did so in the form of the NFL announcing Cleveland would be featured on this year’s edition of “Hard Knocks.” The show, produced by HBO, will provide an in-depth look at Browns training camp, generating behind-the-scenes narratives which eventually create a notable impact with the team.
So, when you head into training camp doing everything you can to quiet the demands to start your top draft pick right away, it’s tough to believe an invasive TV production is going to help the cause. As a result, it sure feels like “Hard Knocks” is going to make the attempts to start Taylor over Mayfield even tougher.
It was already going to be extremely difficult for Cleveland to stick to this plan. Mayfield was clearly selected to be the Browns’ QB of the future. Taylor, meanwhile, is on the final year of his contract. Since the smart money says Cleveland will move on from the vet after this season, many are wondering why the team doesn’t just hand the reins to the rookie now.
However, the Browns are holding strong on their stance of saying the job is Taylor’s no matter what, that Mayfield is going to essentially red-shirt this season.
This is something I’m sure “Hard Knocks” won’t interfere with whatsoever…
The fact is, when he was officially named the first overall pick, Mayfield became the marquee member of the Browns. The narratives are endless with him, and the production crew will undoubtedly make him a primary character in the show.
We’ll likely hear about the team’s decision to eliminate the possibility of him starting, and how it’ll be another hurdle for a player who’s spent his life overcoming them. We’ll be told about Cleveland’s laughably awful attempts at finding a franchise quarterback, which will segue into a feature on how Mayfield could be the man to end the drought. We’ll likely hear all about his confidence, about his claim that, if anyone can turn this team around, it’d be him.
Granted, none of this is bad on his part. Nobody should expect him to mute his swagger just because a camera crew is around.
At the same time, it’s difficult to think of any member of this team who’ll get more attention from “Hard Knocks” than Mayfield. His charisma and attitude are extremely infectious, and it’s easy to picture HBO following every move he makes as he attempts to shake up the quarterback depth chart.
Likewise, while Taylor’s narrative could be seen as “discarded veteran trying to prove he can be a franchise QB,” it’s far more likely the show paints him as “that guy in the way of Mayfield.” It’s not a leap to assume a weekly theme on the show will be Taylor’s tenuous hold on the starting job, and whether the rookie is gaining on him.
As I said, Cleveland did have a solid plan set up at quarterback this year. Throwing a hugely popular TV show into the mix, one which will undoubtedly make Mayfield a main character, complicates things. It’s going to be extremely difficult for both teammates and coaches alike to ignore the attention the rookie will be receiving throughout this ordeal. This, in part, could cause a strain on the Browns’ attempt to keep Mayfield on the sideline.
You have to wonder how Cleveland will go about handling this. Just a couple weeks ago, GM John Dorsey went on record as saying he wanted no part of “Hard Knocks.” It isn’t a leap to think part of this was rooted in his not wanting the pressure to start Mayfield to increase.
Now forced to participate in the show, will Dorsey and his coaches go even further over the top in their insistence Mayfield won’t be starting Week 1? Do they relent on this, choosing instead to let HBO open the door for another QB controversy?
We’re sure to find out this August.
Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook