The Browns Need Jarvis Landry’s Leadership Now More Than Ever

Nick Cammett-Diamond Images/Getty Images

Join me for a minute as we travel back to everyone’s favorite moment from the Cleveland Browns‘ time on HBO’s Hard Knocks. A warning for those who may have missed it, the language isn’t exactly child-friendly.

That’s wideout Jarvis Landry, a veteran politely stressing to his fellow wideouts how important it is to give your best effort at all times, even if you’re hurting.

I bring this up because, frankly, we haven’t seen this player lately. Sure, Landry is still on the team, and is one of the few wideouts who isn’t dealing with an injury.

However, during last week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, when Cleveland put up zero fight in a 38-14 drubbing, Landry was a non-factor on the field and off. As the Browns rolled over and died on both sides of the ball, as their young wideouts failed to bring in numerous catches, Landry remained quiet, sulking on the sideline. Top it off with his leaving the stadium before the press arrived, and you’re forced to ask a jarring question about his leadership.

Was the above speech all for show? Was Landry just putting on an act for the cameras? If so, are his words ringing hollow with his teammates?

I understand this is a heavy accusation to lob. Landry has spent his career playing with a chip on his shoulder, still upset with how low he was drafted back in 2014. The work and attitude he brings to the field certainly didn’t make his Hard Knocks tirade feel out of character.

At the same time, it was a bit alarming to see Landry be so passionate about players toughing it out during practice, but seemingly appear OK with responding to Sunday’s incredibly underwhelming performance by mentally checking out along with the rest of the team.

I certainly hope this was just a one-off instance, that Landry still wants to be a fiery leader for this team. A large majority of his teammates are young and inexperienced, in dire need of whatever veteran leadership they can get during situations like this latest loss.

Landry seemed more than willing to fill this role during the offseason, when he talked about changing the culture in Cleveland, bringing a new mentality and, hell, even talking about the Super Bowl.

Where was that guy on Sunday? Why did Landry respond to his teammates getting owned by further removing himself from the game?

The biggest concern coming from this is – borrowing a line from Landry himself – this type of behavior is contagious.

The younger players on the team would see in Landry a player who won’t hesitate to call everyone out during training camp, but who also won’t walk the walk when things get tough. Someone who will chastise you for not giving the appropriate level of effort, but will also respond to extreme adversity by hanging his head on the sideline.

The timing of this shift in approach is unfortunate, as well.

Browns wideouts are dropping like flies, resulting in rookies Damion Ratley and a struggling Antonio Callaway getting significant workload increases. It’s a big responsibility for two players who were much lower on the depth chart during training camp, and it’d be understandable for them to struggle.

Knowing this, these two need someone to lead by example and help them learn what it takes to be a successful NFL receiver. This Sunday, the lesson Landry taught in this regard was it’s OK to sulk or leave the stadium without addressing the worst performance of the season.

Ironically, Landry’s life would be made a lot easier if he was still coaching up his fellow receivers. Experiencing far more attention from opposing defenses now that he’s the No.1 wideout in Cleveland, he’s been struggling to get open. If Ratley or Callaway start becoming threats, it’ll create wider openings for Landry to take advantage of.

I still like the addition of Landry, and still appreciate anyone who will go out of his way to lead a young and impressionable team by any means necessary.

I’m just wondering where that guy went.

Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook


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