This is the time of year when most teams see the upcoming season through rose-colored glasses.
It is a time for optimism, not pessimism.
But the Cleveland Browns, coming off a two-year record of 1-31 and an 0-16 debacle last year, have been a bit over the top in the series “Hard Knocks.’’
When Dez Bryant came for a visit (and wasn’t signed), coach Hue Jackson, who has somehow survived this 1-31 start even though the team brought in a new GM in John Dorsey, told Bryant: “Twenty-one days baby, the Pittsburgh Steelers right here at home in front of the Dawg Pound. It will be unbelievable. This will be the greatest turnaround in sports history.’’
Don’t be surprised if it isn’t.
Alonzo Highsmith, the Browns vice president of player personnel, told Dorsey the Browns remind him of the 1989 Dallas Cowboys, who went 1-15 in Jimmy Johnson’s first year. He joined the team in 1990 but played in just nine games before being waived in October of 1991.
“I see a lot of the same energy,’’ Highsmith said. “I see a lot of the same issues, but you know what? These players are going to overcome.’’
The Cowboys went on to win back-to-back Super Bowls in 1992 and 1993 before Johnson parted ways with owner Jerry Jones.
That 1-15 team had Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, then added Emmitt Smith to form “The Triplets” while also taking advantage of a treasure trove in the draft from the Minnesota Vikings in the Herschel Walker deal.
Will the Browns duplicate that? Doubtful.
Country singer Brad Paisley visited the Browns’ training camp and compared rookie Baker Mayfield to Brett Favre in a conversation with Dorsey.
Dorsey replied, “I can see why people say it because of the mannerisms he does, but you’ve got to earn that respect.’’
Paisley said, “Yeah of course.’’
Is Mayfield likely to even be another Aikman, much less Favre? Doubtful.
Mayfield did play when Tyrod Taylor was hurt against the Philadelphia Eagles but said he was “disappointed’’ with his performance, although it is too early to judge the former Oklahoma star.
The plan is to sit Mayfield this year, but can Taylor hold down the fort for him? Doubtful.
Even the “Hard Knocks’’ producers don’t seem convinced Taylor will play a key role. Taylor hasn’t gotten as much air time as Mayfield — the quarterback of the future — and Mayfield’s RV.
And the show doesn’t inspire much confidence. They do have a good defense that blanked Philadelphia in a 5-0 preseason win, but the constant bellowing of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams of Bountygate fame will probably turn off the players eventually.
And Jackson is heard complaining about the penalties they got in an earlier preseason loss to Buffalo and and has chewed out his players for a lack of discipline. He also was upset with sloppy play in practice.
Jackson has had a tough time personally as both his mother and brother passed recently. The show captured his emotions, but he still faces a tough task.
Is Jackson the right man for the job? Doubtful.
The team doesn’t seem to have a lot of personality. Either that, or the “Hard Knocks’’ producers haven’t discovered personalities.
The biggest personality seems to be offensive line coach Bob Wylie, who looks as if he never ate just one doughnut when he could eat a dozen.
Wylie recently went on a rant about stretching.
Talking about soldiers, he said, ”They did pushups, jumping jacks, situps. They won two world wars! You think they were worried when they were running across Normandy about stretching?”
That was funny, but stretching before practice is designed to avoid muscle pulls.
Wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who got a five-year, $75 million deal, has been featured, but not always in a positive light.
Landry threw ball at Terrance Mitchell in practice, starting a fight. Christian Kirksey felt the need to tell Landry that isn’t smart because it risks an injury. You would think Landry would know that.
Landry has complained the Miami Dolphins didn’t utilize him enough, even though he was sixth in targets the last four years. He has all the makings of a malcontent.
And offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who was run out of Pittsburgh, called four straight pass plays against the Eagles from the one-yard line. On the fourth one, Taylor hurt his hand.
Inexplicably, they put him back in the game after two series.
Fortunately, Taylor didn’t aggravate the injury and hasn’t missed a practice since, and he apparently will be ready to open the season.
Later, Haley called two runs and a pass on a series with Mayfield in, showing a definite lack of imagination. On the third-down pass, Mayfield appeared to suffer a head injury, although he wasn’t diagnosed with a concussion.
And cornerback Denzel Ward, the fourth pick in the draft, recently suffered a back injury. It apparently wasn’t serious, but Jackson said Ward has durability issues and Williams said “stupid tackling” caused him to suffer the injury. Williams has no problems knocking his defensive players publicly.
Then there was rookie Antonio Calloway, who was stopped by police late at night and cited for marijuana possession and driving with a suspended license and didn’t tell the team the next day.
Jackson decided Calloway’s punishment would be to play every down in the preseason opener, needlessly and stupidly risking an injury.
With all this going on, Max Kellerman of ESPN said the Browns should be considering firing Jackson right now.
Even Kellerman admitted they won’t do it because they would look like a clown show firing the coach in preseason.
But odds are that Jackson won’t be engineering the greatest turnaround in sports history, and that the long-suffering Browns fans have more suffering to endure this season. And the odds are that Jackson won’t be Cleveland’s coach next year.
The only consolation is that the Browns won’t go 0-16 again this year.