The Cleveland Browns recently turned down an offer to participate in HBO's reality series Hard Knocks, which shows life behind the scenes of an NFL franchise. A pity, because the 2014 Browns would make Big Brother look like The Waltons. Keeping a camera trained on Johnny Manziel alone would be worth the watch.
The Cleveland Browns recently turned down an offer to participate in HBO’s reality series Hard Knocks, which shows life behind the scenes of an NFL franchise.
A pity, because the 2014 Browns would make Big Brother look like The Waltons. Keeping a camera trained on Johnny Manziel alone would be worth the watch.
But as a service to our readers, we have planted a teeny-tiny camera inside the Browns’ practice facility in Berea to track the goings-on of this summer’s soap opera. (Note: We thought about hiding a camera on receiver Josh Gordon, but the NFL told us it already has that one covered.)
Among the cast: Johnny Football, the Vegas playboy; Brian Hoyer, the working man’s quarterback; Mike Pettine, the first-year coach whose looks and tough-guy approach resemble a bald Dabney Coleman; and owner Jimmy Haslam, the patriarch whose business is under government investigation.
It is more Dallas than Jerry Jones’ Cowboys.
Our camera chronicled the first day of players reporting to training camp:
5:17 a.m. : Manziel rolls into bed.
5:20 : Manziel rolls over in bed.
5:28 : Manziel rolls out of bed.
7:34 : Pettine meets with defensive coaches to stress the importance of cornerbacks playing press-man coverage. The coach, whose outstanding mustache still drips rib sauce from breakfast, is spot-on with his thinking. NFL rules favor receivers, with the exception of press-coverage, which allows defenders to put their hands on the drama queens within the first 5 yards of the line of scrimmage; thus the reason Cleveland moved up in the draft to pick Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, who is physical at the point of attack. Smart move. The Browns should be very good at corner.
7:53 :Joe Haden sticks his head into the defensive meeting to thank Pettine for drafting Gilbert, but adds, “Of course, I’m still the coverage king.” He’s correct. Haden enters the season as a top-five NFL cornerback, which means opposing teams will throw away from him, placing increased pressure on Gilbert. Can the rookie hold up?
8:05 : Gilbert wanders through the locker room muttering, “Can I hold up?”
9:45 : Donte Whitner interviews himself. Donte: “I like how you ‘changed’ your name to Hitner before changing it back.” Whitner: “Did you just look at me wrong? Did you? Buckle your chinstrap, bro, because here I come.” Donte: “You’re an animal.” Whitner: “Yes, I am.” Yes he is. The former Ohio State safety, who came over from San Francisco, is another reason Cleveland’s secondary is in good shape.
11:10 : Defensive end/outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard turns to teammate Paul Kruger. “ Barkevious Mingo. I just like saying it.”
12:14 p.m. : Manziel rolls into the facility on a four-wheel swan.
12:15 : Hoyer rolls his eyes.
2:03 : Karlos Dansby, who spent last season with Arizona and should be a bruiser at inside linebacker, is watching Draft Day. “Jennifer Garner was so miscast in the role of the girlfriend,” Dansby tells the kid picking dirty socks off the floor. The kid does not argue. How could he? Garner was awful.
2:50 : Haslam strolls through the room patting players on their rumps. Given the owner’s propensity to involve himself directly into personnel decisions, every player he pats looks to see if a pink slip is stuck to his butt.
3:35 : Manziel is wearing what appears to be high heels — or maybe lifts? — and 30-pound shoulder pads. Even he realizes that few run-around quarterbacks make it big, and when they do, they’re larger than 6 feet, 210 pounds.
3:38 : Hoyer rubs his hands together while cackling, “Heh, heh, heh.”
3:39 : Hoyer stops smiling and, with a look of horror, asks no one in particular, “Who am I going to throw to, and how are we going to score?” The offense is indeed the sore spot.
4:30 to midnight : Manziel coughs. Manziel sneezes. Manziel burps. Manziel being Manziel. We cannot get enough of it.
Based on their shaky offense, the Browns might not win many games, but, like a circus act gone horribly wrong, it will be impossible to look away.
Rob Oller is a sports reporter for The Dispatch.