Now, in his fourth season with the Browns, Haden is focused on his new role as a mentor for a defensive backfield in which 11 of 13 players have less than four years of NFL experience.
“I’m just trying to help guys out in the meeting room, as far as taking notes,” Haden said. “Rookies, when I got in, didn’t know how to watch film. Something I’m trying to do is help them figure it out, what I study. I just break it down. It’s not watching game tapes. It’s watching cut-ups of third downs, what they do on first-and-10, or what they do on third down, breaking it down from one to four yards, five to 10 yards and 10-plus. I kind of give them a better way to look at film.
“It’s real important because it’s something that’s just going to help them along their way, being here or if they’re not with the Browns. I’m just trying to help them out, let them understand what’s going on. Being in the NFL, it’s not even about how much you can do on the field, it’s knowing in the meeting room, studying. It helps you out so much.”
By becoming a leader on the team, Haden actually taught himself a lesson.
Haden, who has registered 173 total tackles, 144 solo stops, two sacks, nine interceptions and 47 passes defended in 42 games played in his first three seasons with the Browns, knows that to be a leader, he and fourth-year safety T.J. Ward have to execute their assignments in order to lay down a path for others to follow.
“That’s the easy part, being a leader on the field, doing what I do,” Haden said. “That’s how I play. We just like to go out there and make plays. They’ll definitely see that, and it’s something that you can’t really teach.
“Either you’re a leader by being a ball player or not, and I think being able to make plays in the secondary, that helps us out with leadership. That’s what gets them to listen to us. If we weren’t out there doing our job and we were going into the meeting room telling them how to watch film, it wouldn’t work.”
First-year Browns coach Rob Chudzinski has been impressed by the development he has seen from Haden. In addition to applying lessons learned from defensive coordinator Ray Horton and defensive backs coaches Louie Cioffi and Bobby Babich on the field, Haden is passing along the knowledge he has gained to the Browns’ younger cornerbacks.
“Joe’s really stepped up his game from a football standpoint, and what he’s done in taking a leadership role with other guys, he’s really embraced that,” Chudzinski said. “The biggest thing is, he’s setting the example. He’s focused on the coaching that he’s getting from Ray, Louie and Bobby, and he’s going out on a daily basis and applying those things on the field. That’s leadership through example.
“I see him grabbing guys on the side and helping them with their things. You see a young player that’s growing from being a young guy that’s just trying to make sure he’s okay to doing that, plus taking extra steps to help other guys. That’s huge in the development of our young team.”