The Browns believe Hard Knocks will cast a positive spotlight on a team with a bright future.
Cleveland general manager John Dorsey and head coach Hue Jackson said as much Wednesday afternoon in a news conference previewing HBO’s award-winning series, which will take viewers inside a pivotal time in franchise history.
“This is a great time for them to see the direction we’re heading as an organization,” Dorsey said. “I know these guys are going to do a quality job.”
The Browns, in conjunction with HBO Sports and NFL Films, announced last week they’ll be the focus of the annual, all-access series focused on training camp and Cleveland’s preparations for the 2018 campaign. The five-episode season is set to debut in early August.
Dorsey, Jackson and executives of the show — NFL Films’ VP Senior Coordinating Producer Ken Rodgers and Executive Vice President of HBO Sports Peter Nelson — outlined the beginning of that collaboration and what to expect in the coming months.
“I think it’s going to give them an opportunity to see how hard this football team works, how much they care and I think that’s really important for us to give back to them so they can see our players and coaches and organization in a whole different light,” said Jackson, who was twice featured on the show as an assistant with the Bengals.
Following the team’s first winless season and a 1-31 mark over the past two years, the Browns stand to improve following a head-spinning offseason in which they reconfigured their roster. Cleveland has added a bevy of players since the start of the new league year, including Tyrod Taylor, a proven veteran quarterback with a winning track record, in a trade with Buffalo and three-time Pro Bowl receiver in Jarvis Landry in a trade with Miami. Looking further into the future, the Browns tabbed their quarterback-of-the-future in Baker Mayfield and former Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward.
Hard Knocks, however, has long been interested in telling the Browns’ story. Rodgers said the show sees Cleveland as one of the big stories in the NFL as it tries to reboot one of the league’s most historic franchises.
“I think we've seen an overwhelming positive reaction … it’s an underdog story, people love rooting for underdogs,” Rodgers said. “We were looking at the Browns as our No. 1 pick from the very beginning. We think this is going to be one of the best series in Hard Knocks history.”
Dorsey, who said he was initially reluctant of the show’s presence, agreed. “I’m comfortable with where we are and I understand the direction of our team is in a right frame of might. It gives the fans a chance to see how passionate people are within this organization about the 2018 season.”
His and Jackson’s comments echo those of the team’s players earlier this week with the hope that the show will showcase a young team on the rise. Taylor, a 2016 Pro Bowler who helped the Bills snap a 17-year playoff drought, believes good things can come from the series provided he and his teammates remained focused.
“I think guys are excited about having them around, but it’s not going to take away focus from the actual game,” Taylor said Monday at the annual Cleveland Browns Foundation golf tournament. “As long as guys can keep focusing and go to work every day with the right mindset that we’re getting ready for our season, then it can be a good thing. It'll be able to showcase the talent that we have on the team, see personalities that people won't see. But I'm looking forward to it.”
“It’s an opportunity to show the culture and style of football we want to be known for here in Cleveland,” added Landry, the league’s leader in receptions last season. “I think it’s a good opportunity to see the preparation.”
Jackson also dismissed the notion that the series — lights, cameras and all — would make for a distraction.
“Obviously there’s all kinds of sides to this, but I think if I do a good job and the staff does a good job of really making sure our players understand what we’re here to do and we'll get to work on that before we leave here that that won't happen,” he said.
“I feel very comfortable with our locker room and with our organization that we can make this happen and make it valuable for all involved.”