Four short words encapsulated why the Browns were able to post seven wins in coach Mike Pettine's first-ever season in Cleveland: Play Like a Brown.
No matter where a player was drafted, or how much money that player was making, Pettine boiled down his coaching and leadership philosophy into six words – accountable, relentless, productive, passionate, tough and competitive. Every player would be held to the same standard.
This mantra was literally plastered on the walls to remind players – and even staff members – what the football program was going to pride itself upon.
Now that the season is over, players were able to reflect on Play Like a Brown, and, specifically, which player best fit those six words.
One of general manager Ray Farmer's veteran free agent acquisitions was mentioned quite often from teammates. Safety Jim Leonhard summed up why Browns players revered Donte Whitner so much.
"To see him come back to Cleveland and embrace what it is to Play like a Brown. Just the passion he plays with, the energy he plays with – glad to be his teammate," Leonhard said. "If we get more guys to follow his lead, we'll be successful in the near future."
A certain special teamer also received some love for his fearlessness on the field.
"Johnson Bademosi, no matter what role he's playing, you see him flying down the field making plays," right guard John Greco said.
Perhaps nobody's opinion holds more weight than Joe Thomas'. Remember, Pettine consulted the eight-time Pro Bowler when the Browns had uncertainty at quarterback. His football opinions are valued highly in Berea.
"When I think of Play Like a Brown, I always think of Alex Mack," Thomas said of the Browns' veteran center. "He's got so many moments where he could make the Play Like a Brown highlight film."
Said Phil Taylor: "Alex Mack. He's a high-motor guy. He gives 110 percent every play."
For linebacker Barkevious Mingo, it wasn't a player that stood out, but one particular play.
"Travis Benjamin was thrown to, the ball got intercepted, he ran – I don't know how many yards – stripped the ball back and recovered the fumble," Mingo said, referring to the fourth-quarter play Dec. 21 against the Carolina Panthers. "That's what Play Like a Brown is. He did it the hard way. He chased a guy down. He didn't give up on the play."
Veteran wide receiver Andrew Hawkins said each week Pettine would show plays to the entire team that embodied Playing Like a Brown.
"There would be examples and examples of guys just laying it on the line," Hawkins said. "When we were having success, that was the biggest factor."