Hard Knocks with the Browns, Premiere: Cleveland Rocks (At Financial Planning)

Last year’s Jameis Winston Redemption Tour guised under the Hard Knocks brand was a rare failure for a unique franchise that valiantly marks the beginning of the football season for so many.  This year’s rendition with the Cleveland Browns promised to be better. Heck, Derek Anderson reading the phone book for five weeks would have been an improvement. Luckily it took about 20 seconds to realize the Hard Knocks we know and love was back and embedded with an array of intriguing characters: the stars (Myles Garrett, Jarvis Landry), the T-Swift loving math nerd (Carl Nassib), the future (Baker Mayfield), the question mark (Josh Gordon) and the oddly employed coaches (Hue Jackson, Gregg Williams).

The Hard Knocks premiere starts with a shot of a LeBron James mural being torn in the aftermath of James signing  with Lakers. Who will be the next Cleveland great, the symbolism suggests. The Browns? (Hold laughter, please)

Hue Jackson, who has won exactly one game in two seasons as Browns head coach is ready to exorcise his losing demons … by jumping in a lake in June. Isn’t jumping in a lake in the summer a reward? Maybe try January next time.  Jackson declares that “nobody like to be associated with a loser.” True and he’s ready to turn things around but other than swimming in a not freezing body of water, at no point does Jackson explain why on earth anyone should have confidence in him as a head coach or what’s going to be different this time.  Jackson is clearly loved by GM John Dorsey and other co-workers (shoutout to Browns PR head Peter Jean-Baptiste) but he hardly displayed much in this episode to convince you that he’s the man to steer this very busted ship. One exception was a powerful scene when Jackson, with his hands draped over Mayfield’s shoulders like they were about to ballroom dance, tried to motivate the no.1 overall pick to set a killer work ethic.

But Jackson’s questionable run as as head coach was especially evident when he defended his philosophy of sitting players out of practice for preventative measures much to the chagrin of offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Haley essentially retorted with, this team has blown for two years, how about a new philosophy: Kick ’em all in the ass!  Jackson then gave Haley the “I understand what’s it like to sit in this chair,” treatment as if Haley wasn’t previously a head coach. (Haley went 19-26 as Chiefs head coach from 2009-2011). Next week on Hard Knocks: Haley begins his plans for a Jackson coup.

Of course Jackson was dealing with unspeakable tragedy – the loss of his mother and brother in the span of two weeks. The impact on Jackson’s psyche and the rallying of Browns’ execs and players was riveting television. The toughness he displayed in the wake of tragedy was inspiring.  But the scene where Jackson breaks down alone in his office felt a bit too private for the cameras.

Here were a few less emotional scenes that made the premiere episode a rousing success:

– Jarvis Landry’s impassioned speech to his fellow WRs about stepping it up at practice was a top 10 moment in the franchise’s history and featured the line the night: “If you’re not hurt, if your hamstring isn’t falling off the fucking bone, your leg ain’t broke, you should be fucking practicing.”

– Mayfield didn’t know Bob Evans was a chain. (Psst: Neither did I)

– DE Carl Nassib explaining compound interest and personal finance to his teammates, including Myles Garrett, was amazing. Nassib said he considered buying a Rolls to impress his apparent friend Taylor Swift but couldn’t pass up the better investment of keeping’s one in the bank. Even better was Nassib’s lecture about wasting time on IG that rolled during the credits. According to Nassib’s calculations, 2 hours on IG a day equals one month of the year wasted. Of course his teammate looked perplexed at the notion that toiling away on social media is actually a waste of time. Nassib is already the clear breakout star of Hard Knocks and no, he doesn’t have an IG account.

– Loved the dramatic scene where an equipment guy was  peeling stripes off the Browns helmets while Liev Schreiber and Jackson explain that those stripes must be earned. Um, why not just start with blank helmets?

–  RB Nick Chubb, a second round pick took not being recognized in the Cleveland airport very well. Imagine the crap the dude who didn’t recognize him will be getting.

– Should we start a GoFundMe account to get Dorsey some new clothes?  Like even just one other item of clothing.