One Team, One Jersey: Cleveland Browns

With the beginning of a new year comes the beginning of a new series. I’ve spent hundreds of hours (not an exaggeration) enthralled in game film sessions, reading player profiles, scrounging through stat sheets and scanning the histories of all the NFL franchises. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Welcome to One Team, One Jersey.

As a jersey collector and connoisseur, I am constantly expanding my repertoire and so I thought I should probably expand my search to all the teams of pro football. Buying every jersey I want would be too expensive though. Picking one for each team is reasonable and so became the idea that is One Team, One Jersey.

If you could only have one jersey from each NFL team, who would it be? There are a few ground rules:

The player you choose must have played for that team more than any other AND must have been on that team’s roster during the 2017 season.

Aside from that, it’s up to you what you prioritize: character, statistical production, championships, a combination of the three. Your call.

Who will you choose?

The Cleveland Browns are the biggest joke in the NFL. I actually wrote a piece detailing how they might be the worst franchise in professional sports. A champion in complete incompetence, Cleveland just finished the 2017 season 0-16, bringing Hue Jackson’s career record as a head coach to 1-31. All logical signs point to him losing his job, especially given he had three first-rounders on his roster this year, but Cleveland and logic simply don’t go together. He will be at the helm for 2018.

People spend their whole childhood playing football with the hope they make it to the NFL. When you’re drafted by the Cleveland Browns, your dreams die pretty fast. Football is supposed to be fun. That’s the whole point of playing it. Playing for the Cleveland Browns is downright depressing. It’s laughable. Just watching the Browns would make me want to quit playing.

You pity them initially but once you realize the team is digging its own holes, that pity quickly turns to unabated hatred. You hate the management that has no idea how to perform the bare necessities of their position (consider the amount of draft picks this team has had over these last few years) and the owner that refuses to sign a marquee free agent. Whether that results in an overpay or not should be of little consequence given the team’s desolate landscape.

Their ability to draft quarterbacks is legendary. Only the Browns could miss that many times. DeShone Kizer is painful to watch, regularly overthrows his receivers and makes mind-numbingly awful reads. Despite his mobile ability, he has little pocket awareness and perhaps less composure under pressure. Kizer ended the season with a completion percentage of 53, 22 interceptions to only 11 touchdowns and a sack percentage of 7.4 (38 sacks). It’s hard to tell at this point if the Browns are that bad at picking players or if there’s a psychological block that comes into play when an athlete dons the Cleveland gridiron colors.

Picking a jersey from this hellhole is very difficult. No one stays in Cleveland long enough to make an impression, leaving us with a lot of unproven youth to choose from.

Yes, perhaps we should consider Myles Garrett, one of only 82 players to ever be drafted first overall. Garrett has yet to show the talent that shot him to the top of draft boards, with a rookie campaign that was beset by injury and didn’t produce much flair from the edge rusher.

Duke Johnson Jr is one of the best third-down backs in the NFL. He, at times, shows the abilities of a starter. He’s predominantly a screen back and is good in the open field but I have a hard time seeing him in a starting role and you just don’t buy jerseys of third-down backs.

Christian Kirksey is one cocoon that could become a butterfly. 

He signed a four-year contract extension with Cleveland so if you get his jersey, he should be around for a while, but that’s the only draw you’re really getting out of it. He’s a backer in a weak defense who doesn’t make a lot of high value plays.

“Tim, if you’re looking for high value plays, why don’t you take Josh Gordon?”

Was Josh Gordon the first player in NFL history to record back-to-back 200-yard receiving games? Yes.

Is Josh Gordon also a complete idiot? Yes.

After leading the league in receiving while playing for the CLEVELAND BROWNS in 2013 (in a shortened season after failing a drug test), Gordon was arrested for driving impaired, suspended ten games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy again, suspended a game by the Browns for violating team rules, suspended the entire 2015 season for failing to follow the substance-abuse policy a third time, applied for reinstatement only to fail yet another drug test (that’s four times for those counting at home) and got suspended the first four games of the 2016 season before coming to the decision to leave football and try to get his life back. He was activated off the Exempt List in November of 2017.

Gordon has set a couple of franchise records, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Josh Gordon is a horrible role model and toxic personality to have in a locker room. He’s completely unreliable and it’s a virtual certainty that he will get suspended a sixth time. That’s not someone I want to support or associate myself with.

When it comes to Cleveland, you have to look at folk heroes. For example, Peyton Hillis is a legitimate selection. While he doesn’t meet either of the requirements for this series, a Peyton Hillis jersey is one I can respect. While he only had one great year in the league, there was a lot of hype surrounding him that season and it was well-deserved. He gathered 1,177 yards and 11 TDs on the ground after starting only 14 games. He added nearly 500 receiving. It seemed like everyone was rooting for him, so much so that he won the Madden cover vote after the season. There’s a good chance he’s the last Browns player to ever show up on the cover of Madden and it’s probably for the better honestly. Not a lot of folk heroes pass through Cleveland and certainly not many good players, which leaves us with only one true choice.

One of the best offensive lineman for nearly a decade, Joe Thomas is a 10-time Pro Bowler and has been first-team All-Pro seven times in his career. His streak of 10,363 consecutive snaps is the longest streak in NFL history, a streak that ended this past season due to a torn triceps. He’s regularly been in the conversation for best offensive lineman in the league and he’s done all this while playing for a franchise that certainly doesn’t deserve him. There’s a chance he retires this offseason, which would be a great loss for professional football and the Cleveland Browns. Joe Thomas is the only thing that fan base has to look forward to.

My pick: Joe Thomas. My jersey: Away White.

Image result for joe thomas away jersey free use

 

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