After going 1-15 in 2016, the Browns didn't win a single game last season. You'd think that culture of losing, which includes exactly two winning seasons since the team returned to Cleveland in 1999, would make them unlikely candidates for "Hard Knocks," the HBO documentary that follows an NFL team through training camp and the preseason. Perhaps this is a harbinger of things to come because the Browns finally won something and they'll be featured on "Hard Knocks" this summer. The debut episode will air Aug. 7, HBO announced.
And don't worry -- the absence of winning football doesn't hurt the potential of this to be one of the most intriguing "Hard Knocks" yet.
First, there's first-overall pick Baker Mayfield, the former Heisman Trophy winner who is the latest college quarterback tasked with turning things around in Cleveland. History suggests he'll fail spectacularly, just as Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel did before him. But unlike those situations, the Browns have spent the last few years building a young, physical, athletic roster and the only thing they lacked was a franchise quarterback.
Perhaps the two biggest non-Mayfield storylines are 1) How long will veteran Tyrod Taylor remain the starting quarterback? and 2) Will Hue Jackson, he of the 1-31 record, survive the season? Answers to both questions, incidentally, could be tied to ... Mayfield.
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Other storylines will include: Josh Gordon, the wildly talented wide receiver who hasn't played a full season since 2013; the addition of Jarvis Landry; the young running backs (Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb and possibly Duke Johnson); the emergence of a defense that features the 2017 first-overall pick Myles Garrett and this year's first-rounder, Denzel Ward; and can the organization finish .500 or better for the first time since 2007 or even make the playoffs, which hasn't happened since 2002?
"We have been asked multiple times about being featured on 'Hard Knocks,' and we really felt like it was our turn this year and the timing was right," Cleveland Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a statement. "We want to be great partners in this league, and we also recognize 'Hard Knocks' gives fans a special opportunity to learn more about our team and players. Organizationally, we are confident about where we are headed, but we have a lot of work to do in order for this franchise to earn the respect of our fans on the field. We understand winning is ultimately most important to our fans."
Jackson added: "I've been a part of 'Hard Knocks' and when you experience it first hand, you come to appreciate the inside look it really gives fans. We are excited about what we are building within our organization and feel good about the progress we have made this offseason. Being able to bring our fans in so they can get to know our players and our organization in a different way will be a huge positive for us. I want people to see how much our players and coaches care, how hard they work and how badly they want to win for Cleveland. This will be a great opportunity for our team."
"Like many, I was reluctant about being the featured team on Hard Knocks but once we sat down and talked about it as an organization, I feel a lot better and understand why the time is right," said general manager John Dorsey. "Hue and I both feel like this team is in a good place and that we are in the process of building something that will lead to success. Being a part of Hard Knocks will give our fans the opportunity to see how passionate the people in our building are about winning and how excited we are about getting to work and preparing for the 2018 season."
The Browns were in the conversation for "Hark Knocks" because league rules stipulate that a team is eligible to be selected -- either voluntarily or by mandate -- if it hasn't appeared on the show in the last 10 years, hasn't reached the playoffs the last two seasons, or didn't just hire a new coach.
The Browns have never appeared on "Hark Knocks." We love the choice and feel like the lack of compelling narratives in recent seasons -- Buccaneers in 2017 and Rams the year before -- changes with the Summer of Mayfield.