Joe Haden will always have a tremendous amount of love for the city of Cleveland, and for the Cleveland Browns, the team that made him a top-10 draft pick in the 2010 NFL Draft as a cornerback that was deemed to have less than ideal height.
But that love does not extend to the plans mounting in Cleveland to hold a parade for the Browns’ recently-completed 0-16 season, just the second such campaign in the history of the NFL, and a fate that he only narrowly avoided when the team released him in August.
“I just think it’s lame”, he told Katherine Terrell of ESPN. “I think they went 0-16, the organization and everybody is not happy with it. I feel like the fans, they’re not going to be happy about celebrating an 0-16 parade. I just think it’s really lame”.
Still, he mused, “it is what it is”. If there are people who want to wallow in the misery of a winless season, “then have fun”, he said. He will be having his own bit of fun playing in his first postseason game during his eight-year NFL career, now the starting left outside cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Pittsburgh, in their first season with Haden on the team, very nearly doubled the best win total that the Florida product had ever experienced. The Browns were actually at one point a couple of years ago in a three- or four-way division tie at 7-4, but they lost their final five games. That is the only time that the playoffs were even a dream for him.
Haden still feels for the Browns, on which, of course, he still has many former teammates with which he was close. After all, it was only just a handful of months ago that he was preparing to be a starter for them. Instead, they chose to move on with Jason McCourty, Jamar Taylor, and Brien Boddy-Calhoun.
“It’s probably very, very tough”, he said of what they are experiencing now. “You try to always look in the mirror and figure out what you could’ve did more. What could I have done better for us to win a game or two. It’s just tough for everybody. It’s tough for the coaching staff, it’s tough for the players”.
The Steelers have not had to do very much self-reflection this season, as they have only lost three games all year, and for one of them, Haden was not on the field. He was nursing a fractured fibula that robbed him of five and a half games.
But he still feels for his former teammates, and admits that he watches Browns games. “I went seven years as hard as I could, played my tail off, I gave them everything I had”, he reflected. “So when I was released from there, it was more like, ‘all right, well, I guess you probably want to go somewhere else’, but I look at it as a blessing to play wherever I wanted”.
It was not even a day later that he signed with the Steelers, and he could hardly be happier about it.