I really want to write about this without casting a negative light on it, but it’s hard not to given the circumstances. Apparently the Cleveland Browns—and not the Cincinnati Bengals—are requiring their players to ‘earn their stripes’ this season.
That is, only players who end up making the 53-man roster will receive a stripe on their helmet. For now, they all just have big orange heads. And believe me, I get it. I get the point, even though when I hear the word ‘stripe’ in conjunction with ‘brown’, a different image is conjured in my imagination, and one I would prefer not to think about.
But aside from the scatological connotations of earning your brown stripe, this ploy really reeks of desperation and gimmickry. This isn’t college football. Professional players don’t need to be motivated by stickers for a job well done.
Honestly, the conversation would be a lot different if the Browns had one a few more than, you know, one game over the course of the past two years. A team with such a terrible track record pulling this kind of stunt really clouds it with a feeling of…well, embarrassment, really.
This is a team whose Head Coach, Hue Jackson, just had to dunk himself into Lake Erie because he promised he would if the team didn’t win more than one game in 2017. They won fewer than one game, amazingly enough.
Jackson used that June plunge as a baptismal renewal, descrying that the Browns would not be losing anymore. Apparently that came with the epiphany to deny his 90-man roster their helmet stripes until they ‘earn’ it by making the roster for the regular season.
“There’s a certain way that the Cleveland Browns have to play, and we’re going to earn our stripes”, he said. Even though Bengals have stripes, not Browns. But, you know, whatever.
“The guys that put them on their helmets that get a chance to wear them, it’s going to be because they demonstrate the characteristics that we’re looking for in Cleveland Browns players”, Jackson continued. “That’s the way we’re going to play and conduct ourselves and go out and win football games.”
The idea is of course that they will reward the players most deserving, but let’s be honest, it’s not as though this is going to add further motivation for a person to make the team. The minimum salary of hundreds of thousands of dollars is incentive enough for that. You can buy stripes in all different colors with that kind of salary.
I’m really dumping on this a lot more than I intended to, but there you go. It’s really all just kind of sad. I’m actually rooting for the Browns to finally improve. Nobody deserves to suffer this yearly misery. This is just a symptom of that despair.