Joe Haden happy for fans to see Browns stack roster, return to contention

Steelers CB says "I love Cleveland. Literally I still love it to my heart"

Daryl Ruiter
June 15, 2019 - 8:43 pm

Eastlake, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – For seven seasons Joe Haden patiently played through coaching and GM changes galore plus a ton of quarterbacks, but he never saw the Browns remotely come close to reaching respectability.

What could’ve been bothers him still to this day.

Especially now that the Browns are legitimate contenders with Baker Mayfield at quarterback, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry at receiver plus a stacked defense that includes Pro Bowlers Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon, Sheldon Richardson and Denzel Ward.

“Obviously with talent coming to the team, everybody understands how good they can be,” Haden said Saturday prior to playing in Jarvis Landry’s celebrity softball game held at Classic Park. “You all got to put it together, but with Baker being a young quarterback, Odell, Jarvis, bringing great defensive pieces, Myles. It’s talent. It speaks for itself. On paper it looks amazing.”

Haden, now a member of the rival Steelers following his release before the 2017 season, admits that he wishes the teams he played on from 2010-2016 resembled the one about to take the field this fall.  

“If you want me to be honest, yes,” Haden said. “It is what it is with different GMs, with different people switching in and out, but, every year I was here, I always felt like ‘this is going to be the year.’ No matter who the quarterback was, we were like, ‘he’s good enough to be a professional quarterback, he can make it happen for us.’

“[Stuff] happens. I’m not in any way upset, but like I’m just like ‘damn, if I was there, that sure would’ve been sweet.’’’

Haden, who was selected by the Brows seventh overall in the 2010 NFL Draft and made the Pro Bowl in 2013 and 2014, hasn’t forgotten his former team, and especially its fans even though he plays in Pittsburgh.

“The Cleveland fans and city have always deserved a great football team,” Haden said. “Dorsey has done a great job of having the money and assets and going and getting it. Not being afraid to make moves, not being afraid to make decisions.

“I’m happy for my boy [Christian] Kirksey, who’s been here for a long time and is one of my best friends. Y’all deserve a good team. Now it’s just putting it all together and seeing what happens.”

That love and respect for the city and fans is what brought him back to Eastlake Saturday to support Landry and the celebrity charity softball game that he hosted back in 2015. He served as the captain for ‘Team Haden,’ who lost to ‘Team Landry’ 17-10 in a rain-shortened four innings, after flying in from Maryland after hosting a football camp in his hometown earlier in the day.

Few athletes embraced playing in Cleveland – and for the Browns – quite like Haden did, but now it’s his job to beat the Browns twice a year in a rivalry that should become as competitive as it used to be 25-30 years ago.

“This is going to be my third year, but at first it was a little weird,” Haden said. “But I can still respect the Cleveland Browns, the fan base, the city. I love Cleveland. Literally I still love it to my heart. But it’s just the organization-wise, the way things were ran, you can’t control that. I was here for seven years, just the switching of the guard and everything, but now it looks good.

“I’m so, so happy for them, and the people, they show me nothing but love, so that’s why I always want to make sure there’s no hate there. It’s just a business. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

Cleveland, once the laughingstock of the league, is expected to end a 16-year playoff drought and some expect them to win a division title for the first time since 1989 because of the talent assembled by GM John Dorsey over the last 18 months.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said earlier this offseason that he felt the Browns were the most talented team in the division, and Haden had a hard time disagreeing.

“I would say they’re up there,” Haden said. “You could put their talent against anybody’s talent in the division and that’s what makes it good. At the beginning you could say they might not have been the most talented team, you could say they are the most talented team but at the end of the day, that’s not who wins it all the time. You’ve got to be a team. You’ve got to do it on special teams, offense and defense. Just being in that conversation, just knowing that you have the athletes, now it’s just performing and taking coaching and just jelling together as a team, that’s what it’s going to take.”

The Browns’ resurgence now presents a problem for Haden on the field.

He’ll likely have the honor of covering Beckham twice a year.

“It’s going to be cool, man,” Haden said. “I’ve worked with Odell for the last three years each offseason. We go out to LA, we’ve got the same trainer, Jamal [Liggin]. We go get it and have a good time. So just him always striving to be the best he can be, him working so hard in the offseasons, and I pride myself in doing the same.

“So, it’s a friendly competition for sure, but end of the day when we line it up I’m going to hope we win and he’s going to hope they win.”