Some of you are going to disagree with me, and that’s fine. Some of you may claim blasphemy, some of you may claim Benedict Arnold status, and some of you will just be angry. But I would be okay with the Cleveland Browns signing Hines Ward. No, let me rephrase that: I would be pumped if the Browns signed Hines Ward. I’d go so far as to say that I would love it.
Based on what I’ve seen on Twitter, I know that this is not the most popular opinion in the world. I’m sure some people will agree with me, but I’m also aware that some won’t.
I’m fully aware that he played for the “rivals” for 14 years and routinely torched the Browns by means of touchdown throws, touchdown catches, and murderous crackback blocks. Fans hated him for the end-arounds, they hated him for how he broke the team record against the Browns and then broke 1,000 receptions against them, and most of all, fans hated him for the ever-present grin that they eternally wished someone would wipe off. But no one ever did because, well, he’s an extremely talented football player who won more games than he lost almost every year – what’s not to be happy about?
Forgive me if I don’t care about anything other than the guy’s ability to play football. He may buy into the rivalry hard enough that he doesn’t care and wants to sign with the Browns, but he’s not really happy with his former team right now, so anything is possible. (Cross-sport reference: Johnny Damon going from the Red Sox to the New York Yankees without batting an eye. These things happen because, as we saw for three months before last season, this is a business first, and a sport second.)
If you’re anti-Ward, I understand the sentiment, but I also challenge you to not be dumb. I know he’s getting up there in years and doesn’t move/play the way he did a handful of years ago. The Steelers have a younger set of skill guys now who are stretching the field a little more and they’re also having some issues with the salary cap, so they have to get creative.
So here’s where the not-being-dumb part comes in: imagine third-and-five versus any team in the NFL with the Browns right on the edge of field goal range. Last season, the receiving options for a much-needed first down were some combination of Mohamed Massaquoi, Greg Little, Ben Watson, Josh Cribbs, and Evan Moore, with a dash of Peyton Hillis/Chris Ogbonnaya/Montario Hardesty. Doesn’t that crew take a full step – or two – up with the addition of Hines Ward? You know he won’t drop a pass, you know he knows how to get open in short-yardage situations, and you know that he’s been instrumental in helping mentor young receivers for the last eight or so seasons.
Also, there might be another receiver somewhere in that mix, depending how this silly little NFL Draft goes this year.
I personally would welcome him with open arms because I don’t care about rivalries anymore. Not in a time when this “rivalry” has been a few sporadic instances short of being the Globetrotters and Generals for the last decade. Not in a time when money is the driving force behind virtually every decision made. And most of all, not in a time when the Browns stand to improve by making this move.
Need more justification? If you say no and stop reading, I won’t know, but I hope you’re sticking this one out.
The reality is that the Steelers are everything that Browns fans want they’re favorite team to be. They play hard, they play defense, they pound the ball down your throat, they win, and they win, and they win. If you had to name a team that has a winning mentality, there are virutally only three answers that will come to mind in the last 20-25 years: the Steelers, the New England Patriots (for ten years), and the Green Bay Packers.
Every other team has been up and down – including a few of those listed above – but the Steelers just keep winning. I want the Browns to do that. By playing in that mindset/atmosphere/world for longer than anyone on the Browns has been in the league (except Brad Maynard), I will take Hines Ward’s experience and attitude in a heartbeat.
Bonus points: he’s a great dancer.