A Look Back at the Premiere of “NFL Road Tested: The Cleveland Browns”

The Travel Channel’s new show, “NFL Road Tested: The Cleveland Browns,” premiered on Tuesday and it is must-see TV for anyone who fancies him- or herself a Browns fan.

Here are my other thoughts:

  • In a word: Incredible. The Browns fan in me ate up every minute of the high definition, inside look at the team, facilities and front office. I was completely mesmerized and even broke into tears twice. This is not normal behavior.
  • I think the modern era has made part of every Browns fan feel betrayed and abandoned, and seeing not only the Orange and Brown, but the city of Cleveland, portrayed in a positive light on a national stage was moving.
  • Now the TV critic in me should point out that the show was all over the place. From a behind-the-scenes look at the ball doctors, grounds crew, and half-time production, to a dinner with the McCoys and all of the team’s media and philanthropic duties in-between, the show doesn’t leave the viewer much to grab on to.
  • The production quality is extremely high, so you immediately feel like you are watching a Browns version of NFL Films or “Hard Knocks.” It’s amazing, but there were also at least five commercial breaks, making for extremely short and broken segments. We all think the flow will get better once the show finds its focus.
  • My other instant impression was that the show has been designed to serve the Browns’ new owner and management team to the world on a silver platter. Great care was taken to show Jimmy Haslam congratulating the team after a victory, greeting fans outside a road stadium and tending to mended fences with the once estranged Jim Brown. This is a vehicle for Haslam with purpose behind it.
  • To that, we’re all bracing for turnover and change in the first official season of Haslam-Banner, so is this show going to mess with our heads as we try to handicap who is staying and who is going? For example, Joe Banner got a little face time but Mike Holmgren got zero. As it should be, but the show takes place during the Browns’ 25-15 loss to the Ravens in Week 9, a time when Holmgren was still very much in the building. What else can we make of the characters the show gravitated on?
  • Tom Heckert was also not seen or heard from but Pat Shumur was. When you see Shurmur speaking to the team or you in the audience, it makes you feel like he is supposed to have a future in Cleveland. How could they fire the guy when it looks like they are committing to him? I get it, that’s naive, but the impression nonetheless. Heckert’s absence could not be ignored. The dude is out.
  • Ditto for Josh Cribbs, though I am sure he is anxious to add a bullet point to his IMDB profile.
  • The player focal points of the show were Phil Dawson, Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden. Again, why is Weeden getting so much positive play if Banner’s hinting at replacing him after the season? Maybe Joe Banner is an angry little gremlin and the show’s purpose is to portray him otherwise, or maybe Weeden really does have a future in Cleveland.
  • We all know Trent Richardson belongs, despite an underwhelming season thus far. We see him playing “Call of Duty” online against active duty military members and it was a great angle. You gotta love Trent.
  • Phil Dawson got the most play, and as the most tenured Cleveland Brown player, I guess you could say that was well deserved. It will be interesting to see how much he’s featured moving forward, because unlike Weeden, Dawson is up there in age and probably won’t be back next year.
  • Colt McCoy made an appearance last night as well. He and wife Rachel accompanied Dawson and his family to dinner. Look, these are nice guys and I love Dawson as much as the next fan, but they might as well have called this scene Dinner for Schmucks. The cool guys like Weeden and Richardson are at the Cavaliers game hanging out with Dan Gilbert while McCoy is at Applebee’s with the kicker and his kids – and he looked like he knew it.
  • Gilbert does give a ringing endorsement of Cleveland sports fans to Weeden and Richardson during their visit to the Q, but his red-sequined or glittered sports coat steals the scene. It’s on my unofficial Christmas wish list if you’re buying.
  • Last, but not least, Pat Shurmur comes off well in the piece, but that could be the magic of editing at work. Where the editing failed him was the last fives seconds of the show during the credit roll. I am sure one of his stylish veteran players will tell him to wear an undershirt the next time he goes with the dry fit top, if you catch my drift.

What are your thoughts on the show after its first episode?

Topics: Cleveland Browns, NFL Road Tested, Travel Channel

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