Jarvis Landry is the most divisive player on the Cleveland Browns roster
Despite many key contributors sidelined, the Cleveland Browns nearly took down the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, falling 22-17 in the Divisional Round. The 2020 season was a resounding success for the Browns, as they finished 11-5 and won their first playoff game in 26 years. Based on how quarterback Baker Mayfield played from Week 7 onward, Cleveland has a legitimate Super Bowl window over the next few seasons.
That means continuing to mold the team into what head coach Kevin Stefanski wants it to be, and while the Browns shouldn’t (and won’t) go all-in like the New Orleans Saints have, for example, they will make moves to better the team. And that means some difficult decisions lie ahead.
Jarvis Landry has been the team’s leading receiver for the past three seasons, but with an out in his contract this offseason, his days in Cleveland could be numbered.
Changing the culture
Landry was regarded as a solid player with the Miami Dolphins, making two Pro Bowls and breaking reception records. He quickly emerged as a leader after being traded to Cleveland and endeared himself to the fanbase on Hard Knocks with his famous “that’s contagious” speech and his “bless ’em” catchphrase.
That 2018 team ended the season 7-8-1 and with overflowing optimism for the future. Landry is certainly a massive part of the culture shift that occurred within the organization, and that is usually the first thing people bring up when discussing his value. He’s played through injuries, including a hip issue in 2019 and broken ribs this season, and was forced to miss his first NFL game because he was a COVID-19 close contact. Landry has been nothing but a great teammate and leader since he joined the Browns, that much is certain. But he’s far from the lone culture catalyst.
Baker Mayfield, Joel Bitonio, and J.C. Tretter have had enormous impacts on the culture, in addition to others. And Kevin Stefanski has had perhaps the most profound impact of all. The culture was toxic in 2019 and the team quit on Freddie Kitchens over the final few games of the campaign. That was an ugly situation, and general manager John Dorsey went from a Cleveland demigod to canned in a matter of months.
Has Landry had a big effect on the locker room? Absolutely. Is he the only one? The metaphorical glue holding the team together? Hardly. And it’s insulting to other players like Tretter, who has never missed a snap despite dealing with multiple serious injuries, to say otherwise. If Landry were truly responsible for changing (or at least helping to change) the culture, then the culture should be just fine without him, no?