Jarvis Landry joined the Cleveland Browns in 2018, right after the team went 0-16 in the 2017 season. Landry left the Miami Dolphins when the Browns traded a 4th round pick in 2018 and a 2019 7th round pick for the Pro Bowl receiver who led the NFL in receptions.
A little over a year later one article lamented the trade, largely for the intangibles Jarvis Landry had brought to the team.
No, he wasn’t the most productive per catch and didn’t consistently show a viable nose for the end zone. But Landry was the player who, when the Dolphins needed a play, always stepped up. As a punt returner. As a blocker. As a receiver. Landry’s fire and energy elevated those around him, and he was reliable week in and week out.
That fire and energy showed up for the Browns in 2018. The Browns were featured on Hard Knocks, and while that series revealed a lot of the dysfunction in the Browns organization, it also gave us a great speech from Jarvis Landry.
(Warning: LOTS of swearing in this video)
To summarize for those who don’t want to watch, Landry goes off about the work habits, specifically sitting out practice with injuries Mike Tomlin would likely call “Boo-Boo’s” when those players were healthy enough to practice. Landry challenges his team mates to work whenever they can to be great. Probably the best part of the speech is at the end when he tells them that attitude, that behavior is contagious.
The willingness to lose, to work a little less hard, sacrifice a little less and live with the results, is contagious. Landry’s refusal to accept taking a loss showed up in training camp when Landry felt he was tripped from behind on a drill, got up and threw the ball at the defender, starting a short brawl.
That level of intensity, and willingness to fight rather than accept losing, was something the Browns organization had been missing. Jarvis Landry was not just a good receiver for the 2018 Browns, he was a big part of the team’s attempt to change their culture from one that accepted failure and had 1 win in two years, to one that fought to win.
That mentality can be contagious too. Tony Dungy reported that Browns Coach Kevin Stefanski told him that he charts knockdown blocks on offensive plays, and that in 2020 the Browns receivers led the team. But it isn’t just in blocking that hard work shows up. The Browns with Landry have created their own “next-man up” mentality that has showed up prominently when Odell Beckham Jr. went down with injury. Players like KhaDarel Hodge, Rashard Higgins and Donovan-Peoples Jones have stepped in and played well when required, much like the Steelers saw players work hard and improve when Antonio Brown was leading the Steelers locker room. When the leader of the position, the top dog in the room, is working hard, the other guys follow, and that hard work turns into success.
Obviously talent and situation play important roles, and there were more factors than just Jarvis Landry that led to the Browns becoming less of a joke these last few years, Jarvis Landry had a hand in that. Donovan Peoples-Jones praised Jarvis Landry’s role in his own development as a receiver, mentioning both his advice and tips for playing the position, but also his work ethic, toughness and accountability.
When you look at the Steelers receiver room the last few years, toughness, work ethic and accountability are probably not the first three words that pop into your head. The Steelers have some good receivers, young talented players who have already shown they can produce in the NFL. But who is the leader in that room? Who is stepping up, showing their own accountability and driving the work ethic of the room?
I don’t have an answer to those questions. I don’t know who is going to be the team captain(s) on offense in 2022. The team is young and with Ben Roethlisberger retired, there really isn’t a veteran leader on this team that commands respect.
That’s where I think a Jarvis Landry would fit in most. He’s also a productive and reliable receiver who can play outside and in the slot, but his chief value to the Steelers would be the leadership and his energy that he would bring to the receiver room and to the Steelers offense. Jarvis Landry would give the Steelers a player worthy of being named a captain on their offense, and would make a difference in practice and in the games.