This is the time of year when Cleveland Browns fans feel a kinship with Joel Goodsen, the character played by Tom Cruise in the 1985 movie Risky Business.
The film opens with Cruise stating, “the dream is always the same” to a group of his friends, which for Browns fans equates to the annual belief that the combination of the draft, free agency, coaching hires, and maturity of the roster will finally equate to success on the field.
That dream has turned into an annual nightmare for a club that has only made the playoffs three times in the past 33 years. The players and coaches may change, but the end result is often always the same.
With more bad than good for the better part of four decades, it is understandable if fans find it difficult to stay positive, which is a situation that safety Juan Thornhill is trying to remedy both on and off the field.
Since signing with the Browns in mid-March as a free agent, Thornhill has taken to social media to spread his message of positivity:
Change the narrative !!!— The Chosen Juan ♂️ (@Juan_Thornhill) May 11, 2023
If y’all can’t tell I’m tired of the negativity and I’ve only been here for 3 weeks. We will Win this year— The Chosen Juan ♂️ (@Juan_Thornhill) May 17, 2023
And I don’t care about what happened any year before I got here! New Era !!— The Chosen Juan ♂️ (@Juan_Thornhill) May 17, 2023
Thornhill was asked on Wednesday about his campaign to change perceptions about the Browns and said it is as much about getting his teammates to believe as much as the fans (quote via a team-provided transcript):
“Listen, they say if you speak negative, negative things will happen. That’s what I truly believe. So if you sit there and speak positive, those positive things will happen. If you say you’re going to win and you step on that field believing you’re going to win, more than likely you’re going to win. I mean, you’re going to play your hardest to get there. So I’m definitely that type of guy that wants to be positive and bring everyone to the room and just enjoy everything together.
“So my tweets are not really anything negative. It’s just like in Kansas City, I use them because that’s where I was before, but in Kansas City, like, those fans there, I would not say too cocky. Like they were just like, ‘we’re going to win this week.’ And the players can feel that. Like when you walk into the stadium, you know that you’re going to win and everyone is behind you. You don’t want to be walking around with fans saying, ‘I don’t know if you’re going to win or not. I hope we win this year.’ We don’t want to see that as a team. We want them guys to be behind us, pushing us every day, and like, we’re going to win. And once you have your fans backing you up, they make us want to play harder for you, as fans.”
There is no harm in players pushing a positive message, especially this time of year when fans are deep into the season of positivity. And there are no fans more passionate in the NFL than Browns fans, which Thornhill and the other new players will quickly discover once training camp opens this summer in Berea.
But as we’ve seen over the years, talking is the easy part, it is the ability to actually make a difference when things matter that has proved problematic for the Browns.
Until that happens, the dream will continue to be the same one that fans have been unable to wake from for far too many years.