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Jarvis Landry does not believe that Cleveland is a dead end

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Landry: 'I feel like I'm the best receiver in the NFL today' (0:43)

In an excerpt from his upcoming E:60 interview, Jarvis Landry lays out why he thinks he is the best wide receiver in the NFL. (0:43)

The first hard-earned lesson of being a Cleveland Browns fan is to never get too far ahead of yourself. In the summer of 2014, the city was so enthralled with its new quarterback that his jersey sales zoomed all the way to No. 1 in the NFL. Johnny Manziel's No. 2 is now getting tattered 580 miles north with the Montreal Alouettes.

So wince or gulp, if you will, at this nugget: Jarvis Landry's brother, who also serves as his manager, says he inquired recently about the possibility of putting an image of Landry on a giant banner that would adorn the side of the Sherwin-Williams building in downtown Cleveland -- the same building on which LeBron James' iconic 10-story banner hung before he left for Los Angeles.

"I think that's what he lives for," Gerard Landry says. "[The pressure of] 'Man, I'm gonna put, just like LeBron, I'm going to put the city on my back and carry us through.' I think he's up for it."

Jarvis Landry has yet to play a regular-season game for the Browns, a franchise that has not won a game since Barack Obama was president. But Cleveland is a city of eternal optimism, and even if Landry's image never makes it to the side of that building, he is the fresh face of hope. He was acquired in an offseason trade with Miami to help change the culture of the franchise.

And in the past month alone, Landry has:

  • Called out his teammates in a speech that featured about 30 cuss words.

  • Pissed off the Buffalo Bills with a block in a preseason game that has been called everything from "monster" to "dirty."

  • Talked about the Browns winning a Super Bowl, under no apparent impairment and with a straight face.

"He's confident," Browns linebacker Joe Schobert says. "He knows he's good. I wouldn't say he's overly arrogant or puts people off, but you can just tell by the way he carries himself that he's confident in his abilities and he knows what he can do. If more people could be like that, I think we'd have a really good team."

"He's going to will us to some victories," coach Hue Jackson says. "There's no question about that in my mind."

The pressure is on Landry regardless of whether he gets the banner. In an offseason rife with change, Landry was general manager John Dorsey's first big move, and Dorsey showed his belief in the 5-foot-11 receiver by signing him to a five-year, $75.5 million deal.

If Landry helps turn the franchise around, he'll be a legend. He'll get the respect that he believes has eluded him. If he can't? "I'm a winner," he says, "and that's all I believe in."

It's late-July, the day before training camp starts in Berea, and Landry sits next to a window at a seafood restaurant, watching the hustle of downtown Cleveland. He has been in town for just a couple of months, long enough to buy a house on three acres but not long enough to avoid the parking ticket he's about to get on his Range Rover.

He has not yet packed for camp, but he doesn't seem all that concerned. He's about to play football. What does he really need? He stares at a plate of oysters on the table.

"So," Landry asks a lunch guest seated across from him, "what are your initial thoughts on Cleveland?"

Landry is told that in the winter, when the wind whips off Lake Erie, it can be brutal. Landry says the first time he came to Cleveland, it was snowing. In April. It was not a welcome sight for a man who grew up in Louisiana and spent the first part of his career in Miami amassing 400 catches -- the most by any NFL player through his first four seasons.

But he believes he was meant to be here. He loves the wide-open space of the Midwest and the fact that everyone cares so much for the football team. He has a big backyard for his 1½-year old daughter, Joy, to play in. Sometimes, he stands outside the house, staring at it, and he can't believe all of this is his. It sounds clichéd, but Landry says he feels a connection to the city because Cleveland is an underdog. Like him.

He grew up in a trailer in Convent, Louisiana, and went without water or electricity on occasion. His father wasn't in his life. One month, times were tough enough that Landry subsisted on egg sandwiches.

His mom, Dietra, worked long shifts to make ends meet, and Jarvis spent much of his free time playing sports with his brother, who's seven years older. Gerard, a local star football player, used to pick Jarvis on his teams to give him confidence.

All those long, hot days trying to measure up to boys who towered over him toughened Landry. In his true freshman season at LSU in 2011, he went up against a bigger and stronger safety from Georgia in the SEC championship, and coach Les Miles pulled the kid aside and told him they were going to teach the safety a lesson.

"We told Jarvis on this play, which was going to be play-action, 'You go right after the safety and knock him right on his back,'" Miles says. "'You tell him that the Tigers are coming.' He did that exactly."

Landry played alongside Odell Beckham Jr. at LSU, and the best friends pushed each other. In 2014, both Landry and Beckham decided to forgo their senior seasons and enter the NFL draft.

Landry had more catches, touchdowns and receiving yards than Beckham did in their final season. Beckham was invited to attend the NFL draft in New York. Landry was not. But that was fine. Landry would do his own thing with his family and friends. The Landrys rented out a ballroom at the Renaissance Hotel in Baton Rouge, catered in food and got a cake for the big celebration.

Beckham was selected 12th by the New York Giants. Four receivers went off the board, then five, and then the first round was over, and Landry's name wasn't called. Landry couldn't hide it. He was crushed.

"He thanked everyone for coming out and told them he'd see them all tomorrow," Gerard Landry says. "He went to his room and cried his eyes out."

Gerard stopped at the hotel the next morning to check on him, but Jarvis wasn't there. He was at the gym working out.

Later that day, Miami drafted him with the 63rd overall pick. Eleven receivers went before him.

Landry most likely dropped because he ran a 4.77 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, because a guy who's considered short for a receiver needs to compensate by being fast. But did the metrics show that Landry has spent his whole life compensating? That he watched film when he was 10 with Gerard, because the only thing he ever wanted to do was play football?

One of the easiest ways to get a rise out of Landry is to ask him whether he has ever made a catch like the signature one-handed grab that vaulted Beckham into elite status his rookie season.

"I made that catch in college," Landry says. "But this is my thing -- I never want to discredit my brother or my friend to make it seem like, 'Oh, I did it already.' That's his glory. But have I made that catch? A thousand times."

Miles says he can pull up game film and find instances where Landry has made The Catch. Landry actually started a one-handed catch drill in practice at LSU, and Beckham soon joined him.

"We had a lot of really special players at LSU during my time," Miles says. "Jarvis was easily one of our best players. And when your best players work the hardest, your team improves exponentially."

He went to Miami and became a fan favorite for his one-handed catches and his passion. He went to three Pro Bowls and blocked with the intensity of a man trying to prove himself, trying to survive.

Landry paid off his mom's trailer with his rookie deal. But that next contract, he thought, would really take care of his family. He and his agent, Damarius Bilbo, believed his next deal should be commensurate with those of the other top receivers in the league. The Dolphins had other thoughts. Their hesitancy apparently had nothing to do with any off-the-field issues. In 2017, Landry was investigated for an alleged domestic violence incident involving his girlfriend, Estrella Cerqueira. Cerqueira, who is the mother of Landry's child, issued a statement at the time saying Landry never harmed her. He was not charged, and the NFL did not take action against him.

"[The Dolphins] stood by me," Landry says. "They supported me."

The real issue was paying superstar money to a slot receiver who averaged 8.8 yards a catch in 2017.

In mid-January, a Miami Herald report painted a picture of a player who didn't pay attention to detail, didn't always run the right routes and didn't seem to respect his coaches. The story called him "a pain" to deal with.

The Dolphins eventually strapped Landry with a $16 million franchise tag. He signed it in early March, allowing the Dolphins to pursue trading him. Landry, hurt that the team he'd given so much to was willing to let him walk away, thought about not playing on the tag.

He wonders -- well, he knows -- that his strained relationship with coach Adam Gase didn't help. (Gase, through the Dolphins' public relations department, declined to be interviewed for this story.) They're too much alike, Landry says now -- two overly competitive people who wanted the same things but inevitably rubbed each other the wrong way. Like when the offense struggled and Landry put in his two cents on what they could do differently, it probably sounded like a player telling his coach what to do. But Landry only did it, he says, because he wanted to win.

"I used to talk to him about it," Landry says. "Can I be more of a leader? Can I stay after practice more? I'm trying to literally figure out what I can do to help us win, to help him understand that he could trust me.

"He wanted me to trust him, but he really didn't want to trust me."

There was a joke, Landry says, that Gase used to tell his players. If a guy got in his doghouse, he'd tell the player to straighten up or he'd ship him to Cleveland. The joke, according to Landry, is in reference to the infamous Jamie Collins trade. On Halloween day in 2016, Collins, a talented New England Patriots linebacker who drew coach Bill Belichick's ire, was sent from a Super Bowl team to a Browns squad that won one game in 2016.

"I just felt like, for some reason, Adam sent me here to die," Landry says.

Landry says he never really thought about Cleveland being a place where football players' careers die. He was so focused on his career in Miami that he didn't think about Cleveland much at all. That changed on March 9. Bilbo called him that afternoon and told Landry he had three suitors -- the Tennessee Titans, the Baltimore Ravens and the Browns. Thirty minutes later, Tennessee was out and it was between Baltimore and Cleveland.

He thought about how Hue Jackson was an offensive-minded coach, and he knew that the Browns had just hired Todd Haley as their offensive coordinator. Haley had worked with Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant in Pittsburgh, and Landry loved watching them play. He also thought about how much Baltimore likes to run the ball.

"Let's do Cleveland," he told Bilbo.

His mind was swirling. He was excited and nervous. He couldn't believe he was actually leaving Miami, a city that had become his home. Shortly after news of his trade broke, Landry looked down at his phone and saw that the Browns had traded for Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Then came another alert: Green Bay Packers defensive back Damarious Randall was joining the Browns, too.

He felt a wave of anticipation. The Browns weren't messing around. Dorsey and Jackson laid out their plans for Landry almost immediately: Take control of the receivers' room and help build a winning mindset. Though Landry is just 25, he's one of the most seasoned veterans on a team loaded with rookies and second-year players.

His first big message, at least publicly, came on the premiere of HBO's "Hard Knocks" earlier this month. The show captured Landry giving an expletive-laced speech in the receivers room about not taking days off, and Browns fans were in love. A high school basketball coach in Louisiana pinned the words of his speech -- minus the swearing -- on his Twitter account.

"I couldn't be more happy with how he's come into training camp," Dorsey says. "I think he's infectious, and you can't have enough of those type of guys on your team. He's consistent. Day in and day out. He comes to work with a purpose. He's very prideful in how he plays the game. That speaks volumes in my world."

There's a scene "Hard Knocks" in which Haley pulls Landry aside in a preseason game after rookie Antonio Callaway scores a touchdown. Callaway, a troubled receiver from Florida, had recently been cited for possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license.

"Hey, you need to take that kid on," Haley says in the episode. "I don't care if he's f---ing living at your house. We can't have him f--- up. Can you do that?

"You've got all this passion. Just take the kid under your wing."

"Yes, sir," Landry says. He believes the Browns have the pieces necessary for a turnaround, and that they just need to "rewire" their mindset. They have to expect to win. He points to the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles. He says nobody thought they'd beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, but look what happened.

He knows that it will take more than positive thinking to turn 0-16 into a Super Bowl. But the people who lived through 2017, and the 1-15 campaign in '16, say they see a change in the pace and the mood of summer. The Browns are young and ready. Maybe they say that every year. But Landry believes things will be different, and even has the audacity to worry about the Browns getting complacent if they get off to a huge start.

"You think about this: Could you imagine going into November, December, 10-3 in Cleveland? You can't. But it could be a reality for sure. 10-3? That s--- will look like a Super Bowl out there. This is what they write movies about. This is 'Rudy' right here. Not only that, but how much does this city need this?"


A few of weeks after lunch at the seafood restaurant, Landry calls back. He says he wants to clear up some of the things he said about Miami. He doesn't necessarily regret what he said; he just wants to "get the right message out there."

"I wear my heart on my sleeve," he says. "I'm human, and everything doesn't go right all the time. Despite everything, I love Miami. I love the people. I'm grateful this organization drafted me, and I think people should know that. I'm not bitter or anything. I love it there."

The lesson, for Browns fans, is that Landry is so passionate that once he gets going, it's hard to stop. In a city stuck in the doldrums of more than a decade of losing, that passion is probably a good thing.

On Wednesday, Gerard Landry texts and says that the banner idea on the side of the Sherwin-Williams building isn't happening, at least not now. (A call to Sherwin-Williams' corporate headquarters was not returned). Gerard Landry says they'll revisit the idea later. He didn't elaborate.

But Jarvis wants to be the face of the city, his new city. He talked about it in late July, before the fame of "Hard Knocks." He sat with Cerqueira and Joy, whose sippy cup rested on top of the booth behind him. On several occasions, as Landry was getting fired up for the season, Joy let out a giant scream. She unloaded an especially loud one after he mentioned the Super Bowl.

"I've been working this offseason to put myself in place to earn the respect of all the Clevelanders," he says, "and to have the opportunity to be recognized as another great player that has touched the city of Cleveland."

He might not know the street names yet or be completely versed on the sports scene -- and how the Indians are leading the American League Central and cruising toward another postseason. But forget that for a minute, because he's on a roll.

"I think the stigma over this place is LeBron, and that's all they've got is LeBron," he says. "And now they don't even have that anymore."

Cerqueira chimes in. "They've got Jarvis now."