April 17, 2014

My Cleveland Sportsman of 2013: Joe Haden

Cleveland Browns v Miami Dolphins

Joe Haden’s growth both on and off of the field are worthy of recognition.
Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images

Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year is an annual must-read. Given that the national recognition rarely has anything to do with the teams or individuals whom we cover. In turn, WFNY will soon announce its choice for 2013′s Cleveland Sportsman of the Year. Here’s one of the nominations for that honor by an WFNY writer.

WFNY’s Sportsman of the Year
_________________________

MITCH: Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer
RICK: Browns cornerback Joe Haden
TD: Coming Soon
ANDREW: Coming Soon
SCOTT: Coming Soon
CRAIG: Coming Soon
JON: Coming Soon
KIRK: Coming Soon
JACOB: Coming Soon

What exactly is the ‘Sportsman of the Year’? Is it simply the best player or individual athlete on one of the local teams? I can’t imagine so. That’s why they have ‘Athlete of the Year’ or ‘Most Valuable Player’ awards. To me, sportsman goes beyond just stats and wins.

Let me start with a couple individuals that were in consideration for my nomination. The first was D’Qwell Jackson. Jackson is the unquestioned leader of the Cleveland Browns defense, and maybe the entire team for that matter. The 30-year-old inside linebacker doesn’t miss plays let alone games. He led the team in total tackles—again. He is the quarterback of the defense, calling out changes and getting guys into position. He answers every question from the media and gives thoughtful responses. His teammates look up to him.

I also considered backing Ubaldo Jimenez, which is astounding considering my feelings towards him at this time last season. To his credit, Jimenez pitched through the criticism and even boos from the Cleveland faithful. With the support of his manager and help from pitching coach Mickey Calloway, Jimenz regained the form he had in Colorado. He became the pitcher that the Indians needed when they traded for him in 2011. Without Jimenez, the Indians never make the playoffs last season.

There are others, but in the end I decided to nominate Browns cornerback Joe Haden.

I start my case for Haden with a reminder of his 2012 season, a season in which he was suspended for four games for taking a banned substance in the offseason. It was the lowest point in Haden’s career—if not his life.

The saying goes ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ That was certainly the case for Haden. The suspension caused the former Florida Gator to examine his life and make some tough decisions. In Haden’s words, he grew up. He proposed to his long time girlfriend and settled down. His new outlook gave him focus and drive.

In 2013, Joe Haden took his game to another level. His four interceptions were among the league leaders before his injury. Despite covering the top receivers in the league week after week, opposing quarterbacks have only a 76.7 QB rating when throwing into Haden’s coverage.

Here’s how some of the top wide receivers did against Joe Haden in 2013:

In two games, Cincinnati’s A.J. Green caught six passes for 44 yards and no scores with Haden covering him. Detroit’s Calvin Johnson was battling injury, but was held to one catch for seven yards against Haden. Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson, Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe and Miami’s Mike Wallace COMBINED for six catches, 51 yards and one touchdown. Chicago’s Brandon Marshall grabbed four balls for 61 yards and a touchdown.

The best game (statistically) that a receiver has had against Haden this year was Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown. Brown caught five passes against Haden for 80 yards, the majority of which came on a 41-yard touchdown.

Jacksonville’s Cecil Shorts had a rough day against Haden until he made a double move and caught the game winner against Haden in the back corner of the end zone. That touchdown and loss to the Jaguars, or should I say his reaction to it, may have helped solidify his case for me. In the locker room after the game Haden was distraught about giving up the winning score. He took it personally. He owned it. He wore it. You can say a lot of things about Joe Haden, but you can’t say that he doesn’t care about the team or winning. He isn’t in it for personal stats or accolades. Those may come, but Haden wants to be the best he can be so that he can help the team win.

He does it all with respect for the players he goes up against. He also has respect for the game and the players that came before him. Not only that, but he enjoys interacting with the fans. He is a must follow on social media platforms. Haden has been known to go out of his way to make a fan’s day. And yes, he supports the other teams in town. He can frequently be seen in the offseason cheering on the Cavaliers and Indians. He isn’t one of these guys that only stays in Cleveland during the football season.

That, to me, is a Sportsman.

  • mgbode

    And yes, he supports the other teams in town.

    including area Little League teams. Joe Haden would be my choice as well. The only thing that is currently stopping him from being my all-around favorite Cleveland athlete is Joe Thomas.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    I OBJECT TO THIS NOMINATION! JOE HADEN WAS BORN IN SOME TOWN IN MARYLAND, NOT CLEVELAND. IS THIS A MARYLAND SITE NOW? WHY IS HE BEING FORCED ON US AS A CLEVELAND GUY?! OUTRAGEOUS!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Are you trying to take a shot at those of us who questioned the Urban Meyer selection yesterday because oh I don’t know he works in Columbus? I still stand by my objection sir thank you very much. There is a huge difference between where you are born and where you play/work.

    P.S. WHATS WITH THE SHOUTING?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I guess if you had to pick a Cleveland Brown although I kind of like DQ Jackson myself this year. He’s just older and not as flashy or sexy as Joe Haden.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    That, sir, is the unofficial WFNY sarcasm font.

  • JNeids

    I was wondering if my reaction to Urban being nominated would start an unfortunate and unfunny trend.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, kewl.

  • mgbode

    It’s not official? I thought we stamped it and everything? Did Garry lose the stamp again? Tell him to check the scotch cabinet. He’s always leaving things in there.

  • mgbode

    ah, I see, so you identify with DQ more.

    (I kid, Sham, I kid)

  • JNeids

    I’m surprised this didn’t get more than just the last paragraph of the article, especially after stating “To me, sportsman goes beyond just stats and wins” towards the beginning. It’s one thing to accompany Dan Gilbert to the NBA Lottery, it’s another thing to go above and beyond like Haden does time and time again to show love for the city that he had no choice but to come play for (at least to start his career). He may have been born in some town in Maryland, as B-bo so kindly pointed out, but it would certainly seem like he has adopted Cleveland as a second home and done everything in his power to be accepted as a Clevelander. In other words, he’s the anti-Lebron.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Hmmmmmmm I don’t know the skeptic in me seriously doubts “he has adopted Cleveland as a second home” but it’s nice to think anyways.

  • JNeids

    More like Cleveland paranoia. Haden has done nothing to prove otherwise…yet. (see, I’m paranoid, too!)

  • JNeids

    Make sure to double stamp it. Because as everyone knows, you can’t triple stamp a double stamp.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Since I was a kid I’ve always liked me some DQ but man Cleveland is locked in a freezer and this arctic air is reminding me that while being a downright sexy beast (for the ladies of WFNY all two of them) that I’m getting old. I may have to move to Hoooooooooooooooooooooostin!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I haven’t seen Mr. Haden at any Cavaliers games this season maybe that’ll change now with Luuuuuuuuuol Deng in da house.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Tramp stamp Tuesday y’all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • JNeids

    He was hidden behind Bynum’s hair on the bench. You should have a clearer view of him now.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    That reminds me I’m a little disappointed we didn’t get to see any of the numerous hair stylings of Andrew Bynum while he was here.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    And now you have your answer

  • The_Matt_Of_Akron

    Add one more item to the list of things Joe Thomas stops defensive players from doing.

  • Garry_Owen

    You rang? And we have a scotch cabinet?

  • mgbode

    well, I believe currently it is just a cabinet due to the emptiness of the scotch bottles ;)

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    Wait, wait, wait–Garry has a tramp stamp?

  • mgbode

    I’ve been told it’s the image he posted in this thread