Safety Juan Thornhill believes “All the pieces are here” for Browns to finally end Super Bowl drought as he aims to bring championship pedigree to Cleveland

CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The Super Bowl has been played 57 times and safety Juan Thornhill has won two more than the Browns have even played in.

Coming off a disappointing 7-10 season, the Browns have spent free agency shoring up a defense that struggled against the run and with communication breakdowns that allowed big plays in the passing game this week.

Thornhill, who was brought in to do the latter, believes the Browns are close, and he’s just the guy to help them get over the hump.

“All of the pieces are here,” Thornhill, who signed a three-year, $21 million contract, said. “Got a really good quarterback, receivers, the defense is super strong. I feel like all of the pieces are here. We have that capability of getting there and making a splash in the playoffs and making it to the Super Bowl, and I have all confidence in that.”

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Thornhill played against the Browns in the 2021 AFC Divisional playoff game in Kansas City that the Chiefs were lucky to escape with a 22-17 victory, so he knows what Cleveland’s core looks like.

“I just remember them being a team that was willing to run down your throat and punch you in the mouth early,” Thornhill said. “So that just shows that they have the ability to get to the big game and I feel like I'm that type of player that can add to the defense and help them get to where they want to go. And I mean, I'm excited to play and play next to Myles Garrett and Grant Delpit and those guys because I've been watching a little bit of their film and I just feel like they're really good players that can help us win.”

The Browns’ championship drought dates back to the pre-Super Bowl era – 1964.

The closest they’ve come to Super Sunday is three AFC championship losses to the Denver Broncos in the late 1980’s and the team hasn’t won its own division since 1989.

Talking about getting to and winning a Super Bowl in the offseason, especially with a new team, is the easy part. Doing it, that’s the challenge.

“It's very hard, honestly,” Thornhill said. “You have to stay disciplined for the whole season. As you see in the NFL, some teams start fast and finish slow. Some teams start slow and finish fast. So it is all about just staying disciplined, and getting to multiple Super Bowls is even harder once you win one [because] you got a target on your back each and every week because everybody's trying to knock down the top dog.”

Three of Thornhill’s first four seasons in the NFL ended on Super Sunday with his team taking home the Vince Lombardi trophy twice. The fourth ended on championship weekend.

He aims to share the knowledge of what it takes to play through January and into February with his new teammates in Cleveland.

“I know what it felt like to be in that big game, and I know what it takes to win,” Thornhill said. “So that's what I'm going to bring with me. I'm going to bring that energy and I'm going to bring it to my teammates as well. And if I see someone slack, I'm going to let them know that's not the way to go about it, [and] let's pick it up so we can get to where we want to be.”

Leadership is a delicate balance. You can’t lead if you don’t perform. He’s also learned that leadership requires tact.

“I'm not going to be that guy that's going to step in and just try to take over everything,” Thornhill said. “I'm the one that's going to lead by example, but if you're not working hard, I will step up and say something, but I'm not going to be the guy that's going to put you on blast in front of the whole team. I'll come up to you personally and let you know.”

In the NFL relationships matter, and that’s Thornhill’s first order of business when the offseason program begins.

“[I'm going to] just try to get to know my teammates a little bit more, know things that they like to do outside of football and so we can get together outside of football and just come together and build that brotherhood that's going to allow us to play better,” Thornhill said. “That's going to make us more elite than any Xs and Os. You can study football all day, but if you don't know what your teammates strength and weaknesses are, you're not going to be good.”

Can a team change its culture in one offseason? Thornhill believes it can.

“It definitely can change in a better way and also can go downhill as well,” Thornhill said. “If you add bad pieces to a defense and bad people to a defense, you can bring in cancer into the locker room and that's not something that you want. But if you bring in good people into an organization and bring them into the defense, you can have those guys that can motivate each other to push each other to get better each and every week.”

Thornhill believes the Browns have added good people this week for new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who wasted no time laying out the plan for his new safety when the two met on Friday.

“He got me pumped up, that’s all I can say,” Thornhill said. “Just talking a little bit about football, the scheme, how he sees me in the defense, and he got me ready to go for sure.”

Thornhill has started 52 of 65 regular season games to date with the Chiefs and he’ll be out there for Schwartz and the Browns this fall.

“I've always been taught to be that guy, to never allow your coach to take you off the field,” Thornhill said. “So I would see me as being that guy that can do everything – he can cover, be down in the box, make plays, he can blitz, sack the quarterback. I want to be that guy that can take control of a game and go get the ball when it's in the air and cause fumbles when it's that time to make that big play.”

Thornhill hasn’t been in town long, but to say he’s liked what he’s seen and felt so far is an understatement.

“The facilities are truly amazing here,” Thornhill said. “I got here last night actually and the first thing I looked at was downtown and it shocked me. It was really beautiful.

“I'm super excited about it because I've heard many good things about the Dawg Pound. The fans out here are crazy, and that's what I love to be a part of. When I come out that tunnel, I want the fans to jack me up and make me ready to run through a wall and that's what I hear about Cleveland and I'm excited.”

Featured Image Photo Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports