I don’t know about you, but I can’t recall a time when the Cleveland Browns have ever had a head coach that anybody was really excited about. Perhaps that’s because I was a baby when Marty Schottenheimer was their head coach—the last Browns head coach to post a winning record, from 1984 to 1988.
I don’t know whether or not Hue Jackson will ever be able to turn the Browns around into a relatively winning team, but I do think it’s fair to say that he has brought with him a level of enthusiasm and energy than we have seen in Cleveland since perhaps before the Browns became the Ravens.
Jackson has been a well-liked individual among coaching circles for years, and many believe that he was wronged by the Raiders after they fired him just a year into his stint as head coach in 2011. He spent the past four years with the Bengals, with the last two serving as offensive coordinator.
There was a succession plan for him that could have been in place in Cincinnati, but that plan never became concrete, and fell through. What may be the Bengals’ loss could be Cleveland’s gain, although, of course, that is very much uncertain.
What is far more certain, on the other hand, is the very real responses that Jackson has gotten from his players very early on in his tenure, and it is a reaction that I would like to liken to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ transition from Jack Bicknell, Jr. as offensive line coach to Mike Munchak. The Browns have had the Bicknells of head coaches, not just in terms of quality, but personality. Now, at least, they have a Munchak personality who has the offensive pedigree to back up his candidacy.
Pro Football Talk cobbled together a number of illuminating quotes from a few current Browns players that are revealing as to how Jackson is being received, in ways that highlight that the comments are far from lip service for the new boss.
Paul Kruger, for example, described Jackson as “one of the most consistently positive personalities that I have ever been around”, and “just a motivating personality that is constant…literally every day”, which he called “inspiring”.
Fellow linebacker Barkevious Mingo’s remarks felt to me reminiscent of Mike Tomlin in a way, speaking of Jackson as a coach who is consistently around his players and recognizing their work and contributions, saying that his presence gives you “somebody pulling you along” to better yourself.
Finally, Danny Shelton seemed to inadvertently contrast Jackson’s regime with the previous regime, talking about a “positive environment”, a “comfortable place for us to work”, and one that would not “cause some people to steer away and do their own thing”, which is evidently something he saw in his rookie season last year.
As much at it might make the lives of the Steelers a bit more difficult to have a competitive team in Cleveland, I would like to believe that Jackson might have it in him to give the Browns’ fans a team worthy of their support. But that all assumes that his efforts are not sabotaged from above.