The Cleveland Browns have had more head coaches than the Pittsburgh Steelers have had primary starting running backs over the course of the past decade. Or at least that’s how it feels. Feel free to factcheck that if you really care that much. The point is, change is always around the corner.
And even though it certainly was portrayed as a virtual inevitability in the national media, the players in the wake of the firings of head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley expressed their surprise over the decision. Owner Jimmy Haslam cited “internal discord” as one of the motivating factors to make the bold midseason moves, but players said that wasn’t evident to them either.
“As a player, we didn’t really get a sense of it”, veteran guard Joel Bitonio said. “At least for me, there was never any fighting on the field or anything like that. It was just business as usual. Todd ran the offensive meetings. Coach Jackson would sit in on them, but he was never really a voice in them. He ran his team meetings and had his input on the field if something looked off, but there was never any discord that we noticed as players”.
Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, who has helped lead the team to its first victories in over a year, expressed a similar view. “If it was there, I wasn’t paying attention to it”, he said of the reported infighting between Jackson and Haley.
“What it comes down to is the fact that we weren’t making the plays and doing our job well enough to win. If you look at the tape, it was always a mistake here or there, a bad read, stuff like that, missed assignments, so it doesn’t come down to the stuff off the field, it comes down to the play”.
Jackson was hired by the Browns to serve as their head coach in 2016. They went 1-15 that year, which was the worst record in franchise history. He managed to best that by going 0-16 last year, just the second 0-16 season in NFL history. His overall record with the Browns was 3-36-1.
As for Haley, Cleveland had only just hired him this past offseason, making it through half a season before being fired. The Browns did not have a designated offensive coordinator for the first two seasons under Jackson, who called the plays himself.
It was his scheme and playcalling ability that originally attracted the Browns to Jackson, who had success as the Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive coordinator previously, helping to turn Andy Dalton into a Pro Bowl player. He was reluctant to give up the reins this season, and in the wake of their game prior to Sunday’s loss, expressed a desire to be more involved again.