I will probably be spending time over the course of the next few days combing through a new article written by Seth Wickersham for ESPN that delves into some of the details of the past couple of years in the Cleveland Browns organization. If you read the article, you’ll know why, because some of it is—well, actually, about what you would expect for a team that won one game over two full seasons.
The part I want to focus on today, however, is the rise and fall of Hue Jackson, who was the Browns’ head coach for exactly 40 games from the start of the 2016 and the middle of the 2018 season, during which he was fired unceremoniously mid-year.
According to Wickersham, the hiring of Jackson as the team’s next head coach was a decision made directly by owner Jimmy Haslam, who also admitted that he was “still learning” how to run a football team. I’ll remind you that prior to purchasing the Browns in 2012, he was a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Haslam’s decision was at odds with what the rest of the organization was interesting in doing. John DePodesta is said to have written an e-mail to the owner that making him their next coach would, in the author’s words, go “against many of the characteristics of successful coaches they had discussed”. Everybody but Haslam wanted Sean McDermott. Everyone got Jackson.
And then, two and a half years later, they got rid of him. Yet Jackson didn’t seem to understand exactly what that meant. In an anecdote that I just find incredibly amusing, Wickersham writes that Haslam and current general manager John Dorsey went to Jackson’s office to fire him.
His response, after getting fired, was “get the **** out of my office”. As though he has a lot of important work to do now that he’s been fired. Not how it works, Hue. Get the **** out of my office. Though in his defense, perhaps he was on the phone with some intern with the Cincinnati Bengals who had been given use of his old office there.
Jackson, who had a great deal of success as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator and was a coach quickly on the rise, came into Cleveland with a lot of credibility, enthusiasm, and cache, almost all of which is virtually gone at this point. His greatest achievement in Cleveland has been to sully his own reputation and make himself look bad.
The Browns posted a winning 5-3 record in the eight games that they played after he was fired. That was more wins (and ties) than Cleveland had managed in the 40 games that Jackson coached. I hope before he starts applying for new jobs he does some introspection and gains some humility over what the past three years have brought him and what he needs to do to better.