Former Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson has become both a punchline and a punching bag over the course of the past couple of seasons, presiding over arguably the worst stretch of football in NFL history. In two and a half seasons, his Browns teams secured just three wins and a tie over the span of 40 games. It would take the New England Patriots a decade or more to lost 36 games.
While he has become a laughingstock—and certainly, his occasional arrogance seen on Hard Knocks and later his blatant denial after his was fired—it’s also important to remember at times that there is a real person behind the story. And that real person recently revealed that he has been battling depression stemming from his failure and dismissal from the Browns.
That denial? Probably one of the stages of depression he was going through. He told Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated that he did indeed tell Jimmy Haslam to “get the fuck out of my office” after he was relieved of his duties, but he proceeded to spent the next three days hunkered down in the dark in a guest basement. He credit longtime friend Marvin Lewis and his job offer with the Cincinnati Bengals for helping to turn it around.
Now, for the first time in over three decades, Jackson doesn’t have a team to coach. He doesn’t have an offense or a defense to coach. He doesn’t even have a position group to preside over. Football is out of his life for the first time in a very long while. And it’s not easy. Not easy to deal with that nor to reconcile with his past failure.
He did finally acknowledge, as he told Bishop, the he “failed tremendously” in Cleveland, saying that that is true “regardless of how you look at it”. The fact that the team won more games in an eight-week span than he did over two and a half years after he was fired certainly is some support for that self-evaluation.
Bishop did write that he had a hard time at moments to discern whether or not Jackson was revealing and opening up to his failure because he truly believed that he had failed at his job or because he believed it was necessary for him to say that he failed.
Later, Jackson’s wife said said, “I don’t look at the record and think, You’re a loser because you lost. I look at the years and years of dedication, studying, learning, overcoming. That’s winning. The human part”.
Will Jackson work in the NFL again? Plenty of great coordinators and position coaches have failed spectacularly as head coaches, but perhaps not many have burned bridges and been derided as Jackson has.