As soon as his lawsuit was announced, it was also made clear that Brian Flores and his representatives intended it to be a class-action suit, and hoped that others would join. Some have come out and said, or at least suggested, that they might consider it. Some have more credibility (whether rightly or not) than others.
Former Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson is not one of those who have spoken who have that sort of credibility that would help the public image of the case if he were to join Flores’ suit. Hired as head coach in 2016, he presided over one of the very worst coaching periods in NFL history, finishing his tenure there with an astonishingly poor 3-36-1 record before he was dismissed in the middle of the 2018 season.
Following Flores’ specific claims that his former employer, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, offered to pay him $100,000 per loss in order to ‘tank’ in the hopes of securing the number one draft pick, Jackson first intimated that he had also been incentivized to lose, though his later remarks on ESPN were more ambiguous.
And Browns owner Jimmy Haslam was quick to fire back. He not only clearly denied that Jackson was ever paid to lose a game, he fed directly into the public perception of his former coach as somebody who shifts responsibility for his own failings.
“He’s been masterful at pointing fingers but has never accepted any blame. I have accepted a ton of blame, and rightfully so”, Haslam said. “There are a lot of things I could’ve done better. Hue has never accepted blame for one thing”.
The owner can readily point to the fact that his team has been significantly better since moving on from Jackson—including in the 2018 season. They were 2-5-1 through eight games while he was still aboard, but they ended the season with a 5-3 run, and very nearly secured a winning record if not for a late loss to a Baltimore Ravens team fighting for the postseason in week 17.
Since his firing, Jackson has tried to repair his public image on multiple occasions by portraying himself as the sacrificial martyr for the organization, suggesting that he was set up to fail. He has not been very convincing, especially since much of his coaching approach was unflatteringly displayed when his team appeared on the HBO Hard Knocks series.
Jackson suggested that he was offered bonuses during his first two seasons for having the youngest roster and the most draft picks, which he interprets as being an indirect way of building a poor roster that was not ready to win.
“I can’t think of any individual that I’ve worked with over the past 45 years that I spent as much time trying to help be successful as I did Hue Jackson”, Haslam said. He then pointed out the discrepancy in the team’s record during the 2018 with Jackson as head coach and without.
The Browns continued to struggle in 2019 under Freddie Kitchens, but they posted a winning record under Kevin Stefanski in 2020, and even advanced to the postseason and won a game. They took a step back this past year, in part due to health at the quarterback position, going 8-9 and missing the postseason, so 2022 will be a pivotal year.
All I know is if Jackson was paid to lose, then he was superb at it. 1-31 is the worst stretch in NFL history. Well done, Coach. I hope you enjoyed your bonuses. If you got them.