The NFL is reportedly opening an investigation over if the Cleveland Browns instructed then-head coach Hue Jackson to tank during the 2016 and 2017 season, providing Jackson incentives if his team lost games.
That investigation has been confirmed by the NFL who told Sports Illustrated:
“The review is ongoing and is expected to conclude soon.”
It is being led by former SEC Chair Mary Jo White.
Jackson publicly made allegations about being paid to tank earlier in the offseason following Brian Flores’ claim that Miami Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross said he’d pay Flores $100,000 per loss during the 2019 season. Ross and the Dolphins have refuted the claims.
Initially, Jackson said he was specifically offered money to lose games in what sounded like a similar situation to Flores, once tweeting the Browns offered a “good number.”
Jackson walked those comments back days later, saying his situation was different than the one Flores alleged.
“No, I was never offered money like Brian [Flores] had mentioned,” Jackson told CNN via this February ESPN article. “I think this is a totally different situation but has some similarities.”
Cleveland went 1-16 during the 2016 season and winless in 2017. Jackson survived both those seasons but was fired mid-way through 2018 after the team started 2-5-1. Replacement Gregg Williams went 5-3 as the Browns finished with a respectable 7-8-1 record.
In light of the news of the investigation, the Browns released the following statement:
“Even though Hue recanted his allegations a short time after they were made, it was important to us and to the integrity of the game to have an independent review of the allegations. We welcomed an investigation and we are confident the results will show, as we’ve previously stated, that these allegations are categorically false. We have fully cooperated with Mary Jo White and look forward to the findings.”
Based on the reporting and statements, it’s unlikely the NFL will find any credible allegations of Jackson being paid to lose. The best evidence is the fact the team started the likes of Cody Kessler, Josh McCown, Robert Griffin III, DeShone Kizer, and Kevin Hogan over those ’16-’17 seasons. They were plenty capable of losing for free. And lose they did.