The NFL is designed to make bad teams good and vice versa. Eventually, enough draft picks at the top of the order and enough cap space spent will turn around a franchise, and the lack of incoming resources will tear down the best dynasties. At least, that’s the idea. It doesn’t always work out that way.
There’s the New England Patriots, who continue to crank out Super Bowl runs, despite not picking in the top half of the first round once in the last 10 years. And then there’s the Cleveland Browns, who have defied the odds with 10 consecutive losing seasons.
Now at 2-5-1, they’re three more losses away from making it 11 in a row. It’s not the worst prolonged funk in NFL history, but it’s up there. The only team in the last 40 years to have a longer stretch of losing seasons was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who had a 14-year streak below .500 between 1983 and 1996.
So Cleveland’s sorrows certainly predate Hue Jackson’s arrival in 2016. But boy did he do an astoundingly bad job, even by Browns standards. Three straight losses to finish October — capped with a 33-18 loss to the Steelers — tied a bow on his brutal tenure and sent him packing.
He finished with a 3-36-1 record that was so awful that it’d be the worst 40-game stretch for a coach in NFL history even if he doubled his win total.
Mostly thanks to the 8-8 record he put up in his one season as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Jackson has a .205 career win percentage. That ranks 178th out of the 179 who were head coach for at least 50 NFL games.
Now Jackson’s gone, and Cleveland will probably improve just because there’s really nowhere to go but up, even though interim coach Gregg Williams is a mess in his own right. But let’s give Jackson the “One Shining Moment” treatment anyway and look back on a tenure so terrible it’s actually hard to believe.
There was a fair share of pessimism when Jackson was hired in 2016 because of the Browns’ long track record of calamity. But Jackson’s decent run with the Raiders and relatively strong seasons as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator gave Browns fans reason to see the glass as half full.
That disappeared with one win in his first two seasons. After Jackson was somehow given a third season at the helm, everyone knew 2018 wasn’t going to magically turn him into NFL Coach of the Year. And if you weren’t already convinced it was going to be a bad year, the Browns’ appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks pretty much sealed the deal.
In the first episode of the season, Jackson was already butting heads with new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who was begging Jackson to make practices tougher:
Never forget the moment everyone realized Hue/Haley wouldn't work out...the first episode of Hard Knocks pic.twitter.com/GiVkFYQo28— NFL Insider JKutz34 (@JKutz34) October 29, 2018
In the second episode, Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor was coaching up Jackson on how to hold players accountable:
My favorite part of Hard Knocks this year was when Tyrod Taylor was teaching Hue Jackson how to coach pic.twitter.com/BKtHxPPugF— Adam Stites (@AdamStites_) October 29, 2018
The obvious red flags that HBO’s cameras picked up in training camp carried into the regular season. Haley just flat out stopped caring what Jackson said.
Rapoport says Todd wasn't listening to Hue at all, just doing whatever he wanted.— Andrea Hangst (@FBALL_Andrea) October 29, 2018
Jackson tried his best to throw Haley under the bus, but there was no winner of that slap fight. Both Jackson and Haley were fired by the Browns after Week 8.
So yeah, things didn’t work out. Shocker.
If you’re going to be a clown show, at least be the smiling clown who does balloon animals and juggles. Nobody wants to see that horrible crying clown that mopes around with a painted-on frown.
Good football is fun to watch and so is the opposite. My favorite football moment of recent memory was Louisiana Tech’s 87-yard fumble that can only be properly appreciated when set to “Yakety Sax.” But the Jackson era in Cleveland didn’t even given us laughs. It was all just sad.
Interceptions are often funny, but when DeShone Kizer threw 22 as a rookie — the most anyone has thrown in a season since 2013 — you really just felt like someone should give the poor guy a hug. Kizer didn’t ask for that mess, he was just tossed into the blender and predictably chopped to bits.
So far in 2018, the Browns’ season has just been a frustrating series of missed opportunities and bad luck. Baker Mayfield is a quarterback Cleveland can actually feel optimistic about, but his rookie season has been dragged down by a weak receiving corps that’s not doing him any favors. There’s also the fact that officials have seemed to save their worst calls for Browns games this year.
The Browns’ 2-2-1 start to the year almost inspired hope that they were turning a corner. But the team has regressed and it’s back to being depressing.
The best thing about the Browns lately has been offensive line coach Bob Wylie:
The gut moving in synchronization with the snap count. This is art. pic.twitter.com/VxxPvNZdnt— Joe Dolan (@FG_Dolan) August 22, 2018
But on the field? No, just look away.
Weird things happen in the NFL and it’s usually not wise to rule out anything. But I’m going to go ahead and say there’s no way we’ll ever see a worse tenure statistically than Jackson’s 3-36-1 run.
There have only been two 0-16 seasons in NFL history. Jackson had one a year after he started his tenure with a 1-15 season and he STILL kept his job. The utter lack of talent explained away his slow start, but the Browns should probably be good by now. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam tried his best to give Jackson a chance to turn things around and even had to be convinced by new general manager John Dorsey to fire the coach:
Detail on #Browns: Owner Jimmy Haslam was conflicted over blowing up another coach mid-season. Late last night he was leaning toward staying course. But Haslam spoke to GM John Dorsey, who said the Hue/Haley dynamic couldn’t continue. Some decision had to be made for the team.— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) October 29, 2018
Reminder: the only coach who had a lower win percentage kept his job because he literally couldn’t be fired. And Jackson would’ve had half the win percentage had he not had a .500 season with the Raiders.
That’s not going to happen again. No way.
Jackson’s tenure with the Browns is the worst ever and it’s not particularly close. Nobody’s going to touch that and — even if it wasn’t particularly fun to watch — we can all say we lived through it. So thanks for that, Hue, I guess.