And now we know. Time did, in fact, run out for Hue Jackson. The Browns fired him Monday morning after a loss to the Steelers. He brought this on himself. The drama last week with him threatening to get involved with the play calling and then shifting the blame for it caught up to him. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley got the axe too.
What is Hue Jackson good at? If you ask the Browns head coach himself, he’d tell you offense is his specialty. “That’s what I know,” he claimed last week, after an overtime loss to the Buccaneers. His declaration came with a promise to jump in and help embattled offensive coordinator Todd Haley “figure out” why the Browns couldn’t score enough points to win games.
They scored 18 points in a loss to the Steelers. Six of those points came with just 13 seconds left in the game and Pittsburgh’s defense in cruise control with a 33-12 lead.
So what exactly did Jackson do to help the offense this week? Nobody knows. Not even Hue Jackson!
When he was asked about those comments after this week’s loss, Jackson brushed it off.
“I don’t want to talk about or give [credence] to anything about last week,’’ Jackson said after Sunday’s game. “I said what I said out of frustration. That’s over and done with.”
There he was clearly annoyed that reporters had the audacity to bring up the declaration he made waaaaaay in the past, a whole dang week ago.
So how did this become a thing in the first place?
Let’s turn back the clock to last week, another forgettable Browns game.
They lost 26-23 in overtime to the Bucs. Following that game is when Jackson promised to insert himself into the Browns offensive decision-making.
“I got to jump in headfirst, all hands, feet, everything, and go figure it out; it’s just that simple. I think I have to. And I want to. That’s what I know. So I’m not going to continue to watch something that I know how to do keep being that way. That’s just the truth.
”That’s nothing against anybody in our building. I just think that’s what I do. And I think I need to be a little bit more involved.”
Nobody’s going to look at the box score and think the offense was great in that loss to the Bucs, but a steady diet of feeding Nick Chubb the ball and Baker Mayfield leaning on Jarvis Landry and tight end David Njoku did get them out of a 16-2 deficit in the first half to force overtime.
It’s not rocket science.
This was the best, most ominous part of his statement last week though:
“I’m the head coach of the football team. I will do what I feel I need to do to get this team where it needs to be.”
Was that Jackson taking a some responsibility?
LOL, you should know better than that.
Rumors of a firing emerge
A familiar thing happened Sunday morning, before the Browns’ inevitable loss to the Steelers — rumors of a firing emerged. This time it was Haley whose head was on the block. According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Browns could fire Haley if the struggles continued. That was at least one potential solution.
But you don’t really have to watch every down of Browns football (God, why would you?) to know the problems go well beyond the offensive play calling. Everyone in the building suffers from football anemia. It’s endemic.
Jackson and Haley, to the surprise of no one who’s remotely familiar with either of them, are not getting along. You saw some of those tensions on Hard Knocks this summer. They got into an argument about resting players. The tension over how Jackson treats players, i.e. with a lack of discipline, is reportedly still causing problems.
Last week’s remarks didn’t sit well — surprise — with the rest of the team. A head coach publicly castigating his veteran offensive coordinator isn’t going to be well-received. Their infighting made things more difficult in the locker room too.
Hue Jackson always finds a scapegoat. Last season it was Sashi Brown, a front office guy taking the fall for Jackson’s 0-16 season. This time it’s Haley getting served up.
So what happened this week?
To hear Jackson tell it after the game this week, his involvement in the offense was no more than usual. That’s a very convenient thing to say after getting embarrassed by the Steelers, who themselves had a pretty embarrassing moment on that free kick they didn’t realize was a free kick.
The difference is that the Steelers bounced back from their gaffe. For Hue Jackson’s Browns, now 3-36-1 since he was hired, it’s a way of life.
It’s the usual list of conservative play calls, terrible clock management, and undisciplined play that’s always dogged the Browns under Jackson, no matter which hapless schmuck coordinator had the misfortune of working for him.
On the first drive of the game, the Browns were doing a decent job moving the ball. They moved 69 very nice yards to the Steelers’ 13, where they had a third-and-3. Pittsburgh knew what was coming, Duke Johnson right up the middle. They stuffed him for a three-yard loss, and the Browns settled for a field goal.
My personal favorite moment came at the end of the first half. The Steelers, leading 7-6, got the ball on their own 13 with 7:20 left after Baker Mayfield threw an interception. They used all but eight seconds of the remaining clock time on a touchdown drive that made it 14-6. Hue Jackson had all three timeouts to burn when the drive started, and he had all three timeouts left when the half ended.
Hue asked why he didn’t use timeouts late in the second quarter: Honestly I don’t even recall that.— Zac Jackson (@AkronJackson) October 28, 2018
Having a short memory is important for being a Browns fan. It’s a less appealing quality for the head coach.
When the Steelers got an, ahem, generous spot on that same drive, Jackson couldn’t challenge, but he could have called a timeout in the hopes to try and get the refs to take another look. Or if nothing else, a timeout just to give his defense a chance to collect itself before the Steelers converted the fourth-and-short on the next play.
Running out of excuses in Cleveland
Jackson’s short memory came in handy when asked about the drama last week too.
“Guys, I said what I said last week, and obviously, it had legs, but I never said I wanted to take away play calling. I said I wanted to help. That’s it. So today, now all of the sudden it’s this big ol’ thing because sure everyone’s going to look and say what’s going on?”
Whatever involvement he had in the offense this week, calling plays or just offering some helpful advice, it didn’t work. But because he had put that out there, it was that much harder to pin all the blame on the offensive coordinator. Jackson positioned himself as part of the solution, offered up a straw man and didn’t like being held accountable for the same terrible results.
Oh, and he and Todd Haley are fine too.
“There’s nothing wrong with my relationship with Haley,” he added.
Maybe not, but forgive me for not accepting that at face value. Some interesting reports began to circulate Sunday night, reports shedding some light on the two men’s disagreement over the offense.
Jackson, according to ESPN, reportedly wants the Browns to use more no-huddle offense, more quick slants and read options, plays designed to be a better fit for where Mayfield is at in his first season in the NFL. Those kind of plays haven’t always worked either. And it probably doesn’t help that the Browns have a pretty bad group of receivers behind Landry. Haley prefers a more traditional offense, more dropbacks which can be a liability behind that offensive line.
Changing the arrangements on offense, we learned via Charles Robinson at Yahoo Sports, would require permission from the owner, Jimmy Haslam.
Whoever was the source for those reports, they would appear to give Jackson a little cover for the team’s offensive struggles, despite his “help” this last week. Whatever his weaknesses as a head coach.
Jackson’s always been pretty good about getting his version of events into the media one way or another. He survives by creating chaos and then positioning himself as a victim and the one person who can clean it all up.
But this time it did not matter. Jackson got fired.
There’s someone else who has Haslam’s ear now: general manager John Dorsey. Not even a year into the job, he’s done a lot to help clean up the team’s personnel issues ... removing Jackson’s greatest excuse for his shortcomings in the standings. The loss to the Steelers and all the drama that came with it, was just too much for Hue.
It makes for another tough season in the Dawg Pound, but at least now, the Browns can finally get a new head coach and on track to start winning.