Cleveland Football Browns fans have rightfully been excited about the hiring of new head coach Hue Jackson. He was the team’s No. 1 choice, has a history of success, and other teams were actually interested in him. No offense to Mike Pettine, but it’s nice to see the Browns get a coach who isn’t some rando nobody outside of their former city has ever heard of. However, in the haste to dig through Jackson’s past to find evidence that he will prove successful in Cleveland, both the media and fans alike have overlooked some obvious red flags. This is not to say he will fail, only that as long suffering Browns fans we need to take his hiring with a grain of salt.
Here are a few items about which you should be concerned. I haven’t seen these mentioned in the media, except in those places where I found the information for this very article.
1. He spells “Huey” wrong.
As someone with an oft-mispronounced first name, I understand Jackson’s plight, but I’m to the point now where I think enough is enough. We all know “Huey” is spelled with a “y.” The band Huey Lewis and the News remains an extremely influential cultural foundation for Eastside baby boomers like my parents, rivaled by only the Browns themselves, and coming into town spelling it “Hue” sends a very pointed message to older Clevelanders about how little the organization cares about their priorities. For success in Cleveland’s suburbs, he needs to embrace the power of love and add the “y.”
2. Joe Flacco is not a elite quarterback.
A lot of hay was made over Jackson’s mentorship of Joe Flacco during the quarterback’s first seasons in Baltimore. While Flacco has been a serviceable ball slinger, does anyone truly think the man belongs in the “elite” conversation with Brady, Manning, Rodgers or Roethlisberger?1 How much of Flacco’s uneliteness can we attribute to Jackson? It’s possible with better mentorship his first two seasons, Flacco would have become a truly elite quarterback and not the facsimile of one he is today. Flacco had a terrible 2015 season and I don’t think it’s unfair to place some of the blame on Jackson. We’re expecting Jackson to pick the Browns’ (next) QB of the future, but going off the Flacco example, we should rightfully be concerned.
3. Carson Palmer has only been good THIS season.
A few takes have given Jackson credit for trading for Carson Palmer in 2011, given the quarterback’s performance in 2015. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t think we have four years of patience in us for Jared Goff to start producing. Trading for a player almost half a decade before he plays well does not make Jackson an offensive genius. Giving Jackson credit for Palmer’s recent success is like me taking credit for the success of the Marvel movie franchise because I read comic books in the 1990s.
4. The Raiders fired him. The Raiders!
The Raiders fired Jackson in 2011 after his only season at the helm, and the team has yet to again reach the middling 8-8 record they had during his tenure. This may lead you to the conclusion that the Raiders should have kept him, but I would argue that it could mean the Raiders were on to something. Hear me out. Yes, the Raiders have a better record in the Super Bowl era than the Browns: they have actually gone to Super Bowls, won Super Bowls, etc. However, for the last 10 years, the franchise has been one of the more laugh-worthy in the NFL, rivaling our own beloved Cleveland Football Browns as a national punch line. You should never take the leftovers from a team worse than your own. If an inbred, nepotistic, botched plastic surgery victim like Mark Davis gave him the axe, maybe we should take note.
5. No ginger QBs in the draft.
Many have pointed to Andy Dalton’s performance over the past few years, especially this season, as an example of what Jackson can do with an adequate, uninspiring quarterback. Even after Dalton was injured, the Bengals continued to do well with AJ McCarron, despite the distraction of his attractive spouse to commentators. I would argue that had Dalton stayed healthy, the Bengals would have beaten the Steelers. Why? Because Jackson obviously has a knack for whispering ginger QBs, of which there are none available in the upcoming draft. How can we rely on Jackson to mold the Browns’ (next) QB of the future when none of the candidates possesses the one key attribute Jackson needs for building field general success?
6. He’s not from the Belichick coaching tree.
Everyone knows that success as an NFL head coach comes from having worked for a successful head coach at one time. For example, look at Paul Brown’s coaching tree: Bill Walsh, Chuck Noll, Don Shula, Bill Parcells, Mike Holmgren, the list goes on and on. Jackson has worked for player/coach Marvin Lewis for years, but the Bengals have yet to get past the first round of the playoffs. Real, truly successful head coaches come from the leadership and mentorship of already successful head coaches, like Bill Belichick. Have we even tried to grab one of Belichick’s previous coordinators to take the Browns to success? I think an argument can be made that the team owes itself that chance.2
7. Jimmy Haslam is still the owner.
Ultimately, no matter the circumstances regarding Hue Jackson’s tenure, the obvious impediment to his success is still with the organization is owner Jimmy Haslam. During Jackson’s introductory press conference the comment was made that Haslam has been successful in every endeavor he has undertaken, except for Football Browns ownership. That is true: he was successfully born the son of a national gas station chain founder, he successfully avoided jail time for defrauding his gas station customers, and he successfully owned a stake in the Browns’ arch rival Pittsburgh Steelers. However, like all Tennesseans, he is a fiery loose cannon prone to emotion and rash actions — this is at least his sixth regime change for the team (I have lost count).
If you have seen “Justified” on the FX network, then you understand what I’m getting at. The man likes to proverbially shoot first and ask questions later. That may work well on the backroads and hollers of his native Harlan County, but this is Cleveland, ostensibly a modern American city; he can’t just kick in the door to the coach’s office, .45 in hand, and haul Jackson away by the collar after a losing season.3 The man will need time to right the Browns ship, and Haslam has proven he does not have it in him to wait. I hope that Jimmy can keep his legendary temper under control while his latest coach tries to staunch the blood loss.
Anyway, the points laid out above should give you some food for thought regarding Hue Jackson’s hiring as the latest Cleveland Browns head coach. I still think he was the best choice for the team, but no man is perfect, and it would do us all well to approach his tenure with eyes wide open.