Browns

The Browns would be crazy to fire Hue Jackson after 2017

AP Photo / David Dermer

I’m not going to try and tell you that Hue Jackson is a good NFL head coach. The team drives me crazy under his leadership. They make mistakes with the clock. The play calling is suspect.  They always seem to get outmaneuvered in second halves of games when coaching and scheme adjustments are at a premium in the NFL. All that said, and knowing that I’ve just made an unimpeachable argument to fire any head coach in the league, the Browns would be nuts to let Hue Jackson go right now or after 2017.

When I’m in the midst of watching a Browns game, I like to note the moment that I realize Jackson has abandoned the run. On Sunday in London, the last run the Browns called was with 1:09 left in the third quarter with the Browns down 23-16. It was a six-yard gain for Isaiah Crowell. The Browns called 16 passes over the duration of the game as they trailed by two touchdowns. The Browns completed seven of those passes — three of them on the final “drive” when the game was so very over. On the one hand, I understand that once you’re down two scores, you have to change your plan and go for it. On the other hand, you can’t make yourself a good passing team just because you need to do it. To abandon the running game so completely is ridiculous. You can’t imagine any scenario where a coach with this roster would do that. I go back to Eric Mangini who had no business winning football games with the roster that he put on the field. He doubled down on running the ball, trick plays and keeping his quarterbacks out of trouble because he knew the limitations of the roster. Hue Jackson does the opposite.

Hue seems hard-headed and insistent on coaching this team as if it’s chock full of talent all over the field and then getting upset when they can’t out-execute more talented opponents. While the Browns aren’t winning games — and it’s infuriating to watch — I’m not so sure this is the wrong approach with such a young team. Scraping together wins with gimmickry is noble, but is it the right way to coach up the youngest team in the league? I don’t know if what Hue Jackson is doing is part of the “master plan,” but I’d be willing to listen because the Browns do not have the talent or experience to win in a conventional manner. Why not coach them to play the way they will when they are more seasoned?

On another topic that drives Hue’s critics insane: The Browns’ penalty total is out of control. If they aren’t giving free first downs on defense, they’re pushing off for pass interference on offense. To say the Browns are undisciplined is an understatement. They are one of the most penalized teams in the league. At the same time, they’re undeniably young and inexperienced. Is it Hue Jackson’s fault that David Njoku and the rest of the Browns’ receivers can’t seem to get off their man without pushing off? Is it bad play calling when the Browns jump offsides on 4th-and-4? Would any coach who was forced to use so many young players right away do any better? It’s debatable.

The NFL is about the talent on the roster. The Cleveland Browns, when fully healthy, have a couple of guys who might make an opposing coach think a little bit. Between Myles Garrett and Corey Coleman, you have a couple of play makers. They’re just prospects right now, however. Jackson is being asked to turn water into wine, but you want him to do it without stomping some grapes and letting the new mixture ferment over time.

Maybe the Browns would be better off with someone better, but it’s also too late for that. This is the guy they brought in for their soulless, gutting, rebuild of a process. The timing of changing coaches now is miserable just two seasons after you were lucky to get Hue Jackson to take your gig. The Browns are kryptonite in search of Superman, and there’s no reason why anyone with those kind of powers would agree to come here and wear those colors that would automatically limit their ability to fly. If you were a head coaching candidate, you wouldn’t do that with the Browns’ track record before Hue Jackson. You especially wouldn’t do that with the extension of that track record if it included Hue Jackson getting fired after just two seasons. There’s not a coach in the NFL who thinks they could win with this roster, even if they think they might be better than Hue Jackson.

I understand the displeasure with Jackson. I share a lot of the same criticisms. They might ultimately lead me to the conclusion that Hue Jackson needs to be relieved of his duties in Cleveland. That time is not right now. It’s not fair to anyone involved, from Hue himself, to whoever ends up doing the search for the next head coach, to the fans that are supposed to buy into some “process” that absolutely included stinking up the joint for at least two seasons. When you set the table the way the Browns have and load the kitchen the way they have in terms of ingredients, you aren’t allowed to get ticked off when Hue Jackson serves up sloppy joes every week.

  • Casual_Kenny_Reigns

    Everyone needs to go. This isn’t a rebuild; it’s a tire fire. The team is actually worse than last year. The scam with trying to save as much as possible while charging people full prices needs to end.

    The Browns won’t get anyone good to be the coach or the GM, but they need to stop taking people’s money for an inferior product. It makes me upset because I know Cleveland fans are loyal to a fault and Haslam is nothing more than a con man playing off that loyalty.

    Maybe the NFL can just fold the team and purge the Browns from Cleveland? Scorched Earth is the only way forward.

  • Ok, I have you down for getting rid of football in Cleveland and convincing the NFL to never bring another franchise here.

  • MartyDaVille

    For starters, if I’m Hasgrum, I tell him at the end of the year, “Hue, you can be our head coach or you can be our offensive coordinator. But you can’t be both. You choose.”

  • Casual_Kenny_Reigns

    Yes. I think we’ve all proven it doesn’t work in Cleveland. We’ll still have the Cavs and Tribe!

  • RGB

    Shouldn’t Sashi be the one telling him that?

  • Until they start playing poorly. Then what? You want to get rid of them too?

  • Casual_Kenny_Reigns

    No, neither of those teams have ever pretended to rebuild while stealing people’s money. Both teams have had actual rebuilds where they had a plan and it was easy to buy into.

    Basically – I think the Browns are a scam.

  • Casual_Kenny_Reigns

    He should be gone, too.

  • BenRM

    I understand his sentiment though. In the “Stages of Browns Fandom,” I am at “Hatred.” I don’t know where that falls numerically in the stages, but I can get on board with the “just make it go away” feeling.

  • Casual_Kenny_Reigns

    I’m just tired of good, well-meaning people spending money on an endless rebuild. I don’t believe Haslam has any intention of fielding a competitive football team.

  • formerbrownsfan

    I know I’m in the minority, and as my user name suggests, I’ve long ago entered the stage of apathy. I don’t think we are as far off as our record indicates. I like what we have on the defensive side of the football. (As a die-hard fantasy player, we do not play rb’s against the Browns) I believe our receiving core to be laughable and possibly one of the worst groups ever lumped together. That is not NFL talent. If we use the draft and available salary cap space to build an offense, we can be a very respectable team next season. Despite our record, and concerns Hugh needs to get another chance with an NFL caliber offense.

  • mgbode

    No. They both report directly to the owner- as they should. It is the one thing we have correct. How we operate within the structure though- that’s an issue.

  • And what would happen if it did go away? Will Cleveland fans rise up again to get the NFL to send another franchise to Cleveland? I feel that may be more difficult considering we lost 2 football franchises before.

  • BenRM

    I’m not suggesting that they go away. That would be short sighted. But in a way, I wish they could just forfeit the next two seasons, proceed to the drafts, and maybe play their first game in 2019.

    I don’t want to watch this anymore.

  • MartyDaVille

    No, I don’t think Sashi should be telling him that. I don’t think Sashi should have any say in the football side any more. He can play around with his charts and numbers and he can make suggestions, but he’s not qualified to do anything else.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi MARTY … Modell did that to Shottenheimer.

  • BenRM

    I don’t think they should fire Hue because there is no one remotely qualified who would take this job with this front office.

    The Browns made their bed of broken glass. Now, all they can do is lie down and bleed out in an agonizing death.

    However, if the Browns truly go 1-31, how does Haslam sell keeping anyone? I mean, it’s not my problem, but that will be near impossible.

  • tigersbrowns2

    nice timely article … i think Hue is doing the best he can with what he has. but he has to keep working hard & not lose the team & the faith of Haslam & the HBT. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a0021b619dab909f54542185a38e4a9b76a9f4c11208ed4493625d4ea34f3aa6.png

  • RGB

    A friend of mine used to tell me “The most dangerous thing in the Army is a lieutenant with a compass.” Well, we have a Sashi with a computalator..

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi FBF … if they address QB , RB & WR in free-agency & the draft next season , it will turn around quicker than many think.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi CKR … it’s this kind of thinking that will get us nowhere … so , who are you going to bring in to replace everyone ?? … who is going to want to come here & feel like they’re going to get a fair shot to execute their plan ??

  • BenRM

    I suppose it’s a free country and they are welcome to spend their money foolishly if they want to spend it that way. I’m not. I’ve actually turned down free tickets multiple times. You probably aren’t. If the stadium is any indication, a lot of people are with us.

  • A scam you say? Where’s your evidence? Because I would think Jimmy would get MORE revenue if he fielded a Super Bowl level football team year after year versus a poor one.

  • formerbrownsfan

    And another thing that drives me crazy, everyone talks about how we passed on Wentz and Watson. They may be better than Kizer, but they are not doing much with Bryce Treggs and Ricardo Louis either.

  • Chris

    Which would be a more favorable scenario? Being an expansion team with the ability to snag current mid-level players? Or going into 2018 with the Browns’ current roster and arsenal of draft picks? Assume #1 overall pick in each case

  • tigersbrowns2

    here’s what’s going on : many of you here are pissed or just don’t care anymore … and rightfully so. i don’t blame anyone who is disgruntled with the Browns. so what exactly do you think is going to happen if you fire Hue , the HBT , Haslam , or all 3 ??

    that things will get better ?? … nobody has a clue who to bring in , they just want to clean house , that’s it & nothing else matters. that has been the warped mentality since 1999 . okay , so you bring in someone else … what happens when they don’t have immediate success ?? … that’s right , you fire them too … why ? because you want things to turn around NOW … you don’t have time to see a stinkin’ plan through .

    I’m not a smart man , but i’ll bet if you just have the patience to “stick with the plan” this season & next , it will start bearing success in 2019 & sustained success every year thereafter … would that be worth waiting for ?

    i am really tired of hearing about “you can’t have continuity for continuity sake” … yes , i want to see continuity for continuity’s sake … and i’ll bet it pays off.

  • Then… don’t watch?

    Unfortunately the path to success isn’t a straight line upwards. The Browns will have to go through their trials and tribulations before they become successful. Why it’s taking so long is because they keep changing the plan before it’s finished. And I doubt that you can get much done if you keep changing things partway through the process.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi BEN … i know you don’t mean that … just take a break & don’t watch for a while.

  • JM85

    They need to hire better front office people. Hue isn’t picking the players.

  • TimCleveland

    Good stuff Craig, I thought I would vehemently disagree with you after reading the headline, but you bring up some very valid points. Although:

    “Scraping together wins with gimmickry is noble, but is it the right way to coach up the youngest team in the league?”

    I’m going to say that it is tough to instill a winning culture or to learn how to win…without actually winning. Maybe I’m just starved for a W after the last 1.5 seasons, but man, those Mangini wins sure would taste sweet right now. Beating Big Ben with essentially Josh Cribbs and the taxi squad D sounds amazing. Can you imagine beating Bill Belichick right now? I’d take those versus whatever the rest of the season brings –
    unless it’s 8 wins in a row and a .500 record 🙂

  • Steve

    “Hue seems hard-headed and insistent on coaching this team as if it’s chock full of talent all over the field and then getting upset when they can’t out-execute more talented opponents.”

    I think this is likely to be an intentional hard-headedness. For the umpteenth time, this team is not trying to win games this year. They are trying to build something for the future. That means hammering home certain lessons, even if that comes at the expense of a win on Sunday.

    Maybe the lessons don’t work. Maybe Jackson isn’t the right teacher for those lessons. But expecting this team to look like a competitive NFL team this year was foolish, and the people who are hard-headed enough to turn back in every Sunday expecting, even just hoping for, something different, only have themselves to blame for their being frustrated.

  • tigersbrowns2

    excellent post STEVE … your first paragraph says it all. this should be the “featured comment” of the day.

  • Harv

    If the Browns hired a guy without requisite head coaching skills or potential, what would that look like after a season and a half? Your piece fails to mention any sign that Hue can be a competent head coach. Doesn’t mention maybe the most egregious thing he’s done in a panic over his own employment: the Kizer taffy pull, in and out, virtually forcing an un-ready kid to look over his shoulder rather than relax and play. Which is consistent with his panicky play-calling. Hue is putting self above the org, trying to burnish his resume with a win in any form, screw QB or running game development. He actually started Britt last week after curfew violation, because screw culture, need a win. And, btw, his Raiders team was heavily penalized, roster age notwithstanding.

    The only reason to keep Hue next year is to pretend that the diff between firing him in December or October ’18 will attract a better candidate. I think we’re way past that; the next dude will be a complete unknown or part of a FO/coach “total control” package. The real problem here is that Hue’s current impact isn’t neutral, he’s doing damage to save his rear, and he doesn’t care. I wouldn’t can him until season’s end. But Craig, every week he proves he’s not improving as a coach (just one example yesterday: stopping the clock at the end of the half before the score, despite giving the Vikings and their full complement of timeouts plenty of time to score). Hue can’t coach. Pettine was a better coach. So was Romeo, even Mangini. If any of these kids have promise, best to remove them and salvage what’s left.

  • tigersbrowns2

    good post HARV … the only thing i disagree with is Hue’s handling of Kizer … did you ever have coaches that poo-pooed you as to not hurt your feelings or your psyche ? Hue is trying to drive the point home that turnovers will not be tolerated by the QB position … is was Kizer’s “relax and play” attitude that was getting him in trouble. Kizer had zero turnovers yesterday … so , maybe Kizer will be better for it in the long run.

  • Chris

    I don’t know what’s worse…
    1) Having talent, building a solid base, and intentionally holding them back by being hard-headed
    2) Adding a dozen-or-so picks over the last two years and still not having any talent to show for it.

  • Steve

    Well, we don’t know how much they are being held back. Again, the goal is not only to just not win this year, but to get that as high a pick as possible again. We are right on target for that. “Held back” would entail not building a contender in a few years.

    As far as part two, I will not make any claims that the process will actually work. They may be awful at finding talent. They may be awful at developing it. There are still a lot of things that have to go right that we should be skeptical as hell about them getting right. But the Astros tore it down in 2011, were able to leverage that into their Myles Garrett in Carlos Correa, and were just as bad again in 2012, and didn’t make the playoffs until 2015. We shouldn’t have expected any real improvement this year.

  • Chris

    I don’t disagree, but there was very little question that Correa and Springer were being competently developed. Assets are one thing, but poor selection and development make the whole plan moot. I’m not confident in the Browns’ ability to do either of the latter.

    I don’t think SI is about to put out a “Cleveland Browns: 2021 Super Bowl Champions” cover any time soon.

  • Steve

    We don’t know how much they are pissing it away or experimenting and learning.

    I brought up the Peppers as deep FS thing before. Every one of us Joe Averages knew that wasn’t his strength and it was hurting our chances to win. Of course the coaches and FO knew that too, they aren’t that incompetent. The goal was something other than putting him in the best spot to help win now. I’m hesitant to make random guesses, but he is a guy that needs to improve his coverage skills and they were putting him in a spot where he could do little but read coverages.

    Absolutely agree that they have to select and develop talent well. Very well even. That remains to be seen.

    Maybe the Astros aren’t as good a comparison as the Sixers. Top prospects in the minors is always a gleeful narrative for baseball franchises. The Sixers and Browns play in leagues where “just wait and see” is far less accepted. And like the Browns may be derailed by drafting poorly, the Sixers might not make it because they can’t get anyone healthy.

  • Sam Gold

    “Hue can’t coach.”

    Regrettably…this.

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  • Sam Gold

    I don’t know, you seem kinda smart to me.

  • Sam Gold

    Hue is absolutely playing a very large role in picking the players. KIZER IS HIS! Expect to see a reduced role this draft.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi CHRIS … i would say stick with the current roster is the scenario to go with. they blew the whole thing up to start over & go young … this is their apex draft , the one they absolutely must nail.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi SAM … that was my Forrest Gump impression.

  • tigersbrowns2

    yes , but do you think they had planned on getting Kizer all along ? … I don’t. i think if they really wanted him they would’ve took him with their 3rd pick (instead of Njoku) at the top of the 2nd round … then once he was still on the board , they decided to make a move.
    it’s hard for me to believe they would’ve been that patient to wait for “their guy”.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi CHRIS … Chiefs QB Alex Smith might be a pretty good example of driving a point home (not turning the football over / taking care of the ball) … remember his first years playing QB in SF ? … not good. Smith has ZERO int’s on the year so far … so I personally think Hue is handling Kizer just fine … the kid has to learn.

  • JM85

    If that’s the case then he should have a reduced role. I forgot about the whole Kessler thing too.

  • Sam Gold

    No, not all along, but he definitely was part of the massive scouting effort they made over two years on Kizer and expressed his desire for Kizer’s traits. So far Hue has shown a propensity for a type and zero ability to assess talent.

  • Sam Gold

    Exactly.

  • Tom Henry

    It seems that the current logic is keep the coach that does the worst ever and QB that performs worse than any other and use them to rebuild with. Maybe that’s smart. They used to fire every coach after one or two poor seasons. Now they’ve got the coach with the worst record of all and seem poised to make him the rock to build upon lol. And it’s all about developing Kiser since he has the worst numbers of their young quarterbacks. Military basic training was like that. Break it down to the weakest possible and build it back up, fans be damned.