When the Browns hired Hue Jackson in January of 2016, I was as optimistic as I have ever been as a Browns fan. For once I thought the Browns actually found their man. His track record with Cincinnati’s offense (impressive enough in his two years) and his brief stay with Oakland in 2011, resulting in an 8-8 finish, pointed to a man who was ready to lead a franchise willing to give him the chance he deserved. Jackson was a guy who chose Cleveland despite several other teams in pursuit. Along with Adam Gase, he was one of the hottest names of the market going into the 2016 season. The key factor for Jackson picking Cleveland? Freedom. Let’s take a look at where that freedom has gone wrong.
Jackson was given a prominent voice in the acquisition of personnel – something that helped force him out of Oakland back in 2011. Sashi Brown and company declined the opportunity to hire an experienced football executive after the disastrous 1-15 season in 2016- a draft that included passing on not only Carson Wentz, but also Joey Bosa and Ezekiel Elliot. The Browns passed on adding experience in their personnel department in favor of a higher opinion of Jackson’s considerations. Sashi Brown made reference to it late in the season during post-season media meetings. Jeff Schudel wrote this in The News Herald regarding Brown’s trust in Jackson in regard to solving the Browns longest known problem, finding a franchise quarterback:
Since Brown has decided to not hire a football executive graying at the temples, Brown said he will rely “a ton” on Jackson to find the right one. “We haven’t established ‘the guy’ at the position so we’re going to look at all options, and we’ll continue to work to develop the guys that we have on our roster,” Brown said. “Hue, when we introduced him, we talked about that being one of the reasons we brought him here. We talk a lot. We watch tape on our guys so that we can learn and get on the same page and share ideas, but Hue knows how to identify them, he knows how to develop them and he knows what works for his system. There is no question he and I are going to have to be arm and arm in understanding who we are going to bring into this building to try to solve that position for us long term.”
The goal here is not to tie Jackson to the personnel entirely, the front office is even more responsible than Jackson for the failures in that department, but Jackson can’t avoid being partially responsible. He is tied to missing out on Wentz. Jackson said after the 2016 draft: ” “At the time, he wasn’t the right fit for us. I think Carson will have a bright future, and we decided to go in a different direction. We evaluated him as a really good player.” That is an amazing miss. Jackson told us to “trust him” on the Cody Kessler pick in that same year and now Hue has buried him. We are being led to believe that he texted DeShaun Watson on the morning of the draft, and then the franchise didn’t make the choice. Jackson admitted he supported the decision to pass on Watson. His support of Watson, then lack of support, is just odd.
Plenty can be said about the failures of this roster at many positions, most notably the wide receiver and quarterback unit, but Jackson’s insistence on passing on the above names has led to his demise. The Browns decision to enter this year with DeShone Kizer, Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler, and Kevin Hogan as their best options is a cataclysmic organizational failure. It’s not all on Jackson, but he is an equal partner. Especially after this most recent Kevin Hogan performance not six weeks into a season after making this comment.
"I think he's talented. He has the right stuff" Hue Jackson on DeShone Kizer. He said he's sticking with him through good and bad
— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) August 28, 2017
Jackson made his biggest mark in 2010 as the offensive coordinator of the Raiders, and his 2014 and 2015 seasons as the Bengals’ Offensive Coordinator. He showed a willingness to adapt and make his mark on the personnel around him. He made Andy Dalton effective, and implemented a power run scheme that gave Jeremy Hill his most effective season’s in the NFL. He took the Raiders from 17 touchdowns in 2009 to 37 in 2010. He brought an edge to both franchises, and he made them both much better on their side of the football.
The problem for Hue is that during his two stints as a Head Coach, he has been unable to delegate responsibility and failed to hire his own offensive coordinator to call plays. He entertained the idea of Pep Hamilton but decided to keep the duty himself. That leads us to where we are right now with the 2017 Cleveland Browns. A totally worthless group on offense that is lacking any ability to move the football consistently.
They rank 25th in total offense, and that is only because they are frequently falling behind so defenses are allowing them to tack on some passing yards. Yet again, they rank in the bottom third in both passing and running, and they have no systematic base. They don’t have a style of play which gives them a baseline to go to when times get tough. They have an offensive line, that according to Pro Football Focus ranks is in the top third of football, yet they haven’t found a go-to running scheme. The running base is where all success comes from in offense. It builds deception and allows your offense to create systems of plays that use it to their advantage. The Browns are somehow throwing the ball 65% of the time when they spent so much money on a developing offensive line and returned two solid running backs. With two young quarterbacks, this makes so little sense. Under Jackson, the Browns have failed in all aspects on offense.
Ability to Adapt
When difficult situations arise on offense, the Browns are forced into making throws deep downfield far too often. They are putting young quarterbacks, Kizer and Hogan, in situations that require making deep throws at a rate that is alarming. The goal for your offense is to be built around the personnel you have. The Texans have adapted to the strengths of DeShaun Watson in their inside zone/play-action scheme. Using sequencing to make it work for the young quarterback. They are pairing run game deception to make it easy.
One of Texans favorite schemes. TE is in tight slot and will pull down the line. Sometimes teams use that TE tagged with a KICK call to take out the RK, and sometimes teams LOOP for the Q pull and lead blocker for the invert LBer or Safety. They use this in play-action well also. pic.twitter.com/luQgPMUcWb
— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) October 13, 2017
and then this…
Here's the piggyback play from a similar set. Kick the end out in pass pro and it sells the same run action. Look at those throwing windows. pic.twitter.com/OqkTG6w5n6
— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) October 13, 2017
The Eagles have built an offense that is based around Carson Wentz’s strength in the RPO (run-pass option) system.
Another miscommunication with Dolphins DBs. This one on McCain, who overpursues on a basic RPO. Wentz did well again to hit the throw. pic.twitter.com/ZEYbelIboa
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) August 25, 2017
Jared Goff was being brutally misused under Jeff Fisher, and now Scott McVay has saved his young career with his heavy west-coast offense schemes. They use their back Todd Gurley along with lateral misdirection thanks to the speedy Tavon Austin – who the Browns can liken to Duke Johnson.
— NFL (@NFL) October 1, 2017
The coach’s responsibility is to design the offense best fit to work with their young quarterback, and Hue hasn’t done that. He is running a system that lacks a base, and is putting his team in some terrible situations it can’t overcome.
Lack of Discipline
One of the many reasons Mark Davis didn’t bring back Hue Jackson in 2012 was attributed to his his team’s lack of discipline. The 2011 Raiders set a record (at the time) for penalties in a season. They had 163 total, more than 10 a game, for 1,358 yards. The Browns are again in the Top 10 for total penalties, and this group has shown over and over again just how undisciplined it is. They are also coughing up costly turnovers, and when you combine a high number of turnovers with costly penalties, you have a bad outcome. Not all of this is on the coach, but in the end, the lion’s share of the responsibility falls on the head coach to have a disciplined group – especially when the Browns have to keep all advantages in their favor they can when the talent margin is as wide as it can be at times.
The last thing I wanted is for the Browns to turn it over after another two-year head coach tenure. It is a vicious cycle that is just ripping the franchise apart. I don’t want to write this kind of article, but the facts are hard to ignore. 1-21 makes you look at things closely. Rebuilds happen often in the NFL and some glimmers of hope emerge. It is one thing to rebuild, it is another to have zero clear vision or improvement from the personnel. Some winning has to happen, and unfortunately this feels like an all-time low. The Browns have went 1-21, passed on two potential franchise quarterbacks, failed to develop their current talent, failed to hire the necessary coordinators to see success. It is a cataclysmic failure from top to bottom and it is now easy to see that Hue Jackson isn’t helping the situation. He is only making matters worse. I always turn to this concept:
My thoughts on Hue Jackson needing removed aren't based on his lack of knowledge – he knows football. His ability to pass it on to his coaches, and ultimately his players, is his biggest fault. As a coach it is not about what we know, it is about what our players know through us.
— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) October 16, 2017
Hue’s arrogance and utter unwillingness to change have been obvious. He has an ego that has shown itself to be more detrimental than helpful. To an extent all head coaches in the NFL have to be confident, they have to get a team to believe in him. Yet, somehow Hue has failed to let some humility sneak in when it should. I think it will be his ultimate demise.
“We are not going 1-15 (again). No, or I’ll be swimming in the lake over there somewhere. That is not happening. I just know me too well. I know me and I know these guys too well. We are not going 1-15 next year, OK? You can write it if you like. Hue Jackson said it. We are not.”
— Browns head coach Hue Jackson, Jan 1, 2017