The Ghost of Rob Chudzinski saved Hue Jackson

Maybe it’s the change of calendar and the end of the losing on the last day of 2017, but I’m feeling better about the Browns than I have in a long time. I turned the page on Hue Jackson saying that I wouldn’t die on that hill defending a guy with his record both on the field and into beat reporter microphones. I still feel that way even as his job has been reaffirmed for another year by Jimmy Haslam. However, I am a Hue defender compared to most of the rest of you. That’s uncomfortable for me. I think Hue has well-documented issues and I worry about his ceiling, but I don’t think he’s as bad as he’s been the past two seasons. If that’s a defense, then I guess I’m a defender? As I’ve said, if he had been fired, I couldn’t have put forth an argument against it. More than any feelings I have about Hue Jackson, I just didn’t think the Browns had any other choice but to retain him thanks to the ghost of Rob Chudzinski.

That specter of firing a coach after just one season continues to loom large over Jimmy Haslam and the Browns. Jimmy might be the worst owner in the history of Cleveland sports, including Art Modell, but I still have to look at what he’s doing and analyze it. I look at the current state of the Browns, and as much as I hate the rebuild that occurred over the past two seasons, Jimmy decided to go with some continuity. By hiring John Dorsey, and firing Sashi Brown, Jimmy Haslam replaced a big piece in the organization, but it appears that most everything else will remain intact including Paul DePodesta and Andrew Berry. Obviously, we’ll have to see if more changes are forthcoming, but right now it looks like the Browns tried to identify the biggest issue and change him out. Jimmy Haslam knew that he couldn’t retain 100% continuity, but he tried his best to save face from his proclamation that he didn’t want to blow it up again.

I know how much many of you, including a wide swath of WFNY’ers, dislike Hue Jackson, but what were the Browns supposed to do? I read today that the Giants have scheduled interviews with Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia. Patricia appears to be their guy, but do you think the Browns would get a good meeting with those guys on the heels of firing both Sashi Brown and Hue Jackson after setting him up with a QB room that didn’t have a win when the season started and still doesn’t have a win now that the season’s over? If you believe the Pats lore that they traded Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers because they respected him too much to trade him to the Browns, how do you think interviews with two highly regarded Pats assistants would go? This is a path to hiring another Shurmur, or Pettine if you’re lucky. The Browns have that coach right now.

The Browns are awful and Hue has a lot to do with it, but his awfulness somewhat cemented his job security. How do you bring back a coach who’s 1-31 over two seasons? Because nobody thinks it’s all his fault. Try and conduct a job search on the heels of putting a team together that’s 1-31. Unless a guy is desperate for five guaranteed years of Jimmy Haslam’s money and risking failure on the biggest stage, he’s not going to take the gig. Perception around the league is that Hue Jackson was at least a qualified head coaching candidate. My perception is that most around the league are on the same side as Pacman Jones, as hard as that is to believe.

“As people know I’m a fan of Coach Hue,” Jones said, via The Athletic’s Zac Jackson. “I know you say they’re getting a lot of talent, but I don’t know. From watching today and watching film, I probably shouldn’t say this but it’s going to be hard to win with that group. I’m just saying all around football, I don’t know if Hue has enough to win. …

“He only can get so much out of the group that he has,” Jones continued. “I was with Hue when he was with us. He’s one of the guys that you would … if we had to go to Iraq right now and he had to pick friends to go, I would [go with him] because I know what type of leader and person he is.

The perception isn’t fact. I understand all the calls to fire Hue Jackson because of his record and his off-field commentary. As I stated, I wouldn’t have argued for Hue Jackson to keep his gig. What I want to call attention to is that the Browns are still staring down the barrell of a Howitzer of public perception with Jimmy Haslam. The way he’s ousted people in his tenure in Cleveland makes his walk through life as an NFL owner a long walk on some thin Lake Erie ice. If he ever wants to turn this thing around, he must change the perception that he’s a meddling know-nothing who impetuously fires people and shouldn’t be trusted by top people in the league with their employment. While it’s painful in the short-term because Hue Jackson reacted pretty poorly in the face of adversity over the past season, Jimmy Haslam only had one bullet he could afford to fire this time, and he saved it for Sashi Brown.

I won’t put a win total on Hue Jackson for next season to keep his job, because I think it depends on a lot of things including how it all looks. I will say that he should feel like he has to coach and get along within this new Browns organization like his job depends on it. He cried foul this year and thanks to the level of incompetence shown by Sashi Brown, he was able to survive. He won’t be so lucky this time next year if it’s more of the same even if he wins five or six games.