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Hue Jackson chose Browns over future with Bengals, and Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis misses the "hell out of him"

CINCINNATI -- The postgame meeting at midfield between Browns coach Hue Jackson and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis could take awhile. Not only is a long hug likely

CINCINNATI — The postgame meeting at midfield between Browns coach Hue Jackson and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis could take awhile. Not only is a long hug likely, they have some catching up to do.
“I miss the hell out of him,” Lewis said during the week. “We spent 10 years coaching together so you love him like a brother that I never had.”
They usually talk every week but abstained as their teams prepared to meet for the first time this afternoon at Paul Brown Stadium.
“When my phone rings at 5 o’clock in the morning, I know it’s only one person,” Lewis said.
This isn’t an ordinary coaching matchup. Jackson first worked with Lewis on the Washington staff in 2002. Lewis hired him in 2004 as Bengals receivers coach, then threw him a lifeline when he was fired after one season as Raiders coach in 2011.
Jackson regrouped during his four seasons back in Cincinnati, and used the last two as offensive coordinator to land the job with the Browns.
Lewis confirmed the Bengals came up with a succession plan in which Jackson would’ve stayed and replaced Lewis in a couple of years. Lewis is 114-105-2 since taking over in 2003.
“That is Marvin’s football team,” Jackson said. “He’s been there a long time. It is hard to ever replace a best friend that way and be there waiting behind.
“I didn’t think it was the right thing for me to do. I didn’t think it would be right for their team.”
After meeting with Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam, vice president of football operations Sashi Brown and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, Jackson decided Cleveland was the best option.
“I thought it gave me the right opportunity and the right fit for me,” he said. “Obviously, I will always be in debt to the Bengals, but I think I’m where I’m supposed to be right now.”
He wouldn’t be where he is if Lewis hadn’t reached out in 2012. Jackson stayed in the game, expanded his resume by coaching the secondary and special teams and became a head coaching candidate again after directing the offense of a playoff team.
“It was an opportunity to add a really good coach to the football staff,” Lewis said. “(Owner) Mike Brown gave us the OK. It was something that he felt really strong about, that it’d be a good opportunity for us, and for us to help Hue, too, to get his career back going.”
Lewis said Jackson has evolved in his second chance as the head man.
“He’s much calmer. It’s been cool to see,” Lewis said. “He brings out the best and challenges everybody to be the best.
“We have to play great football to beat his team, because we know they’ll be well-prepared.”
If the 0-6 Browns have an edge over the 2-4 Bengals, who’ve been to the playoffs five straight seasons, it’s in Jackson’s intimate knowledge of the Cincinnati personnel. He knows every strength and deficiency of quarterback Andy Dalton, receiver A.J. Green and running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, and has a good handle on the veteran defense.
The Browns should know exactly what’s coming. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to stop it, especially with No. 1 cornerback Joe Haden doubtful with a groin injury and starting safety Jordan Poyer out for the season with a lacerated kidney.
“I know the players, just like they know me,” Jackson said. “What I know is what I know. The players will decide it.”
“There may be times where they know what we’re doing, and it just comes down to the execution of it,” Dalton said.
Dalton developed with Jackson as his coordinator and they’ve stayed in touch.
“We have a great relationship,” Dalton said. “He does a great job of bringing out the best in the guys. He is hard on his players, but he also makes it fun to play for him. When you are doing the right things and you are doing things the way he wants it done, he is very complimentary and he makes the atmosphere loose.”
Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins played for Jackson in Cincinnati and was thrilled when he was hired in Cleveland.
“What makes Hue special is the fact that he cares so much not about himself but about everybody else, about winning,” he said. “He works so hard at it. In any job, you want guys around you that care as much or more than you do or put as much work in as you do or more. Hue is kind of the example of that.”
Jackson pointed to Lewis and former Browns coach Marty Schottenheimer as having had a profound impact on him as a coach.
“Marvin has always told me be very honest with players,” he said. “Tell them the truth and don’t sugarcoat it.
“Probably the guy that helped get me into this profession at this level, the first job I ever had was with Marty Schottenheimer. Marty was one of the best at what he did. He just didn’t take any B.S. and just called it like it is. I think if you are honest and fair with players and they know you come from a good place and you want the best for them, they are going to give you a good day’s work.”
His players aren’t buying this as just another game for Jackson. He spent too much time with the Bengals and is too close to Lewis.
“When you’re a team struggling for their first win, every game means a lot,” left tackle Joe Thomas said. “But certainly for Hue being there as long as he was you would expect that it probably means more to him. I’m sure he wouldn’t say anything about it, but anytime you have sort of a homecoming there’s a little added motivation and pressure.”
According to Jackson, the quest for win No. 1 supersedes the reunion.
“There are a lot of memories there, great memories there, but at the same time, they are trying to beat our team and we are trying to beat their team,” he said. “I’m sure there will be some high-fives and handshakes to people who have meant a lot to my career, but we are there to play a game. That is what we are focused on.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or [email protected] Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.


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