BEREA — Coach Hue Jackson received plenty of criticism for calling a timeout with 4:59 left Sunday with the Browns trailing 19-10 and facing third-and-goal from the 15-yard line.
Not only did he use a valuable timeout on offense while down by two scores, quarterback DeShone Kizer fumbled on the ensuing play and the Chargers recovered.
“It wasn’t what was going through my mind, it was what was going through the headset,” Jackson said Monday. “All game there was an issue with our headsets and with the coach-to-quarterback communicator. (Kizer) never got the play call at all. I thought the best thing to do there since he couldn’t hear anything was take the timeout and let’s get our composure.
“It wasn’t about let’s just go burn a timeout. That was about the headsets not working.”
Jackson said the problems with the coach-to-quarterback system at StubHub Center started in the first quarter and didn’t stop until the game was over. He used a walkie-talkie for much of the game but said sometimes that wouldn’t work.
“This is a league issue. We will take it up with the league,” he said. “We heard there was another team that had the same issue one time at that particular stadium.”
Jackson said he asked the officials if the same thing was happening on the Chargers sideline but was too busy calling plays to follow up.
“It’s the first I’ve heard of it. We didn’t have any problems on our sidelines,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said Monday.
Jackson thought league rules forced the opponent to forfeit use of its headsets if the other team’s don’t work, but league spokesman Michael Signora told The Chronicle-Telegram in an email that the “equity rule” only applies if there is a “total system failure” prior to kickoff.
“That was not the case here, so the Chargers were permitted to continue using their system,” Signora wrote, adding the Browns experienced “intermittent issues” during the game.
Jackson said defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had lesser issues calling the plays into linebacker Christian Kirksey.
“You normally have one that happens for a play or two and then they switch it back and we change a quarterback’s helmet or change your belt pack,” Jackson said. “That was not it. This was a legitimate issue throughout the game.
“This is not an excuse. That is not why we lost that game — I will be the first to tell everybody that — but it sure didn’t help some of the situations that we were in.”
Kizer said he would sometimes get a partial play and have to finish the call. He also called a play or two by himself.
“It’s tough when you’re getting the play at 15 seconds in the huddle, then you have to sprint up to the line,” left guard Joel Bitonio said. “You don’t really get to make a call or anything. You just kind of run the play.”
HE’S BACK, BABY
Jackson wasn’t kidding when he said he planned to use receiver Josh Gordon a lot in his first game in nearly three years. Gordon started and played 48 of 63 offensive snaps (76 percent). Corey Coleman led the receivers with 51 snaps.
Gordon was targeted 11 times and caught four passes for 85 yards.
“I just sat back and thought about it after the game,” Bitonio said. “I’m like, ‘This guy hasn’t played football for over 1,000 days, and he comes out here and looks like the best player on the field a few times, that’s pretty impressive stuff.’”
With the defense focused on Gordon (6-foot-3, 225 pounds), rookie tight end David Njoku was able to get free over the middle for four catches and a career-high 74 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown.
“I’ve never seen anybody that fast and that big in my life. He’s a true specimen,” Njoku said of Gordon. “He’s a real special player, and I’m really excited to see what he does these next few weeks.”
Jackson said he expects Gordon to only get better over the final four games with more time spent in the offense and working with Kizer. He thought Gordon’s route depths were a bit off Sunday and he tired as the game went along, but he came away impressed.
“He was obviously built to play football,” Jackson said.
Rookie free safety Jabrill Peppers had an MRI on his knee Monday, and it revealed no serious injury. He isn’t headed to injured reserve, and his availability for Sunday against the Packers will be determined during the week.
Peppers missed two games in October with a toe injury. He’s started 10 games and has 43 tackles and two passes defensed. He left the game Sunday in the third quarter.
** Defensive end Myles Garrett left briefly in the first quarter with an ankle injury but returned and finished the game. He had four tackles, one for loss, and two quarterback hits. He played 55 of 70 snaps (79 percent).
“I think he will be fine,” Jackson said. “He is sore, there is no question about that, but I do not think it is anything major there.”
** Tight end Randall Telfer said he was OK after getting evaluated for a concussion.