Hue Jackson was welcomed with open arms when he was hired in January 2016. Two years later, it’s hard to find a fan glad he’ll return for a third season in 2018.
Owner Jimmy Haslam went against his nature, history and fan base in announcing Jackson will keep his job despite going 0-16 in 2017 and 1-31 in two years. Haslam has always liked Jackson and isn’t ready to concede he’s not the answer.
What does Haslam see in him? Let’s take a look.
It’s not the record, obviously. A coach’s No. 1 job is to win, and Jackson has failed at a historic rate.
It’s worth noting he was given a roster lacking in talent and experience, most noticeably at quarterback. Even then, there should be no debate that Jackson should’ve won more games. After all, only one other coach in NFL history — Rod Marinelli with the Lions in 2008 — went 0-16.
Conceding that, would it really make a difference if Jackson had won two games this year? Would fans feel better about him leading the team in 2018? Do terrible punt coverage against the Packers and Corey Coleman’s drop against the Steelers make Jackson that much worse at his job?
Coaching is about more than wins and losses, and that’s especially true for a rebuilding team. Leadership matters. Systems matter. Game management matters.
Haslam cited Jackson’s “great leadership” as a reason to keep him. I’d rate him a solid leader.
He took some hits at the end of the season when cornerback Jason McCourty and running back Duke Johnson complained about people within the organization criticizing the roster. Jackson led that charge all year as he publicly stated the case for him to stay and head of football operations Sashi Brown to be fired. But overall Jackson is respected and liked by a majority and cross section of the roster.
Haslam also said Jackson hasn’t lost his “magic” as a play caller and game planner. The jury’s out after the Browns ranked last in the league with 14.6 points per game.
Jackson’s system was successful with the Bengals with better talent. There were plays to be made throughout this season, but a lack of execution sabotaged them.
This doesn’t mean Jackson was perfect. Far from it.
He could’ve done a better job sticking with the run and missed on some calls in critical situations. But on the list of issues with Jackson, offensive philosophy doesn’t belong anywhere near the top of the list.
Game and time management do. Jackson declined a personal foul penalty for no legitimate reason. He misused too many timeouts. He should’ve kicked a field goal late against the Jets.
He admitted he may have taken on too many roles throughout his first two years, and gameday management suffered the most. While many people are focused on Jackson adding an offensive coordinator, the more pressing need is someone to help him navigate the frenetic nature of gameday.
Jackson’s decisions also acknowledged a failure in selecting his coaching staff. After 2016, he replaced nearly the entire defensive staff. He’s already made several moves after this season, including firing run game coordinator Kirby Wilson and allowing special teams coordinator Chris Tabor to leave for the Bears.
Such drastic change so early in his tenure is a clear sign of trouble.
Finally, Jackson hasn’t been responsible enough when talking to the media. He contradicts himself and is quick to deflect blame. Repeatedly calling the roster too young and not talented enough bothered players, as did his comment that anyone could’ve run through the hole provided on Isaiah Crowell’s season-best 59-yard carry against the Ravens.
Words have an impact, positive and negative, and Jackson needs to do better channeling that power.
Clearly there’s been more bad than good for him in two seasons. Shockingly, he’ll get another chance to change the ledger.