Q: I don’t know the X’s and O’s well enough to argue that Hue Jackson should stay or go. For what it is worth, it is obvious that he is a great person regardless of his head coaching qualifications. With that said, many people do argue that it was a mistake bringing him back this year. What confuses me though is that it seems like we have good offensive and defensive coordinators. If we replace Hue Jackson, would the new coach automatically replace Williams and Haley? Would the upgrade at head coach be worth implementing new offensive and defensive schemes?
— Austin Boyle
A: I don’t think it’s automatic both coordinators would be gone but I would expect that to happen. A new coach should be allowed to hire his own staff, and I believe people tend to overvalue the assistant coaches on a staff.
I think one possibility for a degree of stability would be to hire an offensive head coach who decides to keep Williams. He isn’t perfect but he’s experienced and one of the better defensive coordinators in the game.
Of course, any of this discussion is contingent on the Haslams making a move with Jackson they’ve thus far been unwilling to make.
Q: Considering the limited receiving corps, shouldn’t they be better utilizing the five tight ends? How is coordinator Todd Haley using them?
A: Most definitely.
One of my issues with Haley is his insistence on using three-receiver sets despite the injuries at the position. I know tight end Seth DeValve was hurt for most of training camp and the preseason, but I would use him in a three-tight end rotation with David Njoku and Darren Fells. DeValve is a talented receiver who can threaten a defense running down the seam.
There’s nothing wrong with throwing out of a two-tight end set, and it provides the flexibility of running with two big bodies on the field. To this point, Haley has used the tight ends as blockers, with the exception of Njoku, who’s shown improvement as a pass catcher.
Q: What is this team gonna do to improve on their catching and protecting Baker Mayfield?
A: I wish I had a good answer for you. I don’t think there are many quality external solutions, although you could argue signing free agent Terrelle Pryor or trading for DeSean Jackson would be a significant upgrade at receiver. I’m good with trying again with Pryor, although he’s been hurt a lot and has diva qualities that don’t always go over well in the locker room. Jackson’s talented but has his own set of baggage. This season isn’t about winning the Super Bowl, so I don’t expect general manager John Dorsey to make any noteworthy additions.
As for protecting Mayfield, the offensive line just needs to live up to its potential. Figuring out how to pick up an inside stunt would be a good start.
Q: I can’t understand why the offensive coaches refuse to develop a game plan that features Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, Duke Johnson and Nick Chubb. Other teams would love to have those skill players. Will this failure ultimately result in a coaching change?
A: Landry re-emerged last week at Tampa Bay, as Baker Mayfield made a concerted effort to get him the ball early and often. Njoku has a four-game streak of four catches and at least 50 yards. And Chubb had 18 carries last week. So the problem lies with the use of Johnson.
Play caller Todd Haley hasn’t developed the trust or confidence in Johnson that coach Hue Jackson had last year. Johnson’s playing time has increased but his touches haven’t. I’ll admit Johnson isn’t the easiest piece to make a focal point, but Haley needs to do a better job getting him the ball in space.
As for a coaching change, that seems like a distinct possibility depending on what happens in Pittsburgh. I’m just not sure who would go.
Q: What position do the Browns have as their biggest need? Do they use their first-round pick next year to fill it or sign a free agent?
A: Unless Antonio Callaway emerges in the second half of the season as a true No. 2, receiver will continue to be the biggest need heading into the offseason. I won’t immerse myself in draft evaluations until after the season, but I’ve seen headlines that suggest it’s a weak wideout class, so I’m working under the assumption the Browns will address the position through free agency or trade.
As for the first-round pick, I think they’ll target a defensive tackle to pair with Larry Ogunjobi inside. Imagine two stud tackles and Myles Garrett terrorizing quarterbacks for the next five years. That feels like something that would get GM John Dorsey’s blood pumping.
Q: What was the urgency to deal Carlos Hyde on Friday late afternoon, given he would not perform for either Cleveland or Jax last week? I get that injury risk might’ve ruined the proposition had he been kept through the weekend, but GM John Dorsey did nothing with the opened roster slot.
Furthermore, the opportunity to extract more from someone else might’ve been enhanced between then and the deadline via injury or other occurrence. For example, both Oakland and New England lost their lead back Sunday.
— Mark Leonard
A: Your points are solid, but I think the trade was all about creating playing time for Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson. Therefore, it didn’t matter if it came on a Friday or a Monday. In fact, the sooner the better.
While the Browns may have had increased leverage by hanging onto Hyde, he also could’ve been hurt during the game, as you mentioned. And while a fifth-round pick doesn’t seem like much, that’s the going rate for many trades of lower-profile players.
Q: The Browns cannot expect to give up 500 yards and win games even if they win the turnover battle. Do you think Hue Jackson will begin to look for a change or will he be the one out?
— Andy Johnston
A: That’s the million-dollar question, although my focus is on the offensive staff. Gregg Williams’ defense isn’t perfect but it’s not the problem.
There are real issues on the other side. Jackson and Todd Haley haven’t been on the same page for months, no matter what they insist. With renewed reports of dysfunction and possible changes coming if the losing continues, it will be fascinating to see if Jackson can survive another power struggle.