BEREA — Hue Jackson is out to save his reputation after a disastrous 2½ seasons as coach of the Browns.
Jackson didn’t wait long to try to repair his image after being fired Monday, along with offensive coordinator Todd Haley. He spoke to Cleveland.com on Thursday and went on national TV on Friday to “set the record straight.”
“I wanted people to know that I’m still the same football coach I was three years ago,” he said on ESPN’s “First Take.” “I want people to understand. I’m human just like anybody else.
“At the end of the day, I didn’t do enough. We didn’t do enough to get the job done in Cleveland. So what am I supposed to do? I’m not going to go crawl into a hole and pull (up) the covers.”
The Browns have fired seven coaches since 1999, and none resurfaced publicly so quickly.
Jackson lost 36 times in 40 games, then lost his job. He wants the NFL community to believe he hasn’t lost his confidence.
Despite an 11-44-1 record in two stints in charge — he went 8-8 with Oakland in 2011 — he even feels he can get another chance as a head coach.
“I think this is still a script that’s going to be written as I move on and move forward,” he said. “I still think that there’s another opportunity out there somewhere. You just want to make sure it’s the right fit at the right place at the right time in order to make the magic happen, which is winning.”
Jackson made his reputation in the NFL as an offensive coordinator, but after 1-15 and 0-16 seasons in his first two years he felt pressure to turn over the offense to someone else and hired Haley. When the offense struggled this season after a solid start, Jackson wanted to take over but wasn’t given the chance.
“I would not have ever given away the offense,” he said of his top regret. “That’s what I got hired for. If you’re going to go out, you go out doing the things that you know, that you truly believe in.”
He said he hired Haley because he was a “proven, veteran” play caller in the AFC North and knew he was “on the clock” to start winning after 1-31. He gave Haley “total autonomy” to run the offense and it was too late when he wanted to take back control.
“After this last game, that’s when I had made the decision it was time to do something different,” Jackson said. “I had watched enough and saw enough to say we’re not trending in the right direction.”
Jackson believes the lack of development of rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield during the offensive regression was a factor in the firings.
“You got the first pick of the draft, who I think is going to be a franchise quarterback, who is going to be a sensational player, and he’s not playing as well,” Jackson said.
He was asked what he would’ve done differently with Mayfield than Haley did.
“You have to do everything you can to make him successful, and if you’re going to do that, then you go back and do the things that made you draft him as the first pick of the draft,” Jackson said. “I think you have to go back to Oklahoma and use all the concepts that made him be who he was — the first pick of the draft.
“I think you do everything you can to play the way he plays, and I think you build your offensive football team and your system to his liking because that’s what’s going to make him the best version of him.”
Owner Jimmy Haslam attributed the timing of the firings to the “internal discord” between Jackson and Haley. Jackson said the description was too strong.
“I think the part about the internal discord, I think that was a little much over the top. I think there’s more to it in my mind than that,” he said.
He called it a “perfect” storm of reasons, including the record and the impact on Mayfield.
“I think bottom line, let’s just be clear, we didn’t win enough,” Jackson said. “I wish they would have given me an opportunity to finish it out. But they didn’t. And I have to respect their wishes.”
Jackson was on ESPN as the Browns were practicing. Defensive end Myles Garrett knew of the appearance but said it wasn’t another disruption in a tumultuous week.
“I didn’t watch it. I didn’t go looking for it,” he said. “I really don’t base my performance or what I’m going to do in a game or how I should attack somebody off what somebody else is saying, what an outside source is saying. I go off what my coaches see and what I see and anybody outside of that is really a distraction.”
But Jackson was his coach Monday.
“No longer,” Garrett said. “It’s Friday. That was a long time ago now.
“I had a positive relationship with him all the time that I was here, but his opinion doesn’t matter right now at this point for our team and our success going onward. I hope he goes somewhere else and he has success of his own.”
In the Cleveland.com sit-down, Jackson reiterated he thinks Mayfield will be a huge success but said the Browns erred in passing on franchise quarterbacks in the draft his first two years. He said he really liked Carson Wentz in 2016 and Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in 2017.
Considered revisionist history by some, the proclamations fit with Jackson’s pattern of shifting the blame. He kept his job after 2017 by convincing Haslam the roster constructed by head of football operations Sashi Brown was incapable of winning.
Jackson objected to the notion he throws people under the bus.
“I think if people really go and watch, for the majority of the time, I’ve taken it all,” he said of the blame. “I’ve taken it all for the organization, the football team and anybody else that dealt with the Cleveland Browns.”
He wants his next job to be a return to coordinator.
“Go back and put my name back to where it should be, among some of the best play callers in this league,” he said. “And then to move forward from there. And whatever happens from there obviously that’s going to be God’s decision as we move forward.”