Hue Jackson is sick of the jokes, tired of taking the lion’s share of the blame and out to set the record straight.
Jackson says he was lied to about the direction of the Browns organization when he was hired as coach in 2016. He says the “teardown” of the roster went against the stated plan and his will. He points to a secret contract extension given to him by owner Jimmy Haslam at the midpoint of his second season as proof the historic losing wasn’t his fault.
“The first vote of confidence I got is after the 1-15 season, Jimmy Haslam told me I did an outstanding job,” Jackson, referring to 2016, said Monday during an interview on “The Really Big Show” on ESPN Cleveland 850-AM. “The next year during the 0-16 year, after being 1-23 — and no one knows this — I get a contract extension. And I made it very clear that needed to be made public. That was never made public, and I think we can all understand and think why it was not made public. Because it would’ve really set the tempo for what exactly was going on there.”
Jackson originally signed a four-year contract, and the team never announced an extension, which would be highly unusual. A one-year extension would’ve made the contract run through the 2020 season.
A team spokesman declined to comment on Jackson’s interview.
Jackson promoted a book due out this year and wants to clear up misconceptions about his disastrous tenure in Cleveland that ended when he was fired midway through the 2018 season. He went 3-36-1 and is not coaching in the NFL.
“I want to make sure everybody knows and understands exactly what went on in Cleveland,” Jackson said. “The truth needs to come out. I am tired of being the brunt of jokes and memes and things that people say when they don’t know.”
Sashi Brown, a lawyer, had recently been put in charge of the football department when Jackson was hired. The team passed on several quarterbacks in the first round during Brown’s two drafts before being fired, let several quality free agents leave and went 1-31 in Jackson’s first two seasons.
“There is no doubt I was lied to by ownership and the executive team,” Jackson said of the hiring process. “They were going to be football plus analytics, but they intentionally made it football versus analytics.
“You gotta understand, they weren’t looking for coaches. They were going to take two years and they were going to find a way to use us as an experiment to make sure that they got the data that they needed for it to get better — at the expense of whoever — and that’s not right. That’s not the way it should be. You can’t win that way, but now I hear other people saying, ‘Well, everybody knew it was a teardown, this is what they’re going to do.’ I was never told is was going to be a teardown.”
Jackson said he feels a responsibility to other minority coaches to set the record straight because it’s more difficult for them to get a second chance after an unsuccessful stint as a head coach.
He said he’s not running from his record but wants others to share in the criticism. Paul DePodesta remains in the role of chief strategy officer, and general manager Andrew Berry was vice president of player personnel from 2016-18 before leaving for a year.
“I’ll take responsibility for my role in it, but why isn’t everybody else taking their responsibility for it,” Jackson said. “There’s people that are leading the organization today in Cleveland that was just as big a part of that as I was. And those guys are getting paid for doing that. So obviously they were paid for losing.
“I’m vilified about losing. This is a joke to me.”
The Browns have turned things around since Jackson was fired, including making their first playoff appearance in 18 years in 2020.
“More players came on that team once John Dorsey got there,” Jackson said of the general manager who replaced Brown late in 2017 and parted ways with the organization after 2019. “That’s when all of a sudden real football players started playing in Cleveland.”