Ready or not, more Jackson
When Jimmy Haslam III meets with his football men during the season, there is absolutely no question he is not the smartest guy in the room.
He’s the richest.
How else can anyone in their right mind speak so highly of a head coach as the Browns’ owner speaks about his head coach, who has won just one game in the 32 he has coached in the last two seasons.
What did Cleveland do to be saddled with pro football owners who make bad decision after bad decision? First, it was Art Modell. Then it was Randy Lerner. And now we have James Haslam III.
The pro football world anxiously waited what Haslam would do following loss No. 16 this season Sunday in Pittsburgh. Surely that would be it for Jackson despite Haslam vowing last month to bring him back next season.
It was what Haslam did not do that stunned many observers of the National Football League. Retaining a coach with an ignominious 1-31 record seems like just another bad joke played on some damn good football fans.
Haslam did not announce Jackson is gone after posting such an awful record in two seasons with the club. In fact, it was exactly the opposite following Sunday’s winless season-ending 28-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I’ll say what I always say,” Haslam said. “I think we have the best fans in the NFL and when we win, Hue Jackson will be their hero. I’m convinced of that. It’s all about winning and losing and until we start winning, we’re going to catch a lot of grief and we deserve it.”
He sure is right about the fans, but he fails to see how let down those fans feel having to soldier through yet another season of Hue Jackson football. He’s also right about the grief. He’s going to get a lot more than he realizes, mostly from these “best fans” most of whom are probably in a state of disbelief right now.
They see obviously see what Haslam and, apparently his wife, Dee, do not. They see a football man who is a loser as a head coach. He still might have significant chops as an offensive coordinator, but head coaching definitely is not his thing.
The most amazing part is that John Dorsey, the new general manager, is still on board with Jackson, who seems to have perfected the fine art of buffaloing the most important people in his professional life.
Let’s see now. Jackson loses 31 of 32 games and is rewarded with an invitation to honor year three of a four-year contract. Losing sure has its own strange rewards.
Props, though, to Jackson, who has managed to con his owner into believing very little of this is his fault. He managed to win a power struggle with departed de facto general manager Sashi Brown and now is moving up the ladder to the Ivory Tower.
To put this all in perspective, maybe Haslam should cast an eye in the direction of New York where the Jets engaged in a roster purge similar to the Browns' and yet managed to win five games this season.
Accident, blind luck or coincidence? Maybe better coaching?
Haslam tried to justify his decision to retain Jackson. “If you go back two years ago, I think Hue was one of the hottest assistant coaches out there,” he said. “And I don’t think Hue has lost his magic on how to call plays or run an offense or how to coach a team.”
And then he said something that provided some insight into the decision. “Some of you don’t know us that well,” he said. “We do not give up easily. We’re not going to give up. Hell yeah, it’s disappointing. Is it discouraging? To a certain point. But we’re going to get this done.”
Several problems there. More hot NFL assistant coaches flame out when they become head coaches than those who don’t. In addition, Jackson’s offense has been one of the most impotent in the league this season.
As for not giving up, tell that to Rob Chudzinski, Pat Shurmur, Mike Pettine, Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi, Ray Farmer and Sashi Brown.
The mere fact the losing culture remains at 76 Lou Groza Blvd. as long as Jackson does is bothersome. What he has wrought the last two seasons has stained what used to be a proud, strong franchise. It gets weaker every time decisions like this are made by men who think they know no more than they actually do.