Some football coaches are so pig-headed, so stubborn and their thought processes are so out of focus, they are totally blinded and have a hard time distinguishing the difference between perception and reality.
Such a football coach is Hue Jackson, whose tenure as head coach of the Browns has been significantly damaged and compromised by the performance the last 22 games of his offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson.
The offensive coordinator probably believes he is doing a good job. The head coach’s 1-21 record in those 22 games suggests otherwise in a most alarming way.
The two talk quite often. But the head coach for some reason has no problem with how the offensive coordinator is doing his job. The fact the team has only one victory since he took over doesn’t seem to bother him.
It should be easy for the head coach to wake up, glance at the National Football League standings every once in a while and notice his club is winless in six games this season and playing a far less competitive game of football than last season’s 1-15 bunch.
This season has been sliding downward precipitously since a promising 21-18 loss to Pittsburgh in the season opener. It is getting exponentially worse not only on a weekly basis, but a quarter-by-quarter basis.
While the defense continues to play more consistently than their offensive counterparts, the coach/offensive coordinator stubbornly asks his quarterbacks to perform in a manner opposite to their particular talents.
Rookie DeShone Kizer is more than capable of stretching the field with his big arm, but he is wildly inaccurate, is not capable of feathering some of his passes and is highly susceptible to interceptions.
Kevin Hogan, on the other hand, doesn’t have the big arm, but is unfairly asked to be like Kizer and fails. They are polar opposites when quarterbacking a football team. Hogan’s talents lie in the short- to medium-range game.
Kizer’s showing thus far, which earned him a seat against Houston, should not come as a surprise. He came out of Notre Dame advertised as inconsistent and inaccurate. He has done nothing to dispel that notion. There’s a reason he was there for the Browns in the second round of the college draft.
Jackson does not coach to the talents of either of his quarterbacks. He expects their talents to adapt to him. And therein lies the big problem. It won’t change or get better unless he sees the errors of his ways and adjusts. There are no Andy Daltons or Joe Flaccos on this roster.
Coaches like to say their goal is to put players in the best position to succeed. Jackson has said that on more than one occasion. How much success has the Cleveland offense experienced as a result? He might preach it, but he does not follow through.
There is little or no imagination or creativity to the Hue Jackson offense. That makes it easier to defend. After Sunday’s loss in Houston, Hogan marveled at how the Texans’ defense seemed to know what was coming.
That’s good coaching recognizing tendencies and game planning for them. That’s why the Cleveland offense did not get into the Houston end zone until the final moments of a game that was essentially over by halftime.
The Cleveland offense is as predictable as a draw play on third-and-33. The Browns rarely throw the ball on first down. Fans are fed up watching Isaiah Crowell run for a yard or two on first down, putting the club in second-and-long consistently.
The run game is, for the most part, a mere afterthought. Opposing teams know the Browns are going to put the ball up on two out of every three plays, so why bother to even stop the run?
And when they do run, it’s usually a stretch play. Stretch right, stretch left. They rarely run traps, counter traps or power sweeps. Maybe they’re not good enough at executing them because they lack the athleticism. If they do have the athleticism, however, it makes no sense to abandon those plays.
Kizer is very athletic and yet his coach rarely rolls him out behind a moving pocket to create better opportunities for the receivers to get open. There is very little movement on most plays.
As for the other facets of the passing game, when was the last time a Browns tight end ran a seam route down the gut of a defense? Gary Barnidge was golden on that route in 2015 and on a few occasions last season before being released.
Jackson loves to shift out of initial formations presnap, but the end result is almost always the same. More negative or failed plays than those that work.
It is not because this team is not trying. On occasion, it appears as though the players are mailing it in. The reality is this team lacks talent in so many vital areas, they lose even when that talent performs up to their capabilities.
For the five zillionth time, the 2017 edition of the Cleveland Browns has a serious lack of quality talent up and down the roster. There are some studs, to be sure. But not nearly enough talent to sustain a winning approach for a week, let alone a season.
The current roster is good enough to hope it can win a game or two, not know it will win a lot more than a game or two. The attitude going into each game might be there; the talent to carry it out to a successful conclusion is an entirely different matter.
This all falls on a front office that seemingly has buffaloed owner Jimmy Haslam III into believing they are headed in the right direction. If that direction is down, then yes, they are definitely headed in some sort of a direction.
Browns fans have been patient to the extreme, but that patience is getting Nutrisystemed, so to speak. It is getting thinner with each pathetic loss and long-time fans, eager to celebrate when (if?) this whole thing turns around, are starting to dribble away.
This is the 19th season of professional football in Cleveland since the NFL welcomed the city back into the fold. Not once in those 19 seasons have the fans been rewarded with a front office that produced teams anywhere near the great Browns teams of the past.
The greatest enemy to any professional sports franchise is apathy. The Browns are beginning to see vestiges of that apathy on Sundays at home with the number of empty seats slowly increasing.
According to the latest figures, the Browns through the first six weeks rank 21st in the NFL in average attendance at 65,135, but 26th in percentage of seats filled at 89.7%. That’s slightly better than last season, when they ranked 25th and 29th, respectively, for an entire season.
It is difficult to determine whether those figures indicate the number of people who actually pass through the turnstiles. Some teams count empty seats that have been purchased in advance and include them in the final attendance figure.
As the club continues to lose this season, more and more fans will either stay home and watch on television or do something that has nothing at all to do with the Browns. Sort of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind day.
There are four more home games left this season, including Sunday’s invasion of the Tennessee Titans. The game a week from Sunday in London against the Minnesota Vikings is a Cleveland home game.
Unless Jackson somehow between now and the end of the season magically uncovers the mystery of why this is such a bad football team, one can only imagine how many seats will be filled for the remaining three home games in November and December.
Maybe then Haslam and his wife, Dee, will open their eyes and see the reality their coach does not. Maybe then they will sit down, think it through and do what should have been done years ago.
Hire a sagacious football man (not an attorney) to oversee the football operations. Someone with a reputation for taking over struggling teams in the past and successfully putting them back on the road to success and respectability.
Then step back and let him do what others before him could not. There’s a solution out there on the NFL landscape. All the Haslams need to find it.
They are fortunate to have the most caring, dedicated and passionate fan base in the NFL. Those fans deserve much more than they have received for almost a couple of decades with regard to their football team.
Care about those fans. Not with words. With deeds.