Jackson’s exit can’t come soon enough
Jimmy Haslam III has all but promised Hue Jackson will be his head coach next season. The Browns’ owner needs to break that promise. Check that. He needs to smash it to smithereens.
He needs to rid the Cleveland sports scene of the most incompetent and inept head coach and/or manager in the history of Cleveland sports. And there have been quite a few. Jackson has easily dethroned them.
What Jackson has done, albeit somewhat unwittingly, is bring shame to the city and its pro football fans, who are embarrassed to the point of humiliation and anger. And the sooner he leaves, the better they will feel. Consider it addition by subtraction.
There is just one game left to the 2017 season. It’s one game separates the Browns from joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only National football League franchises to lose every game in a 16-game season.
It’s in Pittsburgh next Sunday and you can already put it in the loss column. There is no way the sad, sad, sad 2017 Cleveland Browns, the stepchild of the NFL, will knock off the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
The Browns actually had a chance to end a series of losing streaks Sunday in Chicago, but they arrived not ready to play a game of football. The offense was listless and the defense clueless as the Bears easily won, 20-3.
Their performance against was extremely disappointing, especially since the players knew what was on the line. They knew another loss would land them even deeper, perhaps permanently, in the NFL record books for abject futility. Pride to prevent it seemed AWOL.
The coaching was even worse if you come from the school that says don’t blame the players for everything. The playcalling on both sides of the ball practically insured the Browns had no chance to win this one.
Smart football, something that has been foreign to this team the last two seasons, continued its absence. There is a good reason the once-proud Cleveland Browns are 0-15.
Why, for example, did Jackson call running back Isaiah Crowell’s number a dozen times in the first half – he ran for 44 yards – and then totally ignore him in the second half with the Browns trailing at intermission by only 6-3?
The loss was the 15th in a row this season, setting a record as the only team in the nearly 100-year history of the NFL to lose 15 games two seasons in a row. They also clinched the top pick in the college draft for the second straight year.
It was their 16th straight loss overall, 48th in the last 52 games stretching back to 2014 and the 32nd in a row on a Sunday, all in the Jimmy Haslam era. The last Cleveland victory on a Sunday? A 24-10 victory over San Francisco at home on Dec. 13, 2015.
On and on it goes as the rest of NFL nation laughs at Cleveland. This franchise has become the NFL’s version of The Mistake on the Lake, as well as the butt of late-night television jokes.
Going winless for the first 15 games in a season is extremely hard to do. One would figure that somewhere along the way, even a bad NFL team would somehow stumble into a victory, such as the Browns did last season in game 15 when they squeezed past San Diego after dropping the first 14.
Before he leaves, Jackson has to practice his swimming technique because of something he said after the Browns beat the Chargers to snap that streak.
“We’re not going 1-15 next year,” he declared. “You can write it if you like. Hue Jackson said it. It’s the way it is. I’m not going 1-15. No. I’ll be swimming in that lake over there somewhere. That’s not happening.”
It has become painfully obvious new General Manager John Dorsey faces a massive rebuild. But first, he has to march into Haslam’s office first thing Monday morning and continue to lobby for Jackson’s departure.
He needs to say something like, “You brought me here to fix things. Well the first thing that needs fixing is the man in charge of the locker room. He needs to go. Playing hard for him is nice, but it’s not working. Nothing is working. Let me help you out here. You need a new coach.”
What Dorsey doesn’t have to say is what should be silently inferred. Haslam owes a head coaching change to his constituents, the fans. The misery he has subjected them to the last six seasons since he took over, the last two in particular, need to be addressed pronto.
It goes beyond all reason to think Haslam will not make a move sooner rather than later. It’s also entirely possible Jackson himself might pull the plug on himself. Surely he must realize the shame and embarrassment he has brought to his reputation and his team.
The very thought Haslam and his wife, Dee, have put up with such incompetence for so long in the face of a worsening product strains the boundaries of credulity. The surprise is Jackson was not fired long ago.
Having lasted as long as he has can be traced to his ability to convince the owner and his wife that what was unfolding was not his fault. And to some extent, that is true. But that argument loses its clout the longer the situation continues.
The coach has steadfastly, at least on offense, refused to place his men in a position to succeed. A perfect example is DeShone Kizer, who has been saddled with an offense that does not cater to his talents.
The rookie quarterback, who threw two more interceptions against the Bears to bring his season total to a league-leading 21, was put on speed dial from the beginning rather than nurturing those talents.
Jackson also stubbornly refused to turn over the playcalling duties to someone else even though Al Saunders, his wide receivers coach with the Browns, was his offensive coordinator in Oakland in 2011.
We’ll never know whether a new voice, a new set of ideas, a new attitude on that side of the ball would have worked because Jackson so adamantly and zealously clung to running the offense. If anything, it diminished whatever ability he had to be the head coach.
He oddly ceded all aspects of the defense to coordinator Gregg Williams and while the run defense has made substantial improvement, the porous pass defense has been hampered by some strange calls.
The Bears, not exactly the beacon of good offense in the NFL, took full advantage Sunday by gouging the defense on several occasions with screen passes, taking advantage of the canyon-like Cleveland secondary when free safety Jabrill Peppers played 20 yards off the line of scrimmage.
Mitch (Mitchell) Trubisky used his arm and legs to flummox the Cleveland defense, scoring one touchdown and setting up a pair of Jordan Howard touchdowns with timely passing.
The only highlight of the game from a Cleveland standpoint also became a lowlight and just another microcosm of why the Browns are the laughable losers of the league.
Bad things happen to bad football teams. And the Browns have played fast and loose with Murphy’s Law for the better part of the last 19 seasons: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. To wit:
After Cleveland defensive tackle Trevon Coley deflected a Trubisky pass into the air on the first play of the second half, rookie defensive end Myles Garrett grabbed it and romped 42 yards into the end zone. Only one problem. Defensive end Carl Nassib was clearly offsides. Dumb football.
Then in the final minute of the third quarter, Cleveland wide receiver Rashard Higgins was headed to the end zone with a Kizer pass when he was hit from behind at the 3 by nose tackle Eddie Goldman and fumbled into the end zone, where cornerback Prince Amukamara recovered it.
It was the closest, perhaps fittingly, the Browns got to the end zone all afternoon.