“Somehow, someway, we are going to find a way not to be 0-16.”
Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson said this Tuesday, two days before going out of his way to make sure his team at the very least went 0-10.
With Cleveland somehow only down six to the Baltimore Ravens last night, despite looking at times like it had just learned how to play football, Jackson decided to try and provide a “spark.” It was a decision which could only be defined as idiotic, and has resulted in heaps of skepticism being thrown his way.
After Cleveland went three-and-out on the first drive of the second half, Baltimore proceeded to score a go ahead touchdown. Hope wasn’t completely lost, though, since the Ravens were only up 13-7. Surely this was a deficit quarterback Cody Kessler and company could overcome with a strong drive.
The rookie QB wouldn’t get the chance to try. Jackson yanked Kessler – again, with the Browns only down six – in favor of 37-year-old Josh McCown. Cleveland’s coach felt this change would help the offense move the ball more effectively. Instead of doing this, McCown proceeded to drive the Browns into the ground.
The journeyman immediately threw an interception, followed this with a drive which netted -9 yards, then threw another pick and fumbled after that. It was a second half so brutal that claiming it was a summary of Cleveland’s season is an insult to the team’s year so far.
It also goes without saying this decision by Jackson was equal parts inexcusable and dumb for multiple reasons.
For one, what was Kessler doing wrong? No, he wasn’t taking deep shots as Jackson had requested earlier this week. Still, he was pulled from the game despite throwing for 94 yards on 11-for-18 passing, including a perfect 25 yard touchdown. It was hardly the kind of night which merited Kessler being pulled at all, much less down by six.
Secondly, the fact McCown’s first two drives were pure disasters should’ve told Jackson all he needed about how this decision was working. That he kept the vet in, continuing to watch him fail at every opportunity he was given, was ridiculous.
What’s worse, though, is what this decision does to Kessler’s confidence, or what’s left of it.
Here he was, on a bad team which really just needed to see what it had in its rookie quarterback, getting yanked for no other reason than his coach thinking a guy with 18 total wins since 2002 was the better option in a close game. Kessler then watched as McCown put forth a clinic in how not to be a “spark,” never once touching the field again.
Afterwards, Kessler received a glowing endorsement from Jackson. The coach said he’d start him for next week’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but then refused to commit to him beyond that.
“I never said Cody was the starting quarterback for the rest of the year,” Jackson said to a reporter trying to put two and two together. ”That’s what you just said. I never made that statement.”
Cool. Awesome job, Hue. I bet the quarterback you handpicked and told us to trust you with feels incredibly self-assured right now.
As you can see, with one bonehead call, the Browns coach somehow made a disastrous season much, much worse.
What Jackson did in yanking Kessler was drop the first significant seed of doubt in the heads of his players and the fans who still blindly support this bumbling franchise. Sure, the Browns haven’t won a game yet, but the consensus belief both in the locker room and outside it was they had the right coach in place. Last night, with a move which wreaked of stupidity and panic, Jackson made everyone wonder if said belief is still correct.
Fans woke up today no longer wondering if Cleveland can win this year, now questioning if the team will ever win again. Players have to spend the next ten days second-guessing their coach because he voluntarily changed the result of a winnable game and stood by it afterwards. Ownership now has to figure out what to do once the Browns complete their perfect 0-16 season, which now seems as achievable as ever.
Apologies if it sounds dramatic, but that’s where we are today. Cleveland fans came into last night expecting to lose, sure. At the same time, there’s a difference between trying to win and failing and having the coach yank a winnable game away from his team.
That’s what happened last night and, as a result, the Browns proved they’ll never stop trying to find new ways to lose.