Earlier this week, I called out Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson for his preferential treatment of quarterback Robert Griffin III. Despite his QB putting forth quite a putrid effort in last Sunday’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Jackson didn’t seem interested in critiquing anything. He instead credited Griffin for showing poise and looking like he belonged.
A couple days ago, Jackson seemed to reverse course a bit, noting that, while Griffin was understandably rusty last week, he’s officially gotten his return from injury out of the way. As a result, he said he needs to see more from his QB this weekend as the Browns visit the Buffalo Bills.
As great as it is to hear Jackson taking a much more logical approach to his treatment of Griffin (for which I’ll only take partial credit), it certainly doesn’t change much. Not yet, at least. Technically, we won’t see real proof Jackson has taken the kid gloves off with Griffin until game day.
You see, while publicly saying he needs to see more from Griffin is all well and good, Jackson has now painted himself into a corner. This is especially true if his quarterback takes the field and struggles again.
Simply put, Cleveland’s coach can go on and on about how he expects better play from Griffin, but what happens if he still isn’t getting that result during Sunday’s game? How long can Jackson tolerate Griffin’s struggles before pulling the plug?
There’s no denying how badly Jackson wants this project of his to work. He went out on a limb for Griffin this past offseason, seemingly convinced he could return him to his Rookie of the Year form. However, a broken bone in his shoulder has limited Griffin to just two games this season, both of which left a ton to be desired.
To this point, Jackson has refused to give up his hope of fixing the damaged quarterback. The pressure to do so is going to amplify if Griffin’s poor play continues this weekend.
First of all, Jackson and the entire Browns team likely want nothing to do with being just the second team in NFL history to go 0-16. In order to try and stop such an epic failure from taking place, Jackson has to play the guys who give the team the best chance to win.
Griffin’s performance last Sunday hardly gave Cleveland a chance to win. If this weekend is a continuation of that, yet Jackson keeps him on the field, it certainly causes problems. Not only does it impede on the Browns’ hopes of finally winning a game, it also puts doubt in the minds of every player on the sideline. It would essentially force them to wonder if their coach is doing what’s best for the team.
Complicating things further is how Jackson has handled his quarterbacks earlier this year.
Remember, he made a controversial move in yanking rookie Cody Kessler midway through Cleveland’s Week 10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. At the time, he was playing decently and the Browns were still in the game. However, Jackson made the switch anyway, then watched it backfire as backup Josh McCown imploded.
It should be noted Kessler has faced heavy critique from Jackson this year, even after performances which were far better than what Griffin gave last week (and Week 1 for that matter).
How could Cleveland’s coach keep watching Griffin struggle despite having already yanked another quarterback this season for far less? Not only would it make Jackson look bad, it would make him look hypocritical.
As you can see, Jackson desperately needs Griffin to improve his play this weekend. Otherwise, he’s going to have to decide what’s more important to him – putting his team in a position to win or proving he was right about his much-maligned quarterback.
If it’s the latter, the Browns will have a problem far greater than what’s being seen on the field.