For Hue Jackson and the Cleveland Browns, the Bloom is Off the Rose

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When Hue Jackson first entered the Cleveland Browns team facility, it was to applause. Various members of the staff cheered him as he entered the lobby, and he responded by claiming he and the team were going to “chase greatness.” Optimism surged throughout the downtrodden fan-base, with the hope Jackson was finally the coach who could drag this moribund franchise out of decades of despair.

This moment, a rare sunny day for a team which knows only rain clouds, feels like it was centuries ago. In reality, it was January of 2016. However, what’s occurred in Jackson’s tenure with the team since that day – especially this year – has gone a long way in destroying the belief he can be the man who turns this team around.

The most obvious issue is the results we’ve seen on the field since Jackson took over. Clearly, he shouldn’t take full blame for the fact Cleveland is 1-21 under his watch. The front office has asked him to win football games with a roster full of mostly kids and practice squad call-ups.

At the same time, Jackson being both the team’s head coach and offensive coordinator is a big reason why the Browns can’t ever seem to even look functional on a weekly basis.

This year’s iteration of the team has yet to start a game appearing prepared, an indictment against Hue Jackson the head coach and the OC. The Browns look like a disheveled mess right out of the gate, which implies they weren’t properly set up to succeed. The play calls cause fans to scratch their heads, as fade routes are run on short yardage situations or bizarre trick plays – such as a tight end reverse in Week 5 – backfire miserably.

Worse, Jackson has yet to put together a game-plan which can help rookie QB DeShone Kizer succeed. Dealing with a group of receivers fully incapable of gaining seperation, Jackson is still dialing up long sideline routes while his 21-year-old quarterback sits and waits for them to develop before getting sacked. The result has drastically stunted the development of Kizer, who was deemed raw from the get-go, and eventually led to his Week 6 benching.

It’d be bad enough if concerns about Jackson’s ability to get the job done were focused solely on game days. However, lately he’s becoming even worse at handling the media, getting caught over and over again in either lies or backtracking.

Last week, when asked about starting Kevin Hogan over Kizer, Jackson intimated this wasn’t going to be a week-to-week QB rotation. He implied this actually was the case after watching Hogan falter miserably in a blowout loss to the Houston Texans.

When Houston rookie sensation Deshaun Watson claimed Jackson texted him on draft day saying “be ready,” Jackson vehemently denied ever sending a text. By the time he was done deflecting, he hinted that, no, wait, he did send a text. Just probably not that one.

It seems like everything Jackson has said as some sort of matter of fact keeps getting walked back. He told us to trust him last year when Cleveland over-drafted Cody Kessler. One year later, Jackson’s “trust me” pick has been watching games from the press box as a healthy scratch. He told us before Week 1 that this season was all about sticking with Kizer, who was benched five weeks into the year for not making it work with an offense which would struggle in a rec-league.

This essentially sums up Jackson’s regime to date. He makes terrible play calls week in and week out and, when he’s not addressing questions about those, he’s speaking to various claims he made which no longer appear true. Jackson seems overwhelmed, with his inability to admit as much only making it worse.

Obviously this is a major problem. It’s exacerbated by the fact his team is, for the most part, incredibly young and impressionable. Their experience in the NFL is extremely limited, and it’s been littered with doublespeak, awful play calls and seeing the red zone as a place where drives go to die.

It’s jarring, then, considering how much hope Jackson injected into this franchise upon his arrival. Everyone knew things would be rocky at first, but it was difficult to fathom it all plummeting below rock bottom this quickly.

Jackson is still seeking his second win in Cleveland. He claimed at the end of last year’s 1-15 campaign such a result wouldn’t happen again, that he’d take a dip in Lake Erie if it did.

If this were still in the opening days of his regime, we’d likely believe him 100%. Now, we just hope he’s getting himself some warm swimwear.

Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook

 


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