“Do you feel like you’re coaching for your job?”
Ah, yes, this famous rite of passage. There comes a time in the tenure of every Cleveland Browns head coach where the above question is asked by local media. It typically takes place after a particularly terrible Sunday, when said coach’s seat is getting notably toasty.
Hue Jackson is no exception, receiving this inquiry after a disastrous day of coaching in Cleveland’s 12-9 loss to the Tennessee Titans. For what it’s worth, he came off quite defiant in response.
“No, I don’t feel like I’m coaching for my job,” Jackson said. “I have never felt like that, and if I did, I would tell you. That is the last thing that is on my mind.”
Apologies if this accusation comes off blunt, but it was impossible to watch Sunday’s game and not see a man who’s coaching out of desperation. Jackson can wax poetically about how he’s not coaching for his job, but his game-day decisions beg to differ.
The most obvious example of this is his inexplicable handling of Cleveland’s quarterback situation. It can be described as such – the Browns played three different QBs in the span of seven days.
Jackson claimed this year was all about developing rookie DeShone Kizer. Five weeks in, while struggling with turnovers as losses piled up, he was benched. When backup Kevin Hogan played miserably in his Week 6 start, Kizer was reinserted into the starting lineup. Once again, Jackson said this season was all about sticking with the rookie through the good and the bad.
Last Sunday, Kizer was once again benched mid-game after his second interception, replaced by Cody Kessler. Jackson claimed this will be how things go moving forward, hinting he’ll bench Kizer any time he turns the ball over.
Does this sound like a man who feels a great deal of job security?
So, while Jackson goes on and on about how he’s not coaching desperately, it’s extremely difficult to believe him when he’s yanking the quarterback he spent the week steadfastly supporting the second he throws a pick. Moves like this don’t imply this year is all about letting Kizer learn and develop. Instead, they come off as last-ditch attempts to try and pull off the ever-elusive win. Along the way, Jackson’s frantic efforts to net a victory are destroying any chance for Kizer to succeed.
It wasn’t just the jarring quarterback switch which made Jackson look like a desperate man Sunday. Just look at some of his other decisions and tell me this isn’t someone who’s starting to feel the heat.
At one point in the Titans loss, Jackson declined a penalty on Tennessee. The call would’ve made it 3rd and 16, pushing the Titans back far enough to make a field goal no guarantee. Instead, Jackson turned it down, setting them up for 4th and 1 and a successful field goal attempt. Please recall, the Browns lost the game by three points.
Jackson’s excuse? Tennessee kicker Ryan Succop has just been so good this year, Cleveland simply expected him to hit a field goal…and that’s it. Jackson didn’t think his defense could prevent the Titans from gaining 16 yards, assumed their netting three points was inevitable, so he just chose not to delay it.
A coach feeling secure does not make this kind of decision. He certainly doesn’t double down on it the next day, as Jackson did Monday when asked about the call again.
Likewise, a self-assured coach certainly doesn’t start receiver Kenny Britt one week after sending him home early from a road trip for failing to meet team curfew. A desperate coach does, though. He does so because he knows, despite all the headaches, Britt remains the only legitimate receiver available (on paper, at least).
Bottom line, Jackson can talk all he wants about the patience of owner Jimmy Haslam and claim he feels completely secure. It’s just going to be incredibly difficult to believe if he keeps making bonehead coaching moves every Sunday, panic moves which wreak of desperation.
After almost half a season of panic-induced mismanagement, I’m not sure which feels more true about Jackson – that he’s lying about his not feeling as though he’s coaching for his job, or that it might already be too late to save it.