Everything’s fine in Cleveland, guys. It’s all good. All that talk last week about a rift between the Cleveland Browns coaches and front office? Nope, total lies.
It’s fine. It’s all fine.
Of course, it’s not. In fact, if the Browns’ attempts to convince us things were hunky-dory yesterday proved anything, it’s that the rift is very much real. They can try as hard as they want to convince us otherwise, but it sure sounds like Cleveland is as much of a hot mess as we’ve been told.
After proving to everyone last week that, yes, you can lose despite being on a bye, the Browns surely felt it necessary to trot out executive vice president Sashi Brown in an attempt to calm the waters. With stories of the front office execs going home early before the trade deadline and even potentially sabotaging the much-maligned AJ McCarron debacle, there were certainly plenty of questions to answer.
Brown wanted you to know, though, it’s all been overblown. He and the rest of his execs weren’t home early the night before the trade deadline (you can apparently ask his wife and kids). The failed McCarron swap was simply a matter of trying to get things done too close to the deadline. There was no sabotaging, Cleveland was indeed just too incompetent to make a trade in a timely fashion.
Most importantly, coach Hue Jackson wasn’t upset about the whole ordeal because he was in the room when everything went down.
It was all a little difficult to buy, but whatever. Brown was doing his due diligence and trying to maintain an image of a united front. The fact his press conference was separate from Jackson’s didn’t help the sale. Things were made even worse when Cleveland’s coach took to the podium.
Instead of keeping to Brown’s narrative of things being cohesive, Jackson did nothing but deflect. He opened by saying he wasn’t going to dive into anything the team’s front office has already spoken on. Practically all questions about the last week were brushed off with a “I’m just here to coach this team.” Marshawn Lynch would’ve so been proud.
The most alarming example of this was when Jackson was asked if he was comfortable with the relationship between his staff and the front office. Instead of hiding behind even the most basic coach-speak – “things are fine, I’m happy with the way things are going” – he again said he was only there to coach, that Brown already covered this.
How are we supposed to believe there aren’t major issues between the coaches and higher-ups if Jackson can’t even pretend things are OK? All he had to do was give a mundane quote of support. Even if it was a lie, it certainly wouldn’t have fueled speculation.
Instead, Jackson’s pleading the fifth on a simple question about the state of the relationship ultimately convinced everyone things may be broken beyond repair. Would people have rolled their eyes had he claimed things with Brown were better than ever? Probably. Still, this veiled skepticism would’ve been the worst possible result.
However, Jackson chose to hide behind a non-answer. As a result, it’s impossible to buy the idea his staff and the front office can work together. If he can’t even muster up enough energy to lie about the state of their relationship, how are we supposed to buy Brown’s insistence that stories of dysfunction are overblown by the media?
All Jackson’s response did was make the reports of angry emails being sent from coaches and word of frustration boiling over within the team facility all the more believable.
The Browns likely felt as though their game plan for yesterday would help douse the fires surrounding the team. Instead, all it did was dump a tank of gas on them.
Things are still a mess, with yesterday practically confirming this fact. As a result, it’s getting more and more likely firings are on the horizon. Jackson’s refusal to act like things are fine might have been nothing but a last-ditch attempt to distance himself from the front office for the sake of saving his job.
Just another sign things are totally fine in Cleveland.
Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook
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