Cleveland Browns football returns this Sunday. If you’re like me, this is hardly good news. At the same time, there will be plenty to keep an eye on as the team embarks on the final half of another lame duck season.
To me, there may be no bigger storyline to follow than the actions of coach Hue Jackson. This goes beyond the obvious. I, like everyone else, will be interested to see what he does in his continued attempts to win a game or two.
That said, I also want to see if he keeps up his now-ongoing trend of vocally trying to protect his job past this season.
In the last two weeks, Jackson has made more than a few comments which could be read as defensive at best. After the loss to the Minnesota Vikings, he claimed his team had to play perfect football in order to win. When asked why rookie Jabrill Peppers is playing out of position, he said it was a result of having to work with what they have on the assembled roster. Jackson also blatantly turned down the chance to say his relationship with the front office was on good terms.
His comments have been alarming, as there appears to be no attempt to veil what he’s saying. Just a couple weeks ago, Jackson claimed he wasn’t coaching for his job. Yet, in the time since the Browns’ last game, he’s done nothing but take what appear to be pot shots at his front office.
The reason for this should be clear. Many expect owner Jimmy Haslam to spend yet another January cleaning house. By now this is essentially a Cleveland tradition.
What’s new this time, though, is the team’s coach going out of his way to deflect blame in a last-ditch effort to keep his job.
For most of his time in Cleveland, Jackson has kept up the charade of being in lock-step with the front office despite rumors claiming otherwise. He’s always gone to bat against reports of a rift, doing what he can to debunk the stories.
While the official breaking point is unclear, Jackson has made an obvious shift in tone. There’s no subtlety to his jabs. He’s very clearly blaming the front office for the lack of talent he has to work with. While Jackson has typically handled the stresses of having to win games despite working with a roster full of youth and lacking talent, this no longer appears to be the case.
If this sense of defensiveness is so obvious during a bye week, it doesn’t seem lofty to assume it’ll escalate once the team gets back on the field.
With every defeat comes more calls for Jackson’s job. You’d like to think he’s no longer able to tune out this noise, otherwise he wouldn’t be spending every media session pointing the finger of blame towards the front office.
This is why it’ll be fascinating to see what happens from here on out. To what lengths will Jackson’s desperation go?
Will he keep benching rookie DeShone Kizer the second things look bleak? Will he continue abandoning the running game as soon as Cleveland falls behind on the scoreboard? Will each loss be followed by more excuses and deflecting?
It wouldn’t surprise me if the answer was “yes” to each of these questions. Jackson is clearly at a point of desperation, so much so he’s willing to openly blame the front office for continued losing. My guess is things will only get worse from here.
We’ll find out come January if using this tactic helps Jackson save his job. If the Browns once again finish with one win (or none), I’d bet this blame game will be all for naught.