It’s quite astounding how quickly I’ve changed my tone when it comes to Hue Jackson. As of a few weeks ago, I was open to the idea of the Cleveland Browns retaining him for at least one more year as head coach.
Today, I’m convinced he has to go.
When wondering where the sudden change of heart came from, look no further than any of Jackson’s recent press conferences. Lately, Cleveland’s coach is using his media sessions to take petty pot-shots at the front office, and it’s becoming a very grating experience.
We’ve heard Jackson’s comments about his team needing to play perfect hammered home on numerous occasions. We’ve seen him steadfastly deny any opportunity to pretend things between himself and the front office are solid. He’s been quick to lay blame at the feet of anyone besides himself, as if his 1-26 record with the team is anyone’s fault but his.
Obviously, we know he indeed needs to be shouldering some blame for the Browns’ struggles. Yet, as of today he hasn’t been interested in doing such a thing. Even worse, the veiled press conference comments are getting more and more frustrating.
Take yesterday for example.
Jackson was asked about his questionable play-calling near the end of the first half in Sunday’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. With 20 seconds left and the Browns eleven yards away from the end zone, Jackson only attempted one play before running down the clock and kicking a field goal. Down 16-3, Cleveland’s coach seemed uninterested in making it a one-possession game, instead content to just play it safe.
When asked why he wouldn’t take another shot or two at the end zone, Jackson was incredibly dismissive, saying he wasn’t interested in taking such a risk, and doing so with a very matter-of-fact tone. As a reporter noted most teams attempt at least two or three plays in this situation, Jackson cut him off by saying, “We’re not equipped that way.”
Obviously, such a response is laughable. It’s yet another reason why Jackson’s childish act has worn very thin.
Claiming his team isn’t built to take more than one shot at the end zone from eleven yards out certainly appears to be another less-than-subtle shot at the front office. While I’m sure Jackson and his staff have a lot of frustration about the lack of talent available, is this non-stop finger-pointing going to fix anything?
What can the front office possibly do this deep into the season to improve the roster? Is constantly blaming Sashi Brown and company going to make people believe Jackson shouldn’t be held accountable?
He must think so, despite the fact all he’s really doing is beating a dead horse.
What makes things worse when it comes to this particular comment is how it also comes off as a shot at his own players.
Jackson literally said his roster isn’t “equipped” to take more than one shot at the end zone despite being right at the door step. How is this supposed to be received? That, if he had better players available, maybe he’d feel comfortable enough to gamble a bit?
Was it also a shot at quarterback DeShone Kizer, who, again, is 21, raw, and still developing?
Either way, it’s bad. Jackson has become undeniably spiteful over the past few weeks, and it’s now getting to the point where he seems willing to blame his own players for his shortcomings as a coach.
The problem with all of these comments is the effect it can have within the locker room.
Cleveland’s roster is full of young players who are spending the early years of their NFL career listening to their head coach play the blame game with his front office. As of yesterday, they’re now hearing they aren’t talented enough to attempt more than one shot at the end zone before halftime.
It’s clear Jackson keeps making these comments to try and prevent his own firing. Ironically, one could argue he deserves to go just for voicing them in the first place.
Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook