Last week, I found myself praising Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Todd Haley for questioning head coach Hue Jackson. Knowing he’s the proud owner of a 1-31 record in Cleveland, I thought it’d be good for Jackson to be kept in check before we found ourselves once again worrying about his coaching hindering the team.
This week, I’m fearing we may be past that point.
Based on everything we’ve heard from Jackson in the past few days, I find myself more worried than ever about this team being hindered by coaching. If the Browns are finally going to start winning, it’s likely going to have to come in spite of their head coach, not because of him.
To be fair, I in no way assumed this was a “third year is a charm” situation when it came to Jackson. While a lack of talent on the roster didn’t help his chances over the past couple seasons, he certainly deserves his fair share of blame for the last two years of miserable football.
That said, I assumed the recent roster upgrades and the addition of an offensive coordinator would help Jackson make some positive steps this year. Yet, here we are, spotting more red flags weeks before an incredibly important Browns season kicks off.
In the days since Jackson’s clash with Haley, he’s continued to make questionable decisions, all of which are being thrust under the microscope thanks to an entire HBO production crew hovering around the team facility.
Jackson has come under fire for the “punishment” he handed rookie wideout Antonio Callaway for his driving on a suspended license and marijuana citation. The coach’s idea of disciplining Callaway was making him play into the fourth quarter of last week’s preseason opener, which many understandably questioned.
Sure, there were moments during the game where Callaway appeared gassed and had his request for a breather rejected. Still, giving more reps to a receiver who hasn’t played a down of football in over a year can certainly be a benefit, too.
Jackson also appears to be contradicting himself when it comes to the practice habits Haley called out last week.
Remember, Jackson rebuffed Haley’s critique about veteran off days by claiming he didn’t want to risk losing any players early due to injury. However, yesterday we were told rookie and current starting cornerback Denzel Ward spent all practice pushing through a sore ankle.
So, after lecturing his coaches about why players shouldn’t be practicing through any ailments, Jackson casually noted how the No.4 overall pick spent Monday gutting it out on a bum ankle. It’s not a leap to assume such a conflicting stance on injuries is going to confuse many within the team facility.
Naturally, with plenty of head-scratching going around regarding disciplinary policies and just which injuries merit rest days, Jackson has been getting questioned by the local media. To me, his answers only increase my concern about this team having to find a way to win in spite of him.
Just as we saw over the past two years, Jackson’s response to those who question his ways is getting overly defensive. He hammers home the fact he’s the head coach, that he’s the one “driving this bus.” He keeps telling everyone he’s here to win, disregarding the fact we’re still waiting for his second victory in Cleveland.
Essentially, we’re still seeing Jackson getting mad at being criticized while still being completely unaware when it comes to why he’s getting criticized.
One would hope receiving this much critique would make a coach sit back and reevaluate how he’s approaching everything. Instead, Jackson just insists this will work while also reminding us he’s the head coach.
In the back of my head, as the Browns continued making solid offseason moves which sure made it seem like better days could be on the horizon, this was what I kept worrying about. No matter what upgrades are made to the roster, no matter how many high draft picks the team adds, it all comes down to coaching. Jackson can go on and on about how he’s driving this bus, none of it matters if he doesn’t know what direction he’s going.
The questionable decision-making, the continued contradictions, the constant defensive attitude despite a miserable record. It all creates increased doubt in Jackson’s ability to turn this team into a winning organization.
I had hoped an upgraded front office and roster would help him to change his ways. However, despite this, it appears the Browns are still being held back by their own head coach.