Yesterday, Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam finally admitted keeping failed coach Hue Jackson around for another season was a bad idea and sent him packing. Naturally, many assume this was the first step in fixing a constantly dysfunctional team.
It is. However, it’s not the most important one this franchise needs to take.
For that, look no further than the man running the show, and the bizarre way at which he has said show set up.
Haslam’s ridiculous strategy of having everyone report to him will always hold the Browns back, and Jackson is the perfect example of this. Unless he changes his ways, the team will continue to be a clown-show, regardless of who’s hired to be the next coach.
Haslam is not a football guy. He doesn’t have experience in building a winning franchise. He’s not a former scout. He has no proven ability to evaluate talent.
Yet, any member of the Browns coaching staff and front office must report directly to him. The GM and head coach are essentially on the same level, both having direct lines to the owner. It’s not exactly a traditional approach.
Actually, let me clarify. It’s not a traditional approach for good football teams.
The Browns don’t qualify as one of those, and won’t until Haslam ditches this strategy which proved ineffective years ago.
One would think his latest firing would hammer home how badly he needs to just let GM John Dorsey run the show. However, Haslam’s insistence that interim head coach Gregg Williams will ultimately report to him indicates he’s yet to learn this lesson.
Frankly, this is astounding, especially considering how badly the flaws in his set-up were exposed over the past three years. It was only a matter of time until someone abused the benefits of this system so blatantly it created chaos the likes of which Cleveland had never seen.
That person was Hue Jackson.
Jackson spent the majority of his time with the Browns deflecting any blame for his abysmal record. He publicly bashed the front office, chastised his players and continually expected a pass for winning one game in two years.
His behavior was equal parts childish and pathetic. What it wasn’t, though, was surprising.
After all, he acted this way because he knew he could.
Every petty move Jackson made occurred because Haslam’s power structure allowed it. The former coach knew he could complain, knew he could throw the front office under the bus at press conferences, knew he could leak stories to his media cronies which put him in a favorable light. He did so because he had a direct line to the owner, therefore saw management as equals.
It’s why he outlasted former front office exec Sashi Brown. It’s why he was almost able to give away two prized draft picks to trade for current Oakland Raiders backup QB AJ McCarron. It’s why, despite getting a third year after regressing from a one-win season, he still felt as though he could keep blaming the Browns’ issues on anyone but himself.
Jackson never had to worry about falling out of favor with the higher-ups, because he could go directly above them to gripe to the owner. He abused the system to win power struggles and, had Dorsey not intervened this past Sunday night, he likely wasn’t going to stop doing so anytime soon.
What Jackson did was astoundingly apparent to anyone paying attention to this team. Yet, it still doesn’t seem to be enough to convince Haslam how poorly his strategy works. When asked directly if the Jackson ordeal will make him rethink his front office structure, he simply gave a “we’ll evaluate everything later” non-answer.
What’s left to evaluate? You just fired a coach who saw how easy it was to take advantage of this moronic set-up and continue to get away with it. You watched him lose at a historic rate, and also watched him refuse to take any accountability for it because he could circumvent everyone in the front office and complain directly to you.
Honestly, if Haslam’s experience with Jackson didn’t convince him to just get the hell out of the way and let his front office execs do their job, nothing will. He’ll continue trying to get too involved, continue meddling, continue insisting he has the final say on football matters.
After all that, he’ll continue hosting press conferences like the one we saw Monday, discussing the firing of another failed hire and swearing he’s totally going to get it right next time.