The Cleveland Browns enter Week 5 as one of the four remaining winless teams in the NFL. The Browns are still a seriously bad team – but that may be the most important reason why Hue Jackson still has a job as Cleveland’s head coach. Is it difficult to determine how well an NFL head coach is doing just by looking at their win/loss record and ignoring the talent on the field at that time? Or should the head coach get all the blame for his teams losses?
Why so terrible?
One reason the Browns have been awful for what seems like forever is because they haven’t really given any of their previous head coaches the time to develop the talent that was given to them. While there’s famously a jersey dedicated to the amount of quarterbacks the Browns have gone through, the long list of coaches that have come and attempted (unsuccessfully) to turn that franchise around is equally eyebrow-raising.
Hue Jackson was stuck with an injured RG3, and an inept Josh McCown and Kevin Hogan as his main signal callers in 2016. Regardless of which washed up or inexperienced quarterback Jackson was forced to throw into the inferno that is an NFL game, he still kept his team in five games where they lost by one possession and held on to beat the then-San Diego Chargers in Week 16 last year.
If you only look at the record that Hue Jackson has, which is admittedly very poor, you’ll find that he’s 9-28 in his NFL head coaching career, dating back to 2011 when he was the coach of the Oakland Raiders and led them to an 8-8 record. Hue Jackson now, though, has the youth and should be given the time to see just how good this Browns team could be.
Glimpses of a brighter future
Cleveland did something they don’t normally do in the offseason: they had an outstanding draft, selecting defensive end Myles Garrett, followed by safety Jabrill Peppers, and then tight end David Njoku. The Browns showed signs of possibly reaching the end of their rebuilding phase.
Cleveland’s most impressive rookie has to be QB DeShone Kizer, who they picked up in the second round. Kizer had a good preseason and played well enough to be named their opening week QB and, tentatively, their QB of the future. Jackson decided that Kizer should be handed the keys and allow him to learn as he goes. That’s what makes the Browns decision at the end of this season a very glaring topic. They have no expectations; they don’t have to prove that they are a playoff team or even a .500 team. They only need to worry about getting a few miles on their young players and forming a good balance of veterans around them to help with mentoring their youth.
There are many questions that the Browns front office have to ask themselves now though because they’ll be expected to have an answer for them in January. What happens if they only win a game or two again? Do they stick with Hue Jackson and hope that one more year is what he needs to get on the same page as his team? Do they tear down and rebuild yet again and get a new coach and hope they strike gold?
Despite those questions, the Browns are in a good situation. They have a promising quarterback, and a young, hungry defense led by linebacker Jamie Collins. What the Browns need to remember is that they didn’t sign Hue Jackson by accident; they signed him believing he would turn that team around and get them back to a contender again. He can’t do that if they fire him because the terrible team they assembled for him was terrible.
Hue Jackson had success as an offensive coordinator in Washington, Atlanta, Oakland, and then Cincinnati. He knows offense and, more importantly, he knows quarterbacks. DeShone Kizer and his receiving core could excel under Jackson, but only if Jackson is given the proper time to form a relationship and understanding with his group. I don’t believe there‘s much of a chance they let him go after the end of the 2017 season, because if they weren’t committed to him they would’ve let him go after last year’s 1-15 campaign. Former Browns QB Josh McCown saidon Monday:
I don’t think it’s very fair to evaluate the coaches until you have a substantial amount of talent in the group that you’re envisioning putting together on the field. If you’re continually saying you need to add pieces and you have picks and you’re going to add talent, I don’t know how you evaluate the coach fairle.
Cleveland faces McCown and the New York Jets on Sunday and, despite the record of both teams, it could be a very close contest. Hue Jackson shouldn’t get a free pass because his team isn’t good, but he also shouldn’t be criticized because his team isn’t good. The Browns are a promising team and I wouldn’t be surprised if, should they stick with Jackson, they are close to the playoffs in three to five years. Hang in there Dawg Pound; the storm is almost over.
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