The Cleveland Browns came to London at 0-7 with the pressure on the franchise and the head coach building. In the last 23 games before today, or in the Hue Jackson era if you wish, the Browns were 1-22. They needed a win, but they didn’t get it.
The Browns lost 33-16 to the Minnesota Vikings to slip to 0-8 on the season and 1-23 in their last 24. That’s not a good look for a head coach and front office that are 24 games into their rebuild. Now, going into the bye week, the Browns face constant pressure from outside for changes and results. Does this game signal the end of the hue Jackson era in Cleveland?
The Vikings take advantage of the Browns mistakes
The Browns started the game well. On the Vikings first possession of the game they intercepted Case Keenum to give the offense great starting field position. From there, the offense only needed two plays to find the endzone, an 11-yard pass to David Njoku and a 26-yard touchdown run for Isaiah Crowell. However, Zane Gonzalez missed the extra point.
The Vikings answered with a field goal that only came about from a muffed punt, putting them in great field position. Without that mistake from the Browns, the defense held the Vikings scoreless until 2:48 left in the second quarter, when Adam Thielen found space in the back corner of the endzone.
The Browns answered with an eight play, 82-yard touchdown drive to retake the lead, a lead the carried into halftime even after the Vikings got a field goal as time expired. They led 13-12 at halftime and seemed to be more than capable of hanging with the Dolphins.
In the second half, though, it all went wrong. The Browns managed just one field goal, and missed another, as the defense wilted and gave up 21 points. On one drive alone they gave up 48-yards on three penalties, two of which were on third down and one of those was on third and goal.
Ultimately, the Browns found ways to beat themselves. They had two fumbles, they effectively gave up a touchdown from penalties, and they missed a field goal and an extra point. They may still have lost, but those mistakes changed the momentum in the game and resulted in points for the Vikings. These kinds of errors and a failure to play a complete game leaves Hue Jackson on a very hot seat.
What went wrong for the Browns?
“This team has given me everything I’ve asked for. We’re playing, we’re just coming up short.” That was Hue Jackson’s take on this game and the season so far, but why is that the case? Some players seem to think it is a simple matter of execution.
DeShone Kizer said the Browns just have to “make a couple more plays” and that the offense weren’t able to “execute our jobs”. The feeling was similar on defense, several players all felt it just came down to a few simple things. “We’re just not making enough plays” is what Jason McCourty had to say and Carl Nassib said the same. Meanwhile, Nate Orchard felt it was more specific than that, “It’s just the little details. We’ve gotta stay on top of it going forward… We’ll be fine.”
Honestly, I don’t think Jackson and the players are wrong. Take away the turnovers, a missed field goal and extra point and this game would have been a lot closer. Add in a few instances of apparent blown coverages and the Vikings could be without at least one touchdown. This indicates the Browns were competitive in this game. It would be silly to say they weren’t, but the Browns need results, they can’t just be competitive.
What’s next for Jackson?
I feel for Hue Jackson. I think he has been dealt a bad hand in both of his head coaching opportunities. This time around he has been given an experimental front office, a bad owner, and a roster that is one of the least talented in the NFL.
However, it is genuinely difficult to only win one game in 24 attempts, and just being competitive is not what keeps you employed as an NFL head coach. Everyone is aware that the Browns are not built to win now, everyone knows the final record is not really relevant for the Browns, but what is important is that the team is making progress. Thus far, it doesn’t seem as though the team is making any progress.
What’s more, Jackson has butchered the quarterback situation this season. I liked the Browns pick of DeShone Kizer in the second round. I liked that they named him the starter as he looked the best in the preseason and training camp. But since then it has been a mess.
The biggest knock on him coming out of Notre Dame was regarding his mental toughness. In his college career he had several games that would spiral away from him following a bad play, his head coach publically said he didn’t think Kizer was ready for the NFL, yet the Browns toyed with him. They started him, yanked him for a third string QB, put him back in only to bench him mid game again. Now he is their starter again. Today he looked fine, unspectacular at best, but this can’t have been good for his confidence.
The reason the Browns claim to be losing, whether it is valid or not, falls on the coach. He needs to coach his team to complete the little things and make the few plays they need to win games, every other coach does. That is what makes a successful NFL team and if those things are happening so consistently, it comes back to the coach.
I want Hue Jackson to succeed, but he isn’t, and I don’t see him succeeding in Cleveland any time soon. He may finish the season, but I think the writing is on the wall for the Jackson era.
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