It's official. The Cleveland Browns have stopped their head coaching search and Hue Jackson has apparently settled for the first contract put in front of him. Figured to be one of the hotter head coach candidates this offseason, the choice of Jackson to sign so quickly with the Cleveland Browns is something that we'll all be scratching our heads at.
The Cleveland Browns have been the franchise most synonymous with failure in the eyes of the NFL since their return to the league in 1999. Mostly due to the meddling of owner Jimmy Haslam, the Browns have not been able to keep a head coach in town for more than three seasons since returning to the league. To end this season, the Browns fired general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine, with Pettine getting only two seasons to right a ship that was downright awful before him and being stuck with a general manager that seemed to sabotage everything.
Part of the intrigue around Jackson signing up to be the Browns' head coach outside of their terrible track record with head coaches, is that the Browns had quite a difficult time in their last search. Reportedly, several candidates flat out refused the job, leaving Pettine to be the only option left after a search that was as hilarious as it was depressing to watch. Now in order to not be outdone this season, the Cleveland Browns have created an executive hierarchy that requires a flow chart and a 30-minute prep course to figure out.
Having hired the guy portrayed in MoneyBall, Paul DePodesta despite no track record of his system working with football in the slightest, the Browns have made Jackson's job harder. Still without a general manager in place, DePodesta will seemingly have some level of influence over the players being brought in this offseason, possibly setting Jackson up for failure much in the same way Pettine had no chance of success. Once the general manager is brought in, whoever that may end up being, DePodesta will only have to answer to the owner and team president with no accountability to the coach and GM. Imagine the fights that will go down in owner Jimmy Haslam's office once a player like Johnny Manziel is kept on the team and told to start?
I can understand the desire for Hue Jackson to get out of Cincinnati as quickly as possible. We detailed the potential collapse under way for the Bengals and Jackson's departure was the first step in the process. But the Bengals job was a good one for him as even a fall back option. A franchise quarterback, a top-five wide receiver, and a pretty good defense to help you out along the way. If current head coach Marvin Lewis was indeed let go this offseason or even in the near future, you'd have to imagine that Jackson would be the first man to be interviewed and the top candidate for the job. At the best he could have gone to the New York Giants, a spot with a budding roster and an owner that has given Tom Coughlin a great place to call work for the last decade plus.
Instead, he joined the most dysfunctional franchise in the league in record time. The one that has yet to keep a head coach for more than three seasons. The one with no general manager, but a baseball analyst that will only answer to the owner. The one with a roster that is bottomed out on talent, but high on troubled players. It would be difficult for the best NFL head coaches to clean up that mess if given the time. For Hue Jackson, even if he is given free reign and enough time, which seems unlikely in both scenarios, it's a long-term, up-hill battle.
I hope for Cleveland Browns fans that Jackson really is the answer and owner Jimmy Haslam leaves well enough alone. But then again, I think we all know better than that.