In the surprise move of the off-season, the Cleveland Browns have hired Hue Jackson as their head coach, according to Pro Football Talk. The hiring comes as a shock since Jackson was sought by the New York Giants. Jackson was to have a meeting with the Giants organization on Wednesday. The Browns finalized their deal with the former Bengals coach and made sure that didn’t happen.
Jackson will be the fifth coach in seven years for the Browns. Not only will Jackson be the Browns’ eighth coach since the team re-entered the league in 1999, but he’ll also be the team’s fifth head coach in just six years. Jackson will follow the likes of Mike Pettine, Rob Chudzinski, Pat Shurmur, and Eric Mangini.
Jackson had a second interview with the Browns on Tuesday, but he also drew interest from the San Francisco 49ers and the Tennessee Titans. Some reports indicated that the 49ers had at one point identified Jackson as their first choice. With their hiring of Jackson, the Browns have landed a no-nonsense coach who is respected around the league.
In light of the recent troubles in Cleveland, the job will be a tough one. Turning around a franchise that has become viewed as perhaps one of the NFL’s worst will be quite a task.
The Browns may have snatched Jackson for his ability to turn around the offense. The Browns offense finished the season ranked No. 25 in yardage and No. 30 in points. Scoring a mere 17 points per game should be a quick fix for Jackson. But the right tools have to be put into place. The draft should provide a bounty of possibilities.
There’s a huge problem at the quarterback position going into the 2016 season. Johnny Manziel was able to show sparks of hope when he wasn’t in trouble. But overall, he was sketchy. Josh McCown was a more reliable alternative but his age is becoming a factor. After repeated off-field shenanigans, it’s unclear if the Browns organization will bring Johnny Football back to Cleveland.
A source close to the situation told ESPN Giants reporter Dan Graziano that the topic of Manziel was discussed at length in meetings between Jackson and Browns ownership. In those discussions, Jackson indicated he would prefer the organization move on from Manziel if he were to become head coach. He was told that would not be a problem.
Jackson was able to turn the Bengals into a powerhouse offensively. His recent work with Andy Dalton was one of the reasons he was a hot commodity on the head coach market. In his early days of leading the Cincinnati offense, he was able to help with Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Jackson’s coaching skills turned both receivers into the Bengals’ first 1,000-yard single-season receiving tandem.
In 2010, Jackson served as the offensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders. The following year, he was promoted to head coach and suffered an 8-8 record. He was fired and returned to Cincinnati in 2012. He was put in charge of a defensive back group that included talented former first-round draft picks. He spent the next year coaching running backs before his promotion to offensive coordinator in 2014.
The Browns organization hasn’t been happy with Manziel since he missed the final game of the regular season. Although owner Jimmy Haslam hasn’t admitted it, the organization hasn’t been concerned with their quarterback since the last game. The team believes that Johnny Football was in Las Vegas the weekend of his season-ending concussion, per USA Today.
With Hue Jackson at the helm, the only question remaining is whether to trade Manziel or cut him when the waiver period begins. It’s the beginning of a new era for the City on the Lake.
[Photo by John Minchillo/AP]