Hue Jackson calls timing of Donte Whitner’s release “unfortunate”
By Thomas Moore
Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson tried to clarify the team’s decision to release veteran safety Donte Whitner so late in free agency.
Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson met with the media on Wednesday and amid a myriad of topics addressed the release of veteran safety Donte Whitner.
While it didn’t really come as a surprise that the Browns released the 12-year veteran, his declining play and age made him a poor fit on a rebuilding team, the timing of the decision has brought the Browns some criticism that is not entirely unwarranted.
“I know it’s a hard situation, but I think we all know in the National Football League decisions are made when it’s time to make those decisions,” Jackson said. “It’s unfortunate that it happened when it did, but at the same time I think you guys know there’s never any perfect timing to make those choices except for when you make them.
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“We made the decision when it was time for us to make the decision. Obviously, that decision wasn’t made before because if it was we would have made that decision before. I get it. I know the feeling in that situation but trust me, we went through this 1,000 times to get to that conclusion. It wasn’t like it was just a knee-jerk reaction.”
“Obviously, that decision wasn’t made before because if it was we would have made that decision before.” – Hue Jackson on releasing Donte Whitner
Jackson is right that a team can release a player whenever it wishes, and from a football standpoint it makes sense. But it seems realistic that the Browns knew they were going to add Whitner to the veteran purge, so waiting until almost a month into free agency to pull the trigger is a bit odd.
It is also a bad look and one that the Browns are probably going to be dealing with for a little while.
Agents are already grumbling about how the Browns handled the opening weeks of free agency, and other teams have been doing everything they can to try to discredit the new approach the Browns are taking with the front office. Releasing a player so late in free agency, when the options and available money are not what they were a few weeks ago, only gives the critics another card to play against the Browns.
It’s not just agents and other general managers who are questioning the Browns, but former players are getting in on the fun. Linebacker Karlos Dansby, who the Browns released a few weeks ago, was critical of the timing of the Whitner’s release as well.
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“I thought they were going to keep him on because he’s a Cleveland kid, homegrown, and I’m thinking if they let me go, they’re going to keep Donte on,” Dansby told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “That was my thinking, because both of us were strong leaders on the defense, and to see if happen like that late into the free agency, man, it just wasn’t cool. It wasn’t cool at all. It wasn’t cool as a professional, man, that man earned the right to do his job … just respect him and let him go.”
The Browns are facing a potentially long slog as they begin their latest rebuilding efforts, and the hullabaloo over the Whitner release is something that is not helping the cause. Even if they really did just reach the decision on Saturday afternoon to make the move, they are now dealing with the perception that they mismanaged the situation.
Fair or not, it is a reality that Jackson and the new front office have quickly learned.