Firing Hue Jackson midseason would be the height of stupidity
By Thomas Moore
The Cleveland Browns continue to struggle, but the one sure way to make the situation worse would be to fire head coach Hue Jackson during the season.
The numbers tell the painful story in stark detail for the Cleveland Browns.
No wins in five tries this season. One win in 21 games under head coach Hue Jackson. Five wins in their past 44 contests dating back to the 2014 season.
As the saying goes, you can’t fire the players so after Cleveland’s fifth consecutive loss on Sunday, the calls have come for the Browns to fire head coach Hue Jackson.
As bad as things have gotten, that would be the stupidest thing that owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam could do.
For starters, interim coaches simply do not work in the NFL. They don’t “light a fire” under players or “put them on notice.” They players know what the record is, they don’t need a coaching change to remind them of the current situation.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell touched on this subject two years ago in a column, pointing out that, at best an interim coach will give a team a slight boost, but not enough of one to make a difference in its longterm success, and that there is no evidence that the coaching change was behind the boost:
"The truth, sadly, is that we don’t know much at all about whom NFL teams should hire as their head coaches. We don’t learn much about that during interim gigs; hell, we don’t learn much about it from coaches who get jobs for multiple years. Think of the league’s best coaches now; many of them were major question marks earlier in their careers. Bill Belichick was fired by the Browns and treated like a pariah. He took over in New England for Pete Carroll, who was too nice after Bill Parcells’s reign. Bruce Arians was run out of town by the Steelers because his offenses weren’t physical enough. The Bears chose not to renew Ron Rivera’s contract as defensive coordinator, in part because they didn’t want to give him a raise."
We’ve been around long enough to remember the last two times that the Browns turned to an interim head coach and the results were disastrous:
- Terry Robiskie went 1-4 after taking over for Butch Davis in 2004
- Jim Shofner went 1-6 after taking over for Bud Carson in 1990.
While they were not put in the best situations, the Browns did not receive much of a “boost” from turning to Robiskie and Shofner.
There is also little indication that the Browns are tuning Jackson out or have “quit on him,” to use the popular phrase to justify removing a coach during the season.
So why make a change? Just to say you are “doing something?”
But let’s say the Haslams have seen enough and decide to dump yet another coach. Then what? Someone is going to have to run the show, but who?
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Al Saunders? Great wide receivers coach, but his last stint as a head coach was from 1986 to 1988 with the San Diego Chargers, going 17-22. Is he up to the task?
David Lee? He seems to have his hands full with the quarterbacks at the moment.
Gregg Williams? He would certainly be the opposite of Jackson. You really a guy who went 17-33 with the Buffalo Bills in his only head coaching gig to take over, Browns fans?
More importantly, if there is someone currently on the Browns coaching staff with some real solutions as to what is plaguing the Browns, don’t you think they would have already implemented them? Or do we really believe that Jackson has taken on a “my way or the highway” philosophy and won’t listen if someone has a good idea?
Firing Jackson during the season, or making any other type of “big headline” move will make some people feel better for a day or two, but will ultimately be nothing more than fool’s gold.
That doesn’t mean that everything has to stay status quo, however.
Jackson was right when he pointed out that the Browns didn’t accumulate more than 400 yards of offense on Sunday by accident. And we are fairly confident in saying that Jackson did turn to the page in the playbook labeled “red zone turnovers” and tell running back Isaiah Crowell and quarterback DeShone Kizer to turn the ball over on Sunday.
Jackson needs to rethink his play calling, stop trying to be too fancy, and start running the ball more. Those are the kind of moves that will help the team’s fortunes far more than firing the head coach and turning to an interim.
It has become clear that trying to be the head coach and the offensive coordinator is too much for Jackson – especially given the nature of the offense with a rookie quarterback. Talking with Jackson about giving up the offensive coordinator role is a discussion that should not wait until the offseason as there are viable alternatives on the coaching staff right now to hand the playbook to.
The season is only five games long and it already feels like a marathon. But for all its faults, this team was not built to win this year and the struggles should not come as a surprise to anyone — and that starts with the Haslams and runs all the way down to the fans.
Next: Browns: 3 takeaways from the loss to the Jets
No one knows if this rebuild is going to work or when the Browns will finally turn the corner.
But the one thing that is undisputed is that firing the head coach during the season is the dumbest call in the playbook.