BEREA (AP) — Two miserable seasons. One measly win.
Still, Cleveland coach Hue Jackson continues to have the “unwavering” support of owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, who believe his third year will bring out the best in him — and the Browns.
“I think we will see the real Hue Jackson,” Jimmy Haslam said Saturday before practice.
Jackson has lost 31 of 32 games since taking over a Cleveland franchise that has undergone numerous coaching changes and front-office upheaval since the team’s NFL expansion return in 1999. However, the Haslams feel the worst is over, and thanks to a roster overhaul directed by general manager John Dorsey, Jackson has the pieces to win.
“He has good quarterbacks, he has some skill players, he has a veteran offensive lineman — now, we have to figure out left tackle — and three really good (running) backs and a good defense.”
Jackson has also been helped by not also handling offensive coordinator duties. With some urging and the blessing of the Haslams, he turned his offense over to Todd Haley, who was fired after six seasons with Pittsburgh.
“You have to give Hue credit for bringing in Todd Haley, which I think will allow Hue to be the head coach,” Haslam said. “I think this will be the first opportunity Hue will have to do what we know he can do as head coach as a leader. Even though Todd will be calling all of the shots on offense, I think Hue will obviously have some impact there like he will defense. We are excited to see it.”
The Browns went 0-16 last season, matching the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams in NFL history to lose all 16 games. But while there were many Cleveland fans calling for Jackson’s firing, his players remained united behind him and the Haslams decided to bring him back for another year.
That doesn’t mean Jackson’s job is permanently safe, but Haslam refused to say there was a mandate on wins this season.
“No, we’re excited about Hue Jackson,” Haslam said. “I think our commitment to him has been unwavering and still is.”
Jackson is grateful for the Haslams’ backing.
“I said all last year, I felt like I had their full support,” he said following the Browns’ first practice in pads. “They were always in communication with me, and I thank them for that. I’m glad they feel that way. My job is to go out and coach this football team and get them better and we’ve got to do it better than we’ve ever done it since I’ve been here. We have some players that I think are going to help make the difference, but at the same time, it’s just all talk right now.
“We have to go do it. So we’ve just got to keep working, but I do thank them for that.”
As the 2017 season unraveled, the Haslams chose to fire head of football operations Sashi Brown, whose analytics-heavy approach yielded mixed results and not enough wins. Dorsey, who guided Kansas City’s turnaround from 2013 to 2016, replaced Brown and spent this past offseason acquiring talent.
Haslam felt it was fair to assess Jackson’s upcoming third season as his first.
“I think in some ways you could say because of the talent he’s had, particularly at quarterback, particularly last year, it could view it as his first year, but we don’t look at that,” Haslam said. “I know everybody’s saying Hue has to win this many games or he has to win that many games. We don’t look at it (like that).”
“We’re really excited about the relationship that Hue and John have and not just that they have but their staffs have, how the building is working together. I mean we’re in here at 7 this morning talking about who else we might need to add to the roster. So we feel good about the chemistry, we feel good about the work ethic, but at the same time, we all understand we’ve got to win games.”