Cincinnati Bengals running backs coach Hue Jackson told SI.com that he's confused by a perception as a power-hungry, me-first guy in NFL circles.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter, the former Oakland Raiders head coach said he doesn't understand how his career trajectory went from that of a fast-rising, offensive-minded head coach to an unworthy choice to lead an organization.
Jackson was lauded as assistant while with the Washington Redskins, Bengals, Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens, and during two seasons in Oakland, including as the head coach in 2011. With the Raiders, he transformed a 31st-ranked offense (in 2009) to 10th in 2010, then ninth in 2011 in total yards.
Jackson said he doesn't know what has happened since, but denies the notion that he's an opportunist who will crush anyone aside to get ahead. After being fired by new general manager Reggie McKenzie following the 2011 season, Jackson had struggled to find work until landing with the Bengals. He told SI.com that he received one interview for a coordinator position this winter despite eight teams changing head coaches.
"Sometimes these things are about comfort hires," said one executive, who asked to not be named. "It's hard to hire a very confident individual that has stepped out of the box, so to speak, which Hue has on occasion. When head coaches are making that hire, they're going to be a little cautious because they feel he might threaten their position. You have some who don't hire someone who's more qualified and might take their job and hurt their credibility. The people who are successful in this business don't think that way, but you have some who do."
Jackson claims that before being hired as offensive coordinator in 2009, late Raiders owner Al Davis offered him the GM job. Jackson said he turned that down because he wanted to coach. He added that he and Davis never spoke about him eventually becoming head coach, despite rumors that he accepted the coordinator gig as a stepping down to becoming head coach.
With the Bengals, Jackson only sees a new chance to prove himself.
"I get surprised by some of the things that are said about me," Jackson told SI.com. "Look, I'm not shy. A lot of people in this business go along to get along, and I respect that. But when you ask me an honest question, I'm going to give you an honest answer. I don't think some people like that sometimes. But this thing is about winning. That's what it's always been. Some people don't like that. Some people run from confrontation. I don't run from confrontation. I never have. Some people want you to cower, and there is a time for all of that. But if you ask me something I'm going to tell you."