Hue Jackson, who was 3-36-1 with the Cleveland Browns, was surprised he was fired on Monday.
That was one of the many interesting things Jackson had to say in a sit-down interview with Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com on Thursday, a few days after he was relieved of his duties as Browns head coach.
Among the tidbits was that Jackson asked owner Jimmy Haslam for the ability to take back play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Todd Haley. He was fired instead. So was Haley.
The Browns were 1-31 the past two seasons with Jackson calling plays.
“I knew that I would’ve taken our same system and turned the offense around,” Jackson said, according to Cabot. “It was not what I wanted to do, it’s what I had to do. If I couldn’t turn it around – then so be it and we move on. So I was surprised that I was not given the opportunity to display what I could do as a play caller with a much more talented offensive roster.”
Hue Jackson says he wanted to draft Carson Wentz in 2016
Would history have been different had the Browns made different decisions at quarterback? Perhaps. They passed on drafting Carson Wentz, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in Jackson’s first two seasons. They traded the picks that became Wentz and Watson.
Maybe it’s revisionist history, but Jackson said he wanted to pick Wentz. That puts the decision to trade down and pass on a future star in Wentz on since-fired general manager Sashi Brown.
“Oh my gosh, yes. Did I like Carson Wentz? Hell yes,” Jackson told Cabot. “He did something that no other quarterback did. I give them three minutes to memorize the book and put on the [white] board. He put it all on the board in two minutes and 48 seconds. I’ve never had a guy do that ever in my coaching career.
“But the plan was never to take a quarterback that year. It was all about trading back to get picks. If you’re doing that you’ve got to pick the right players.”
Here’s what Jackson said on the matter in 2016 days before the Browns played the Philadelphia Eagles, the team that eventually drafted Wentz, to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio on NBC Sports Radio:
“We didn’t draft Carson Wentz because we didn’t think it was the right fit for our team at this time. There’s nothing more to it. Obviously, that will make for great debate in the media, and that’s fine. Our singular focus right now is just preparing to face the Eagles.”
Jackson said he thinks rookie Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield is going to be a “sensational player,” but he clearly thinks the Browns drafted a quarterback too late for him to turn it around.
“We passed on three franchise QBs the first two years in Wentz, Watson and Mahomes,” Jackson told Cleveland.com. “We played with a QB room with zero wins in the league. We played with street free agents and practice squad players in WRs. Yet our offense was the same or better than what we were doing this year. There is no way that should happen.
“You can’t pass on quarterbacks. You never pass on a potential franchise quarterback because you don’t know who’s going to be there in the future.”
Jackson disagrees there was discord with Todd Haley
A big part of the firing seemed to be the perception of internal discord between Jackson and Haley. Owner Jimmy Haslam referenced it in a press conference after the firings. Jackson disagreed it was a bad relationship.
“I didn’t perceive it as internal discord,” Jackson said. “I think you can disagree with people and not have it be discord. Discord to me is a strong word. It means there’s always infighting. That’s a pretty hot word.”
But in general Jackson disagreed with bringing in an offensive coordinator over the offseason. That seems to be sticking with him.
“People for some reason thought that I couldn’t run an offense and that I needed to hire an OC. But I was never able to actually run my offense the first two years because we didn’t have the players,” Jackson told Cabot. “What everybody saw the first two years was not a Hue Jackson offense. And the people, players, and coaches that know me – know that was the case. I had to do on offense what was necessary to be competitive each week. And we were.
“But it was recommended I bring in an OC to allow me to focus on leading the organization. In hindsight, it would’ve been in our best interest for me to continue doing what got me the job, and that was to run the offense with more talent on board.”
But even if Jackson didn’t think there was discord between him and Haley, he had an observation that seemed like a direct shot at the offensive coordinator he didn’t want.
“Our numbers this year were the same or worse than our numbers last year with better players on offense,” Jackson said.
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