Hue Jackson

Latest On Andy Dalton, Marvin Lewis

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, now in his 16th year at the helm, appeared all but gone from Cincinnati at the end of last season. It was reported last December that Lewis was expected to leave the team to pursue opportunities elsewhere, which included another head coaching job or perhaps a front office role. However, Lewis and the Bengals surprisingly reversed course, and the two sides came to terms on a two-year extension back in January.

However, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports that the two-year extension was actually a one-year pact with a team option for 2019, so the club can move on from Lewis without penalty at the end of the season if it so chooses. Which means, as Rapoport notes, that Lewis’ future as the club’s head coach is once again in doubt.

Lewis has guided the Bengals to a 130-118-3 mark during his tenure, and his club has qualified for the playoffs seven times (including five straight seasons from 2011-15). But Cincinnati is 0-7 in playoff games under Lewis’ watch, and the team now appears destined to miss the postseason for the third consecutive year.

One of the reasons for the Bengals’ disappointing 2018 campaign is injuries. Lewis’ club has been ravaged by the injury bug — the Bengals have put more players on IR in 2018 than they did the last three years combined — and a number of key players who have avoided IR have nonetheless been sidelined for multiple games. So, as Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes, owner Mike Brown will have to think about how much different the season would have been if the Bengals had not been hit so hard by injuries and determine Lewis’ fate based on that. We learned last week that current special assistant Hue Jackson could succeed Lewis as the Bengals’ head coach, and Rapoport confirms that report. RapSheet also suggests that Lewis could transition to a front office role with Cincinnati.

As for quarterback Andy Dalton — who is now among those Bengals on IR — Rapoport says that the Red Rifle will be back with the team in 2019. Dehner writes in a separate piece that Dalton, who did have surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb, is expected to make a full recovery before the team’s offseason program begins next year. Dalton believes he has the full support of the team’s decision-makers, and Dehner agrees that no one is expecting the Bengals to part ways with the 31-year-old signal-caller (even though they could do so without taking on any dead money).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fritz Pollard Alliance Recommends HC Candidates

Every year, the Fritz Pollard Alliance releases a list of recommended minority head coaching candidates. This year’s edition is nearly double in size and features the likes of Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores and Cowboys defensive backs coach/defensive passing game coordinator Kris Richard, as Mike Jones of USA Today writes. 

Here’s the complete list of suggested candidates:

  • Keith Armstrong (Falcons special teams coordinator)
  • Teryl Austin (Former Bengals defensive coordinator)
  • Eric Bieniemy (Chiefs offensive coordinator)
  • Jim Caldwell (former Lions and Colts head coach)
  • George Edwards (Vikings defensive coordinator)
  • Brian Flores (Patriots linebackers coach)
  • Leslie Frazier (Bills defensive coordinator)
  • Raheem Morris (Falcons assistant head coach/wide receivers coach)
  • Hue Jackson (special assistant to the head coach of the Bengals; former Browns head coach)
  • Kris Richard (Cowboys defensive backs coach/defensive passing game coordinator)
  • Duce Staley (Eagles assistant head coach/running backs coach)

Flores, the de facto defensive coordinator of the Patriots, figures to be a hot coaching candidate this year. The same goes for Bieniemy, who is helping to guide one of the league’s most dangerous offenses.

Others on this list, such as Jackson and Austin, seem unlikely to garner real consideration for head coaching positions this offseason. The Browns turned the corner after dumping Jackson and appointing Gregg Williams as the team’s interim head coach, which isn’t a great endorsement for the offensive guru. Meanwhile, the Bengals hired Austin in January but fired him earlier this month as his defense was one of the lowest ranked in the NFL.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Rumors: McDaniels, Arians, Marrone

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels seemed to irreparably damage his future head coaching prospects with every team in the league except New England when he infamously jilted the Colts last offseason. But he has already been mentioned as a candidate for the Browns‘ head coaching job, and as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes, there will be no shortage in interest in McDaniels when the head coaching carousel starts spinning in 2019. La Canfora does not specifically name any teams who are expected to pursue the 42-year-old, but his sources indicate that McDaniels will be under strong consideration despite the fiasco in Indianapolis.

Now let’s take a look at other rumors concerning current, and possibly future, head coaches:

  • Speaking of the Browns, former Colts and Cardinals HC Bruce Arians recently said he would only consider becoming a head coach again if he were hired by Cleveland, but he walked those comments back shortly thereafter. However, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says Arians was serious the first time and that he will contemplate returning to the sidelines if he can become the Browns’ head coach. Arians indicated that he will not consider overtures from any other clubs, but that if he does land the Cleveland gig, he would keep Freddie Kitchens as offensive coordinator and would consider keeping defensive coordinator Gregg Williams — currently the Browns’ interim HC — as well.
  • It remains to be seen whether Arians’ interest in the Browns is mutual, but La Canfora reports that the team is expected to reach out to Iowa State coach Matt Campbell, who is very much on the NFL’s radar as a legitimate head coaching candidate. We have heard previously that Cleveland GM John Dorsey is a big fan of Campbell.
  • Although the Jaguars are in the midst of a hugely disappointing season, Rapoport says that head coach Doug Marrone is not on the hot seat and is in no danger of losing his job at the moment (video link).
  • Despite unceremonious ousters from Oakland and Cleveland, La Canfora writes that Hue Jackson could become a head coach again as soon as next year. Jackson is back in Cincinnati as special assistant to Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, and if Lewis were to retire or transition to an upper-management position, JLC suggests that Jackson could take the reins. Team owner Mike Brown, who does things his own way, is a big fan of Jackson, and league sources say they would not be surprised if Brown goes that route.
  • The Bears‘ defense is excelling in 2018, which means that Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will once again garner significant interest from teams looking for a new HC this offseason, per La Canfora. Fangio has interviewed previously for the head-coaching jobs in Chicago and San Francisco, and the Bears paid him very well to keep him aboard as Matt Nagy‘s DC when they hired Nagy to be their head coach earlier this year. There is a general bias against defensive-oriented coaches these days, but Fangio is regarded as one of the best defensive minds in the game and has a strong reputation for being able to connect with troubled players and to get the most out of his units.

North Notes: Ravens, Flacco, Lions, Bengals

Lamar Jackson will likely start at least one more game for the Ravens, as Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh told reporters that Joe Flacco will be hard-pressed to return from injury in Week 12, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic (Twitter link). Flacco has been dealing with a hip issue since Week 9, and while he’s not expected to require surgery, the veteran signal-caller did see a specialist in New York last week. Further complicating matters is Jackson’s performance in Sunday’s win over the Bengals, which vaulted Baltimore back into wild card contention. Jackson, the 32nd overall selection in this year’s draft, attempted only 19 passes against Cincinnati, but rushed 27 times for 117 yards in a 24-21 victory. Harbaugh and the rest of the Ravens’ decision-makers could opt to roll with Jackson as the club finishes out the season against the Raiders, Falcons, Chiefs, Buccaneers, Chargers, and Browns.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • Although he’ll undergo an MRI before getting any official diagnosis, Lions running back Kerryon Johnson isn’t believed to have torn his ACL on Sunday, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Instead, Johnson is believed to have suffered a knee sprain. While a sprain wouldn’t knock Johnson out for the remainder of the season, it could put his availability for Week 12 in serious doubt. That’s especially true given that Detroit is facing a short turnaround, as they’ll face the Bears in a Thanksgiving Day matchup. Johnson has managed 5.4 yards per carry on 118 attempts so far during his rookie season, and also ranks seventh in Football Outsiders’ success rate, meaning he’s effective at keeping the Lions’ offense on schedule. If Johnson is out on Thursday, Detroit would use a committee of LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick, and Zach Zenner.
  • The Bengals are paying former Browns head coach Hue Jackson $250K while he serves as a special assistant to head coach Marvin Lewis for the rest of the season, per Rapoport (Twitter link). However, Jackson had offset language in his contract with Cleveland, so Cincinnati will essentially get his services at no cost, while the Browns will see their bill lessened. Jackson is expected to focus on the defensive side of the ball in Cincinnati, and reports on Sunday indicated he could even take over defensive play-calling later this year.
  • In case you missed it, the Bengals are expected to see the return of receiver A.J. Green in Week 12. Green suffered a toe injury against the Buccaneers in Week 8 and hasn’t played since.

AFC North Notes: Ravens, Bengals, Bell

It could be the dawn of a new era in Baltimore. As expected, 2018 first-round pick Lamar Jackson will get his first start under center for the Ravens today in place of an ailing Joe Flacco, as Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com writes. However, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets that Flacco is not expected to need surgery on his hip, so while his status for next week’s contest against the Raiders is up in the air, he could be ready for the stretch run. But if Jackson performs well and can keep the Ravens’ playoff hopes alive, head coach John Harbaugh — who is facing the end of his tenure in Baltimore — will have a very difficult decision to make. Jackson has reportedly shown considerable improvement in practice this week, and anticipation for his debut is running high.

Now for more from the AFC North:

  • It’s not just Flacco and Harbaugh who could be seeing their Ravens careers draw to a close. As Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic writes, today’s game feels like a last stand of sorts for a number of players. If Baltimore loses, it will be all but eliminated from playoff contention, and as the team transitions to a new GM and possibly a new head coach, veterans like Flacco, Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, and Michael Crabtree could all be on their way out.
  • Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that Bengals WR A.J. Green, who is inactive today, did at least travel with the team and worked out this morning. That suggests he could be ready to return next week.
  • We learned earlier this week that new Bengals assistant Hue Jackson won’t have a role in the team’s offense, but the defense is a different story. Tom Pelissero and Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network report that Jackson is spending all of his time on the defensive side of the ball, and Garafolo suggests that Jackson could become Cincinnati’s defensive play-caller in a few weeks (Twitter links). Right now, head coach Marvin Lewis is still making the defensive calls, but Jackson has been present for the defensive meetings and is bringing a spark and excitement to that unit.
  • Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says the Steelers made an eleventh hour push to get Le’Veon Bell to rejoin the team before last Tuesday’s deadline. They reportedly outlined the significant role they had in mind for him for the remainder of the season, and they made it clear that they wanted him back. They also made him aware that they intend to use the transition tag on him this offseason, but Bell simply had no interest in playing in 2018.
  • In a separate piece, La Canfora examines the free agent market for Bell. Many GMs and cap experts believe Bell overplayed his hand, as does former NFL agent Joel Corry (Twitter link). But as Corry points out, it only takes one team to give Bell the money he wants and to make him and his agent look quite savvy, and Rapoport indicates that the market for Bell’s services could be more vibrant than many expect (video link). Rapoport says Bell is looking for a front-loaded five-year, $85MM pact, and he suggests that may not be a huge stretch given the number of cash-flush teams that could be in play for him.
  • We learned earlier today that the Browns are interested in interviewing former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for their head coaching job at the end of the season, though GM John Dorsey has released a statement quelling that rumor.

Jackson Won’t Have Role In Bengals’ Offense

The Bengals hired Hue Jackson this week to serve as a “special assistant” under head coach Marvin Lewis. It was presumed that Jackson would be involved in the team’s offense, given his previous role as the team’s OC, but Lewis says that will not be the case (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Katherine Terrell). 

[RELATED: Bengals’ Harris Designated For Return]

This likely means that Jackson will be covering some of Lewis’ day-to-day responsibilities as head coach. In turn, that will allow Lewis to focus more on the defense, where he is effectively serving as the team’s DC after the firing of Teryl Austin. Meanwhile, Bill Lazor will continue in his command of the offense.

Jackson’s first game back on the Bengals’ sideline will come on Sunday against the Ravens. After that, Jackson has the first of two potential revenge matchups against the Browns on Nov. 25.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals Hire Hue Jackson

The Bengals formally hired former Browns head coach Hue Jackson as a “special assistant” under head coach Marvin Lewis. The move brings Jackson back to to Lewis in Cincinnati for the third time in his career. 

I have a great comfort level with Hue and his ability to assist me with the day-to-day responsibilities on defense, including analyzing our opponents and helping me on game days with the players and defensive coaches,” Lewis said in a statement.

Jackson’s day-to-day responsibilities remain unclear, but it stands to reason that he’ll work with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. He may also take some responsibilities off of Lewis’ plate, allowing him to focus on the defense. The Bengals fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin earlier this week, leaving Lewis to manage the unit.

I’m pleased to have the opportunity to join the Bengals this season,” Jackson said in the press release. “There is a lot of talent on this team, and I look forward to doing my part to help it finish the season strong.”

Jackson will also have a chance to exact revenge on his former team. The Bengals face the Browns in both Week 12 and in Week 16.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hue Jackson To Join Bengals’ Staff

The firing of defensive coordinator Teryl Austin wasn’t the only coaching staff change for the Bengals today. “Hue Jackson is slated to be in Cincinnati imminently to join the staff of Bengals coach Marvin Lewis”, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

While Rapoport notes the “title is not yet clear”, it will definitely be in some sort of offensive capacity, so it’s not related to Austin’s firing. Jackson was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati for the 2014 and 2015 seasons, and was the running backs coach the year before that. He also had a stint as the team’s receivers coach from 2004-2006.

Lewis has always been very fond of Jackson, as has Bengals ownership, so this reunion makes plenty of sense. Jackson’s tenure as head coach of the Browns was disastrous, but before that he was always a highly respected offensive mind.

Jackson helped craft some of the best play of Andy Dalton’s career during his time as coordinator, so he should have an immediate role in the game-planning. Jackson’s reign in Cleveland went so poorly that it led most to forget he was a very highly regarded coach before that. It’s definitely not a bad move for Cincinnati.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hue Jackson Discusses Firing, Dorsey, Quarterbacks

The Browns unceremoniously fired head coach Hue Jackson earlier this week. Jackson ended his Cleveland tenure with a 3-36-1 record, including a 2-5-1 record this season. As the Browns prepare for their matchup against the Chiefs tomorrow, Jackson will be sitting out an NFL weekend for the first time since 2000 (when he was USC’s offensive coordinator).

Jackson has naturally appeared in a number of interviews over the past week, including a sit-down talk with Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot. We’ve compiled some of his notable soundbites below, although the entire interview (in which Jackson also discusses the power struggle over the offense) is worth reading in full:

On if he was surprised by his sudden dismissal:

“I was surprised. I’m not going to say just totally blindsided because there was just so much noise out there about what was going on with our football team that I thought was not true. But anytime there’s all these undercurrents going, there’s something in there. 

“I was surprised when both Jimmy and John walked in my office and let me know that they’d be relieving me as being the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

“That’s a hard pill to swallow when you’ve given it your all, and you’ve worked extremely hard and you do everything you can to try to put the place in the best position to move forward. But again, it’s their decision. I have to respect it and move on.”

On if there was any “discord” within the organization/coaching staff:

“I didn’t perceive it (that way). 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. 

“I know there was disagreements and rightfully so. Who doesn’t disagree? But I think the term internal discord was a little much.”

On his relationship with general manager John Dorsey:

“If there was a guy who could flip a roster and acquire talent at the rate we needed, it was John Dorsey. I also knew that if we didn’t start winning, with John Dorsey on board, that changes were going to have to be made. This is why I chose a veteran OC in Todd Haley. It’s why I chose Greg Williams as well.”

“There is no such thing as a clean start, or total rebuild, or a reset. The faster you move on from people, the longer it could take from the next person to turn it into their vision. I believe the constant changes only compound the difficulties for the next person to have the time and patience to be successful. 

“I strongly believe that I did a lot of work in a short time of laying the foundation for turning the place around. It’s unfortunate that they took the approach they did the first two years because those were two years that I couldn’t get back from a record and value standpoint.

“Had we been doing in year one what I was able to get us to do in year three, there’s no question we would already be a winning football team. You can’t go 1-15 or 0-16 and have people like you unless you come out and explain to everyone that you’re going to lose. And you can’t say that publicly.”

On the Browns’ decision to pass on Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes:

“We passed on three franchise QBs the first two years in Wentz, Watson and Mahomes. 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. I think Baker Mayfield is going to be a sensational player if they surround him with the right people, but they’ve got to give him help and run a scheme suited to his skill set.” 

On what’s next for his career:

“I learned a lot from this experience. But just as important, I never lost what I knew from my previous experiences and successes. So I grew significantly as a coach over the last three years through this process. I went in assuming that it would be a simple transition of just getting to coaching and it being all about playing ball. I learned early on that this wasn’t an accurate assumption.

“When there’s such a deep history of losing, it compounds and impacts everything. So this experience has allow me to grow and be even more prepared for the next experience. 

“I’m the same coach from three years ago. As you’ve seen with other coaches who have went on to have success after their time in Cleveland, I expect nothing less of myself as well. So we’ll see. But I’m looking forward to it.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Bengals, Hue, Browns, Pack, Vikes

A return to the Bengals could make sense for recently-fired Browns head coach Hue Jackson, as Mike Garafolo of NFL.com indicates (Twitter link). Jackson is extremely close with Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis, and has previously worked in the Queen City on two occasions, first as wide receivers coach from 2004-06 and then in multiple roles (including offensive coordinator) from 2012-15. The Bengals still have to play the Browns twice this season, so adding Jackson with the intent of gaining intel on Cleveland wouldn’t be out of the question, but Cincinnati could be concerned about forcing incumbent play-caller Bill Lazor to look over his shoulder.

Jackson also gave an interview Thursday to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com in which he attempts to explain reports of “internal discord” between he and similarly fired Browns OC Todd Haley. The entire piece is well worth a full read, as Jackson expresses frustration at the prior state of Cleveland’s roster and the Browns passing on quarterbacks such as Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, and Carson Wentz in recent drafts.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • Browns interim head coach Gregg Williams isn’t once to mince words, and he didn’t hold back Wednesday when asked about other opportunities he’s had in the NFL. “Since I left Buffalo, I had 11 letters to interview for head coaching jobs,” said Williams (Twitter link via Cabot). “Four of them didn’t even have to interview, just show up and sign the contract.” Williams gave no indication as to what clubs offered him a position, nor do most (if any) teams hand out head coaching gigs without at least a sit-down meeting. Williams, who is retaining his role as Cleveland’s defensive coordinator, also said he had no part in promoting Freddie Kitchens from running backs coach to interim offensive coordinator, according to Tony Grossi of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
  • A.J. Green was in a walking boot following the Bengals‘ Week 8 win over the Buccaneers, and he’s still not “out of the woods,” tweets Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer. It’s unclear exactly what issue is bothering Green, and initial reports suggested the boot was simply precautionary. But the injury has continued to swell, per Dehner, so Cincinnati is putting its star receiver through further tests. The Bengals are on a bye in Week 9 so Green has plenty of time to recover, but any absence would be a massive blow to Cincinnati’s offense as the club continues its push for a playoff spot.
  • The Packers traded both safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and running back Ty Montgomery following what were perceived as locker room issues, but Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst says neither deal was intended to send a message to Packers players, as Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com writes. “I think you take everything into consideration when you make these kind of decisions, but performance comes first,” Gutekunst said. “That’s always the major factor in these decisions. Everything’s taken into account, but it’s never usually just one thing.” Clinton-Dix had indicated he didn’t expect to re-sign with Green Bay, while Montgomery reportedly went rogue by taking a late-game kickoff out of the end zone on Sunday.
  • Before signing with the Vikings‘ practice squad earlier this week, defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo also had p-squad offers from the Giants and Packers, per Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press (Twitter link). Odenigbo, who also worked out for the Saints earlier this week, says he’ll now play only on the edge for Minnesota instead of dabbling at defensive tackle, and interestingly says that designation was actually part of his pact with the Vikings.