Hue Jackson

Browns Rumors: Mayfield, Haley, Ward

While the Baker Mayfield/Browns noise didn’t intensify until draft week, the newly assembled front office viewed the Oklahoma product well independently before arriving in Cleveland. John Dorsey, Eliot Wolf and consultant Scot McCloughan all had Mayfield atop the quarterback class, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes, with Alonzo Highsmith subsequently joining them. Using the Packers’ grading system the Browns do now, Dorsey, Wolf and McCloughan — who has long praised the 2017 Heisman Trophy recipient — each put Mayfield atop their respective lists prior to coming to Cleveland. While a report emerged earlier this week indicating Sam Darnold may well have been more teams’ top-rated QB in this class, Cabot reports four teams — three AFC squads and one in the NFC — had Mayfield as this class’ No. 1 quarterback. Two other teams, per Cabot, provided strong indications he was their top QB choice.

Here’s the latest from Cleveland, including more about the Browns’ signal-caller situation.

  • While the Browns are certainly higher on Mayfield than they were on DeShone Kizer or Cody Kessler, the memories of neither rookie winning a game are still fresh with Hue Jackson. And he reiterated this weekend he’s not going to deviate from Tyrod Taylor atop the QB depth chart. “I’m not going to back off of this,” Jackson said, via Cabot. “We can keep writing this narrative, Tyrod Taylor’s the starting quarterback of this football team, and that won’t change. … Tyrod has demonstrated every day what it’s like to be a starting quarterback in the National Football League. I want some of that to rub off on (Mayfield) so he can see firsthand what it means to play quarterback in the National Football League. Baker doesn’t know.”
  • The Browns had close to the same grade on Mayfield and Saquon Barkley, Pat McManamon of ESPN.com notes. While this could mean the Browns placed a slightly higher grade on the Penn State-produced running back, Dorsey felt the need at quarterback and the fact he could land a promising running back prospect in the second round (Nick Chubb went to Cleveland at No. 35) tipped the scales for Mayfield. Cleveland was long connected to a quarterback at No. 1, and Barkley was not believed to be a serious consideration.
  • Todd Haley‘s arrival in northeast Ohio will mean full autonomy of the Browns’ offense, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com notes. Both Jackson and Mayfield will spend time this summer learning Haley’s playbook. Jackson will be taking a CEO-style approach this year instead of calling plays, as he has the past two seasons. But it still sounds like some of the third-year HC’s concepts will be included in Haley’s offense.
  • The Browns had Denzel Ward and Bradley Chubb ranked equally on their board, and need won out, Dorsey said during a radio interview on 92.3 The Fan (via Cabot). Ward’s ability to play press coverage well made him DC Gregg Williams‘ preference, too.

Extra Points: Bridgewater, Gronk, Browns, Vikings

It’s been assumed that Jets quarterbacks Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty are trade/release candidates, especially since the team is eyeing a signal-caller with their first-round pick. However, Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com says another Jets quarterback could be at risk of losing their job.

Williams reports that Teddy Bridgewater isn’t a lock to make the Jets roster, “at least until he shows he’s healthy.” The 25-year-old has played less than 10 combined snaps over the past two seasons, but he still earned a one-year deal worth $500K in guaranteed money. During his last season as a starter in 2015, Bridgewater completed 65.3-percent of his passes for 3,231 yards, 14 touchdowns, and nine interceptions.

If the Jets indeed select a quarterback, the depth chart will be incredibly crowded. Besides the three previously-mentioned quarterbacks, the team is also rostering projected starter Josh McCown.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFL…

  • Tight end Rob Gronkowski confirmed on Tuesday that he’ll suit up for the Patriots in 2018, and Peter King of The MMQB is curious about the timing of his announcement. It’s purely speculative from King, but he wonders if Gronk was told that he would have to make his intentions clear about playing before this weekend’s draft. The Patriots have been willing to deal star players in the past, so Gronkowski could have feared that he would have wound up in the same boat as Richard Seymour and Chandler Jones.
  • If the Browns move down from No. 4, they could target Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward further down the board, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). The Browns have already made some additions at cornerback, but they’re looking for another starter. If they land Ward, you can expect Cleveland to trade Jamar Taylor.
  • Earlier today, reports indicated that Browns head coach Hue Jackson wasn’t sure what the organization would do with the first-overall pick. However, Steve Wyche of NFL Network tweets that Jackson is “fully in the loop” regarding Cleveland’s draft plans. Jackson, along with several coordinators, have seen the front office’s draft board.
  • Vikings GM Rick Spielman seems to have an affinity for taking players out of the ACC, as Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune writes. The Vikings drafted Dalvin Cook, Danny Isidora, Stacy Coley, Bucky Hodges and Jack Tocho, all from the ACC, last year. Conversely, Spielman rarely takes players from the Big 12, with only two selections from that conference — Tyrus Thompson (Oklahoma) and Elijah Lee (Kansas State) — in his six drafts at the wheel.

Hue Jackson On Browns’ QB Strategy

Hue Jackson is “very close” to determining which quarterback will be his top recommendation come April, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports.

The third-year coach worked out all four of the top passers recently, per Cabot, as he makes preparations to help John Dorsey identify the eventual player the Browns will draft at No. 1 overall.

Four players are believed to be under consideration for that pick, with Jackson refusing to rule out Baker Mayfield, but the Cleveland coach said he would like the team’s choice to match up — to some degree — with Tyrod Taylor‘s mobile skill set. That would seemingly make Rosen a longer shot to head to northeast Ohio than Mayfield, Sam Darnold or Josh Allen.

For now, though, Taylor is Jackson’s starter.

We understand that this quarterback decision is for the future. But this is now. This is going to be the 2018 season, and Tyrod Taylor’s going to get us to winning,” Jackson said, via Cabot. “… I think that’s the first and most important thing in this organization — how do we get to winning? And I think Tyrod’s gonna do that, and then the young guy in the future is ready to play — a year from now, hopefully. We hope that’s the way it goes.

And Jackson wants this arrangement to last throughout the season. The Browns are hoping their No. 1 overall pick will redshirt this year. The team went into last season with DeShone Kizer starting in Week 1 and played Cody Kessler some due to injury in 2016.

However, Jackson wouldn’t rule out the rookie usurping Taylor if he’s talented enough early to do so.

Is the guy going to be comfortable having to sit? If he’s talented enough to overcome the situation, then he is,” Jackson said. “We’re not gonna stop that, either. (But) we’re heading into this with this guy having a chance to sit and watch. Some guys can do that, some guys can’t. So who’s going to be two years from now, a year from now, the most talented of this group that can help lead this organization?

We would be asking a lot of a rookie quarterback (to start) in his first year, especially coming off an 0-16 season. That would be unfair.

Jackson praised the leadership qualities of all four possible No. 1 picks and dismissed comparisons between Allen and Kizer.

This guy is what the quarterbacks look like when they get out of a truck. He looks the part,” Jackson said of the Wyoming prodigy. “So it’s going to be interesting over the next five weeks to see where we are.

“… They’re not the same person. Josh’s journey to the NFL was not DeShone’s journey. DeShone was a player at Notre Dame from the beginning. Josh had to work his way to Wyoming and go through his process to get there. I know people look at their completion percentages and see they’re similar, but I don’t see it that way. I think they’re different.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: NFL, NFLPA, Browns, QBs

The NFL has sent out a memo to teams regarding tampering and trades. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com obtained that memo, noting that it specifically relates to “granting players permission to shop themselves to a new team via trade.” Most importantly, the NFL noted that permission must be obtained from the player’s current team before talks with another organization can take place.

“Under no circumstances should a new club rely upon any written or oral representation by a player or his agent that he has received permission to enter into discussions for a trade for contract,” the memo states. “Nor should a new club rely upon a letter from the employer club to the agent or player granting such permission since employer clubs typically reserve the right to withdraw permission at any time, and may have already done so. Permission must be received directly from the employer club.”

As Florio notes, it’s uncertain if this is just a yearly reminder or if it “arises from a specific incident that has occurred in recent weeks.” If that’s the case, Florio expects the respective team to be disciplined.

Here’s the latest from around the league on the eve of the tampering window.

  • The NFL Players Association has announced (via Twitter) that veteran offensive lineman Eric Winston has been re-elected as union president. This will be the 34-year-old’s third two-year term. Florio points out that Winston may not even play next year, but he was eligible to run in 2018 since he played last season. If Winston doesn’t play in 2019, he won’t be eligible to run in 2020. Florio observes that this is an important note, as the current labor deal is likely to expire after 2020. In that case, there may be a new president in place when the next work stoppage arises.
  • Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller talked to one league executive who believes the Browns recent moves indicate that general manager John Dorsey is in control of the organization instead of head coach Hue Jackson. “The Browns trading for Tyrod [Taylor] and not signing [A.J.] McCarron tells you who’s running the show,” the executive said (via Twitter).
  • As part of a recent series, former NFL agent (and current CBS Sports writer) Joel Corry analyzed what contracts top free agents should pursue. For quarterbacks, Corry focuses on a five-year, $150MM contract ($100MM guaranteed) for Kirk Cousins, a three-year, $85MM deal ($60MM guaranteed) for Drew Brees, and three-year, $50MM deal ($34MM guaranteed) for McCarron.

AFC Coaching Notes: Browns, Reid, Callahan

Hue Jackson will be taking on a CEO-style approach this season and shed light on why he thought Todd Haley‘s experience was sufficient to unseat him as Browns play-caller. Jackson confirmed Thursday that Haley will call plays, just as he did in Pittsburgh.

This is something I’ve always dreamed of transitioning into,” Jackson said (via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com) of an arrangement where he will oversee the offense while an OC calls plays. “For the first two years I didn’t think there was somebody out there that could do it better than myself. I’ve said that from Day 1, I just don’t think that’s fair.

… We’re in a different phase of this process here in Cleveland and we’re well set up to move forward on offense where I can feel comfortable saying, ‘Hue, you need to be more of the CEO head coach. Let your role really on game day be about the football team, not just the team on offense.”’

Jackson, who called Browns plays the past two seasons and did so without an offensive coordinator, said Haley became his top OC choice once the Steelers did not renew his contract. While the third-year head coach said Haley will run the show come game day, with Jackson’s recommendations, he will be hands-on with the quarterback the Browns select in the draft. They are widely expected to pick a quarterback at No. 1 overall

I probably will. That part of me isn’t going to change,” Jackson said of working with a rookie quarterback. “I’m just not the primary play-caller and not the driver of the offensive football team. My expertise is on the offensive side, but again, I just hired one of the best of the best in the league.”

Here’s the latest from AFC staffs.

  • Brian Callahan‘s received interest from the Titans and Jets since he and the Lions parted ways, with the former scheduling an OC interview that took place Wednesday. However, the Raiders are in the mix for Callahan now too. Callahan will interview for Oakland’s quarterbacks coach position, Jason Wolf of The Tennesseean reports. The Jets view him as a fit for their QBs job as well and are interviewing him for that role. So, the former Broncos and Lions assistant has options.
  • As Jackson transitions away from play-calling responsibilities in Cleveland, Andy Reid will pivot back to them in Kansas City. The sixth-year Chiefs HC will call plays in 2018, he said Thursday (via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star). This could be expected since Reid lost Matt Nagy, who called plays for the Chiefs late in the season, to Chicago. New OC Eric Bieniemy has never called NFL plays before, and Reid maintained play-calling duties during the start of Nagy and Doug Pederson‘s tenures before ceding those reins toward the end of their respective runs. Reid revealed he called plays in Week 17, which was Patrick Mahomes‘ NFL debut, despite a run of success for Nagy late in the season. That interruption could be notable since Mahomes could well be K.C.’s starter in 2018.
  • Josh McDaniels‘ second interview with the Colts will take place on Friday, sources tell Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). McDaniels, who will take over as the Colts’ head coach after the Super Bowl, will sit down with owner Jim Irsay and GM Chris Ballard to make plans for the offseason. Per league rules, McDaniels cannot formally be named as Indianapolis’ new HC until after the Patriots’ season is over, so the “second interview” is the only way the two parties can meet in person.

Zach Links contributed to this report.

Browns Interested In Mike Mularkey?

Mike Mularkey is out of a job, but he should have plenty of employment options for the coming season. One possibility could be in Cleveland. This offseason, the Browns had interest in bringing Mularkey in as their new offensive coordinator if he ever became available, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweetsMike Mularkey (vertical)

Under Mularkey’s guidance, the Titans went 9-7 in back-to-back seasons and reached the playoffs in 2017. Whether that’s enough to put him in the conversation for the league’s remaining head coaching vacancies, however, remains to be seen. If Mularkey cannot put himself in the mix for the Cardinals, Lions, or Giants jobs, his best bet might be to take an OC position for at least one season and try his luck next winter.

At first glance, the Browns OC job seems unappealing given that the team has gone 1-31 over the last two seasons. However, the Browns offer potential on a number of levels. With the No. 1 and No. 4 overall picks plus tons of cap room at their disposal, the Browns and new GM John Dorsey could position themselves as a winning team in 2018. Conversely, if the Browns get off to another slow start, someone like Mularkey could theoretically get a crack at the interim head coaching job with the potential to take over the post.

In December, Jackson admitted that he held off on hiring an OC because he did not want to saddle someone with a talent-poor offense. Now that the Browns are in (seemingly) capable hands, it sounds like he intends to bring one on staff.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hue Jackson To Coach Browns in 2018

After the Browns fell to the Steelers, 28-24, to become the second 0-16 team in NFL history, team owner Jimmy Haslam told reporters, including Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (Twitter link), that head coach Hue Jackson will return as head coach in 2018. Hue Jackson (featured)

Haslam also said he doesn’t believe “Jackson hasn’t lost his magic,” and that he is working well with new general manager John Dorsey.

Since taking over at the beginning of the 2016 season, Jackson has managed just a 1-31 record as head coach. Following the loss in the season finale, Jackson told reporters the team wasn’t as far away from competing as many people think they are and that the difference will be the addition of Dorsey. The former Chiefs GM took over after the team parted ways with Sashi Brown earlier in the season.

Shortly after the hiring of Dorsey, questions began to swirl about Jackson’s future in Cleveland, with many thinking the new GM wanted to hire his own coach. Haslam, however, has stated all along he planned to bring back Jackson, and Dorsey later dispelled the rumors. There were even rumors of the Browns trading Jackson to the Bengals, the team in which he served as offensive coordinator before moving to Cleveland.

Jackson has stood firm in his commitment to Cleveland. He was reportedly not interested in the Bengals job after Marvin Lewis announced he was leaving. He told reporters on Sunday, “I don’t think anyone else could’ve done this job for the past two years.” He also added, “We’re going to get this organization to winning as soon as possible.”

With the loss on Sunday, the Browns will hold the No. 1 pick, which they will presumably use to take one of UCLA’s Josh Rosen or USC’s Sam Darnold, should they declare for the draft. Thanks to a draft-day deal in 2016, the team will also holds Houston’s first-round selection, the No. 4 overall pick. Also loaded with tons of caps space, the Browns are set up to make strides in Jackson’s third season.

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Breer’s Latest: Black Monday Preview

With the final week of the NFL’s regular season approaching, that only means two things; 12 teams will soon be focusing on reaching the Super Bowl, while the rest will start to look ahead to next season. One major part of looking forward is addressing who on the coaching staff will be returning in 2018. Many of these coaching questions are answered on the day following Week’s 17 conclusion, conveniently called “Black Monday”.

Veteran reporter Albert of Breer of Sports Illustrated, gave a preview of the coaches he expects to stay and the ones that will likely be shown the door in his most recent column. Breer ranked the potential firings as “Likely/Done”, “We’ll See”, and “It’s Complicated”. In total, there were 15 head coaches mentioned who could see their situations change starting next week.

Here’s a quick look at Breer’s takes on some of the league’s hottest coaching questions:

  • There were five head coaches included in the “likely/done” category including: BearsJohn Fox, BengalsMarvin Lewis, LionsJim Caldwell, ColtsChuck Pagano and and the Giants‘ interim coach Steve Spagnuolo. The four full-time head coaches on this list have all had their fair share of success in the league. In fact, three of them led their current teams to multiple playoff appearances during their tenure. However, Caldwell and Lewis have been unable to win a postseason game with Pagano and Fox having failed at continuing the past success they have shown during their careers in football. Breer notes that while the “expectation is that Fox will be gone”, the decision on the fate of general manager Ryan Pace is true question facing the franchise this offseason. There’s been rapid speculation about Lewis, Caldwell and Pagano throughout the year, so their inclusion on this list is no surprise. Finally, the Giants are currently interviewing general manager candidates who will almost certainly be looking to lead their own head coaching search once hired.
  • Breer puts six current head coaches in the ‘we’ll see” part of the list. This portion mentions the CardinalsBruce Arians, BroncosVance Joseph, RaidersJack Del Rio, BuccaneersDirk Koetter, TitansMike Mularkey and the RedskinsJay Gruden. There’s a variety of situations going on here with Breer noting that Arizona could see Arians retire, which could lead them to other current NFL head coaches: Todd Bowles and Bill O’Brien. Del Rio and Gruden have had their fair share of success because of quality quarterback play, but both have managed to decrease confidence because of an inconsistent 2017 season. However, Breer points out that both are signed long-term so their owners would have to eat the remaining years of their current deals. Mularkey and Koetter were rewarded for the relationships they formed with their QB’s, but there’s been disappointment with how this season has unfolded for their teams. Breer notes that should Mularkey lose this Sunday, he could be on the chopping block come Monday morning with the team looking to hire an offensive-minded coach like Josh McDaniels. Finally, Joseph has forced himself to the hot seat even in his first year of coaching the Broncos, though Breer says himself that this situation is “unpredictable” given that team president John Elway is just “not pleased with how the season’s gone”.
  • Browns head coach Hue Jackson, and the two previously mentioned O’Brien and Bowles of the Texans and Jets, find themselves on the “it’s complicated” section of Breer’s roundup largely because of just the many factors are at play in regards to their situations. Jackson got a vote of confidence from owner Jimmy Haslam himself, but new general manager John Dorsey could have his sights on implementing his own guy after a winless season. O’Brien has made the playoffs before, but has struggled committing to a QB even after the team selected Deshaun Watson in the first round. Bowles has done a lot with a little in New York this season, but ownership could go in a different direction with a new starting signal caller likely walking into the building next year. Also, there is the potential that all three coaches could move onto new head coaching gigs with the number of openings that could be available this offseason. The final and definitely most surprising inclusion on this list was Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, who Breer mentions could retire at age 66 with a roster about to see major turnover in the next few years. Although, I would venture that nothing he’s said this season would indicate that being the case.

Coach Notes: Jackson, Patricia, Coordinators

Hue Jackson has accumulated a stunningly poor 1-30 record in almost two seasons as the head coach of the Browns. However, despite his poor performance, he looks to be safe for next season. Other factors such as a lack of talent and a disfunctional front office certainly play a big role in the team’s failures, but basic logic must win out in determining his coaching future, opines Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.

La Canfora notes that while Jackson appears to be “immune to review” at the moment, the team should be thinking about moving on from their second-year head coach. It’s not ideal for a franchise that has shuffled through many coaches in the past, but La Canfora argues that the job is more attractive then some may think when just observing this season.

New general manager John Dorsey has a track record of success and the team could be bringing in a young franchise QB with the number one pick, even though Josh Rosen has reportedly had some reservations about going to Cleveland.

La Canfora notes that finding a better replacement to Jackson shouldn’t be hard, even if the team is unlikely to do so given most of the reports coming from Browns ownership.

Here’s more notes from around the coaching carousel:

  • The Lions have stood behind head coach Jim Caldwell for the past four seasons, despite not winning a playoff game. However, it may be time for the franchise to move on after the team lost to the Bengals on Sunday. Patriots defense coordinator Matt Patricia may be a prime candidate if the job opens up because of his relationship with current Lions general manager Bob Quinn, according to Alex Marvez of Sporting News (Twitter link). The two men worked together in New England when Quinn was a high level decision maker in the Patriots front office, so the hire would be a natural fit.
  • The Redskins missed the playoffs for the second straight season, but could still lose their quarterback coach Kevin O’Connell to another opportunity. O’Connell is reported to be a “top target” for the UCLA offensive coordinator post, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). New Bruins head coach Chip Kelly is looking for another offensive mind to add to his staff and the offensive coordinator job would be a difficult position to turn down if O’Connell was offered, according to Rapoport. Under O’Connell’s guidance, Kirk Cousins has continued to produce solid numbers in 2017, which has certainly helped make him more sought after for promotions at the collegiate level.
  • There’s a number of attractive coordinators who will be free agents this offseason. Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com run down a list that includes defensive coordinators: Gus BradleyPaul Guenther, Vic Fangio and George Edwards. They mention that Bradley in particular is an odd situation because he signed just a one-year deal with the Chargers last offseason and has a great track record as a defensive coordinator with the Seahawks as well. At the moment, the Chargers have the third ranked scoring defense in the league, which should help make him in high demand for open defensive coordinator jobs after this season is over. Guenther on the other hand has been mentioned has a potential replacement for longtime Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, although he would be free to look at other opportunities should the team opt to go in a different direction. The article also makes note that popular Eagles quarterback coach John DeFilippo and Cowboys passing game coordinator Matt Eberflus would bring widespread interest as well if they move on from their current teams.

Coaching Notes: Panthers, Cardinals, Bengals, Bucs

There’s plenty of uncertainty when it comes to the Panthers organization, as owner Jerry Richardson is shopping the team and they’re currently rolling with an interim general manager in Marty Hurney. However, the team is looking to establish some stability by locking up head coach Ron Rivera.

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports that the organization is prioritizing locking up their head coach long term. While talks have just started, the reporter expects negotiations to quickly heat up. Meanwhile, many in the organization are hoping that Hurney is promoted to full-time general manager, although the team will presumably explore their options before committing to the executive.

Rivera last signed a three-year deal worth $19.5MM. That deal would take the head coach through the 2018 season, meaning there isn’t a whole lot of urgency for the organization to lock up their head coach this offseason.

Let’s take a look at some more coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • Cardinals coach Bruce Arians hasn’t informed the organization about his future, but Rapoport reports that the team is “more confident than ever” that he’ll return. Still, since there is some uncertainty, the organization is exploring other potential options, and Rapoport notes that one of those candidates is Texans coach Bill O’Brien. If available, the Cardinals have made it clear that O’Brien would be atop their list of targets. Arians is under contract through the 2018 season, but there’s been chatter that the 65-year-old could retire to better focus on his health.
  • Unsurprisingly, there’s some concern that Browns head coach Hue Jackson may have lost his locker room, reports Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. This concern recently came to a head when running back Isaiah Crowell “liked” a series of tweets that were critical of Jackson. Meanwhile, Florio notes that there are whispers that some of the team’s defensive players are upset with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and his son, Blake, who is the Browns’ linebackers coach.
  • The Bengals are eyeing Jackson or Jay Gruden for their impending head coaching vacancy, reports Florio. It’d be a homecoming for the pair, as both Jackson and Gruden served as offensive coordinators for Marvin Lewis. The writer notes that Lewis could ultimately be promoted to a front office role.
  • Even if Dirk Koetter sticks around as the Buccaneers head coach, Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders is convinced the organization will require some other coaching changes. Specifically, defensive coordinator Mike Smith could be on the hot seat, and the team could look towards former Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley as a replacement.