The investigation into former Browns head coach Hue Jackson‘s allegations that Cleveland incentivized tanking during Jackson’s time as HC has concluded. In a statement released by the league, it was announced that the investigation — which was conducted by former U.S. Attorney and SEC Chair Mary Jo White, along with a team of lawyers from the Debevoise law firm — could not substantiate any of Jackson’s claims.
According to the statement, the investigation saw full cooperation from the Browns, including owner Jimmy Haslam and current and former members of the organization. Jackson himself originally agreed to meet with investigators but ultimately declined to do so.
Jackson, who has also claimed that the Browns set him up for failure by pitting him against an analytics-driven front office, accused the team of paying bonus money to him, current GM Andrew Berry, current chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, and former executive VP Sashi Brown to tank during the 2016-17 seasons.
“We were paid for it,” Jackson said in February. “You’re going to see it as losing, but the way the team was built there was no chance to win at a high level.My record that year  was 1-15. There was a four-year plan that was crafted, and I have documentation that any coach would cringe if he saw it, because it talked things that had nothing to do with winning. Aggregate rankings, being the youngest team, having so many draft picks — none of those things lead to winning.”
After 2016’s 1-15 campaign that Jackson referenced, the Browns finished 0-16 the following year and started the 2018 season 2-5-1 before Jackson was fired. Under interim HC Gregg Williams, Cleveland finished 2018 on a 5-3 run, which the team was quick to point out when Jackson first levied his accusations.
So while Haslam is still dealing with the PR backlash of the Deshaun Watson acquisition and the uncertainty that continues to swirl around that matter, he has at least avoided the type of fallout that would have ensued had the league substantiated Jackson’s allegations.
Jackson, meanwhile, was recently hired to be Grambling State’s head coach.
The Rams still have an offensive coordinator position up for grabs. Currently, the favorite to land the job is University of Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen. Coen worked on the Rams’ offensive staff for three years before spending last year in Lexington. He’s turned down multiple job offers recently to remain at Kentucky, but the opportunity to rejoin Sean McVay in Los Angeles may be too good to pass up.
Here are a few more coaching notes from the NFL starting with another note from the Super Bowl LVI champions:
The Bengals have hiredCharles Burks from the Dolphins to become their cornerbacks coach, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. No word yet on the status of the Bengals’ cornerbacks coach from last season, Steve Jackson.
The Texans’ have hired Ted White with the official title of offensive assistant-quarterbacks. White had recently accepted the position of offensive coordinator at Grambling State University under head coach Hue Jackson, but Jackson will have to find someone else to fill the role. White has molded quarterbacks at Texas Southern, Southern, his alma mater of Howard, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and Prairie View A&M. He’ll be tasked with the development of second-year quarterback Davis Mills.
THURSDAY: Haslam denied paying Jackson to lose games, saying during an appearance on Knox News the current Grambling State HC has lobbed salvos at the Browns to cover up his poor performance as a head coach. While Jackson was saddled with terrible rosters in 2016 and ’17, Haslam pointed to the 2018 season — when the Browns finished 5-3 after starting 2-5-1 before Jackson’s ouster — as evidence Jackson deserves more of the responsibility than he has accepted for the failures of that period. The former Cleveland coach’s claims center on the 2016 and ’17 slates, though Haslam said “unequivocally, Hue Jackson was never paid to lose games.”
The former Cleveland HC has expressed a willingness to reveal proof Browns owner Jimmy Haslam incentivized tanking during the 2016 and ’17 seasons, Robinson adds. The executive director of the Hue Jackson Foundation, Kimberly Diemert, accused the Browns of paying bonus money to Jackson, current GM Andrew Berry, current chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta and former executive VP Sashi Brown to tank during those seasons (Twitter link).
Jackson has replied to several tweets on this matter as well. In a tweet Tuesday night, Jackson said, “I stand with Brian Flores. I can back up every word I’m saying.” While the Browns were attempting a radical rebuild during those seasons, ones that pitted Jackson against a new-age front office, the team strongly denied Diemert’s allegation. Jackson is currently the head coach at Grambling State, which hired him in December.
“The recent comments by Hue Jackson and his representatives relating to his tenure as our head coach are completely fabricated,” a Browns spokesperson said, via Robinson. “Any accusation that any member of our organization was incentivized to deliberately lose games is categorically false.”
In a separate Twitter reply, Jackson made another claim the Browns were incentivizing losses, saying, “Trust me it was a good number” when asked about the Dolphins’ alleged $100K payments to Flores. The Browns, who hired John Dorsey as GM late in 2017, fired Jackson midway through the 2018 season. Jackson went 3-36-1 in Cleveland. This tenure included the league’s second 0-16 season in 2017.
“We were paid for it. You’re going to see it as losing, but the way the team was built there was no chance to win at a high level,” Jackson said when asked about being incentivized to tank during a SportsCenter appearance on Wednesday (via ESPN.com’s Jake Trotter, on Twitter). “My record that year  was 1-15. There was a four-year plan that was crafted, and I have documentation that any coach would cringe if he saw it, because it talked things that had nothing to do with winning. Aggregate rankings, being the youngest team, having so many draft picks — none of those things lead to winning.
“I didn’t understand what the plan was. I asked for clarity because it did not talk about winning and losing until Year 3 and 4. That told you right there that something wasn’t correct, but I still couldn’t understand it until [seeing] the team that I had. And once being in the midst of it and finding out the team that I had and understanding that, ‘Wait a minute. At the end of the year there’s money coming in?’ Like I said, I didn’t understand it, here’s this money and percentages based on what you did, that didn’t make any sense to me.
“I remember very candidly saying to Jimmy, ‘I’m not interested in this bonus money,’ because I’ve never known that to be a bonus. I was interested in taking whatever money that was and putting it toward getting more players on our football team, because I didn’t think we were very talented at all.”
Fielding a team bad enough to go 1-31 in a two-year stretch and offering payments to a coach and execs for losses are obviously two different things. The latter accusations levied against the Dolphins and Browns being proven would certainly double as one of the biggest scandals in NFL history. Having not been an NFL coach since 2018, Jackson also has less to lose than Flores, who interviewed for four HC jobs during this year’s cycle. Attorneys for Flores anticipate other coaches joining the since-fired Dolphins HC’s litigation, Robinson adds.
The 56-year-old worked under head coach Eddie George at Tennessee State. Though the FCS squad finished the 2021 season with a 5-6 record, Grambling State — one of the country’s highest-profile HBCU programs — is willing to take a chance on a man who has NFL head coaching experience and who was at one time considered one of the game’s sharpest offensive minds.
Of course, Jackson’s most recent HC gig in the NFL didn’t exactly go according to plan. Over two-and-a-half seasons as the Browns’ sideline general, he posted a 3-36-1 record, though he later claimed that the organization set him up for failure. Regardless of the veracity of that claim, Jackson now has a good opportunity for some measure of redemption.
He was not, however, Grambling State’s first choice. As Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes, the school first offered the position to Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed, who has worked on the Bills’ coaching staff and who is presently serving as the chief of staff for the University of Miami football program.
Given Miami’s recent upheaval — the Hurricanes just hired a new head coach and athletic director, a process that Reed was obviously deeply involved in — Reed declined the offer. La Canfora’s report also indicated that the timing was not right for Reed and his family, but Reed did seriously consider the proposal and is interested in a head coaching post down the road.
Hue Jackson is back in football. The former Browns and Raiders head coach will serve as the offensive coordinator for Eddie George‘s Tennessee State staff, as Mike Organ of The Tennessean writes.
Jackson, 55, has been away from the game since infamous tenure with the Browns. After his Cleveland teams went 3-36-1 across two-and-a-half seasons, Jackson has hardly been able to get an interview for an NFL job. Recently, he went public to try and set the record straight.
“There is no doubt I was lied to by ownership and the executive team,” Jackson said. “They were going to be football plus analytics, but they intentionally made it football versus analytics. They were going to take two years and they were going to find a way to use us as an experiment to make sure that they got the data that they needed for it to get better — at the expense of whoever — and that’s not right.”
Now, Jackson will try to rebuild his stock at the NCAA level. For what it’s worth, he was in the running for the Steelers’ OC position just a few months ago, so it’s still possible that he could mount an NFL return — just not in Cleveland.
The Browns moved on from Hue Jackson nearly three years ago. Jackson, who is planning to release a book about his run in Cleveland, has not moved on entirely from his rocky tenure.
“There is no doubt I was lied to by ownership and the executive team,” Jackson said (via Tom Withers of the Associated Press). “They were going to be football plus analytics, but they intentionally made it football versus analytics. They were going to take two years and they were going to find a way to use us as an experiment to make sure that they got the data that they needed for it to get better — at the expense of whoever — and that’s not right.”
At one point in time, Jackson was regarded as one of the NFL’s top offensive gurus. Then, a 3-36-1 record across two-and-a-half Browns seasons sank his stock. Jackson has been out of the NFL picture ever since, save for a brief return to the Bengals as an assistant in late 2018.
“I want to make sure everybody knows and understands exactly what went on in Cleveland,” said Jackson. “The truth needs to come out. I am tired of being the brunt of jokes and memes and things that people say when they don’t know.”
Jackson, 55, interviewed for the Steelers’ OC job earlier this year, but Pittsburgh promoted Matt Canada instead. Jackson’s latest comments (and forthcoming book) could be an attempt to get back into the coaching mix.
We heard last week that the Steelers were expected to promoteMatt Canada to offensive coordinator to replace Randy Fichtner, but that is not a done deal just yet. As veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson was first to report (via Twitter), Pittsburgh requested an interview with Chargers quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton for its OC position, and Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweeted that the Steelers will meet with Hamilton today.
This jibes with a recent report from Dulac, whose sources indicated that Canada was a “candidate” for the OC gig but that nothing had been finalized. Obviously, the Steelers are still in search mode, which means that Hue Jackson is presumably still in the running as well.
Hamilton certainly has a more extensive NFL resume than Canada, who was in the college game for his entire career except 2020, when he joined the Steelers as their QB coach. Hamilton, meanwhile, served as the Colts’ OC from 2013-15, and he has also had stops with the Jets, 49ers, Bears, and Browns.
After two years working under Jim Harbaugh as the University of Michigan’s assistant head coach/passing game coordinator, and after an ill-fated gig as the head coach and GM of the XFL’s DC Defenders, the 46-year-old Hamilton rejoined the NFL ranks in 2020, when he hooked on with the Chargers. The success of rookie QB Justin Herbert has helped Hamilton boost his stock, as he is also a candidate for the Dolphins’ OC position.
If he joins the Steelers, Hamilton will be tasked with getting more out of a unit that finished 25th in the league in total offense in 2020 despite the presence of some highly-talented weapons. He will also try to develop the games of potential Ben Roethlisberger heirs Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins.
January 21st, 2021 at 11:01am CST by Zachary Links
The Steelers interviewed former Browns head coach Hue Jackson earlier this week for their offensive coordinator vacancy (Twitter link via Dianna Russini of ESPN.com). However, it doesn’t seem that Jackson will get the job, since quarterbacks coach Matt Canada has been ticketed for a promotion.
At one point in time, Jackson was regarded as one of the NFL’s top offensive gurus. Then, he went 3-36-1 record across two-and-a-half tumultuous seasons with the Browns and his stock plummeted. The Browns placed much of the blame on Jackson’s shoulders. Jackson, naturally, sees things differently. Jackson has been out of the NFL picture ever since, save for a brief return to the Bengals as an assistant to Marvin Lewis in late 2018.
While his work as a dual head coach/OC with the Browns was ineffective, Jackson did lead the Bengals to a No. 2 ranking in offensive DVOA in 2015, his last season as strictly an offensive play-caller. Jackson won’t make his comeback in Pittsburgh, but other teams could still consider the veteran coach in this cycle.
In an interview with WKNR AM-850, Hue Jackson said that he wanted the Browns to sign Colin Kaepernick in 2017 (via Jeff Schudel of the News Herald). The Browns, of course, did not sign him, and placed rookie Deshone Kizer under center instead.
“I wanted him,” Jackson said Friday. “It just didn’t work out. Obviously, those things do have to work from a finance, draft, whatever all that is. And that wasn’t my decision.”
Jackson may have wanted Kaepernick in 2017, but he didn’t share that opinion publicly at the time. Like most coaches, Jackson skirted questions about the QB and said that he wasn’t being discussed as a serious option. Meanwhile, Jackson didn’t have full control over the 53-man roster. Personnel decisions were ultimately made by Sashi Brown, who served as the Browns’ GM up until December of that year.
Last month, Kaepernick found himself back in the NFL news cycle when the league briefly listed him as “retired” on his remodeled player page. The following day, the NFL changed his status to reflect that he is, in fact, an unrestricted free agent. The odds of Kaepernick returning to the NFL seemed slim just a few weeks ago, but it may not be so far fetched today. Kaepernick, 33 in November, has been training with the intent of returning to the field.
“My desire to play football is still there,” Kaepernick said in February. “I still train five days a week. I’m ready to go, I’m ready for a phone call, tryout, workout at any point in time. I’m still waiting on the owners and their partners to stop running from this situation. So I hope I get a call this offseason. I’ll be looking forward to it.”
Here’s more out of Cleveland:
Odell Beckham Jr. skipped the bulk of the Browns’ non-virtual 2019 offseason, but he’s been logging on for team activities via Zoom this year, as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes. “He’s all in,’’ offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said. “He’s bought in. He’s been there and it’s awesome. It’s good to have him there. It’s good for him.’’ Despite the constant speculation about OBJ’s status with the team, the Browns have maintained that he will be in their plans. Meanwhile, the wide receiver seems to be pretty happy with the Browns’ new regime.
January 5th, 2020 at 12:25pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
Jason Garrett is still technically the coach of the Cowboys, but everything continues to indicate they’ll be moving on with the team already scheduling interviews with Marvin Lewis and Mike McCarthy. Here’s the latest on everything pertaining to Dallas’ search:
The Cowboys were conspicuously quiet for a while, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t working behind the scenes. The McCarthy interview news just leaked Friday morning but the former Packers coach was apparently originally scheduled to interview on Thursday before rescheduling to accommodate his Browns interview, according to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). That proves owner Jerry Jones hasn’t just been sitting on his hands after the season ended.
Garrett, meanwhile, is continuing to lobby Jones for another chance, as Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported in Sunday’s FOX pregame show. Jones has been steadfast in his decision to move on from Garrett, but Garrett is doing everything he can to keep his post. Meanwhile, the team’s interview with McCarthy went so well that McCarthy stayed an extra day in Dallas.
Baylor coach Matt Rhule and Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley have also been connected to the Cowboys’ job. The Jones family should have a good read on their potential interest in the job since they have the same agent as McCarthy, tweets Albert Breer of SI.com. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network says that Jones will gauge Riley’s interest, but Riley is unlikely to leave Oklahoma at this point (video link).
The Lewis interview caught a lot of people by surprise, but there is one interesting link between the two sides. Jones is very good friends with Bengals owner Mike Brown,tweets Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic. Dehner writes that the two men “hold very similar view[s]” on handling their teams. Lewis, of course, was Cincinnati’s coach for 16 seasons and Brown was very reluctant to let him go. It’s possible that Brown recommended Lewis to Jones.
Speaking of Lewis, Rapoport says the former Bengals HC would require that the Cowboys — or any club — hire Hue Jackson as his OC (video link). That could be a deal-breaker for the Cowboys given the presence of Kellen Moore.
Garrett had told his assistants on expiring deals they were free to start looking for other work. Most assistants were on expiring deals like Garrett, but that notably excluded Moore and offensive line coach Marc Colombo, Breer tweets. The organization thinks very highly of Moore and he generally received positive reviews in his first year calling plays. Since both are still under contract, it’s quite possible the Jones’ will retain them even when they hire a new coach. Breer adds that Garrett hasn’t spoken to any of his staff since Monday.