Thursday saw a reckoning in Cleveland, with the Browns choosing Hue Jackson over Sashi Brown — for once making the right decision.
It’s not fake news: the Cleveland Browns actually made a good decision.
On Thursday, the team announced that Sashi Brown — not head coach Hue Jackson — would be fired as retribution for what could be a winless season.
It’s an easy layup (see also: lazy) take to say the Browns need to fire Jackson. They don’t. He’s been a head coach for three years (one with Oakland in 2011), so to say we’ve seen all we need to say is facetious at best. Seeing what he can do with the Browns, minus the thing he claimed was holding him back (Sashi Brown) is at least intriguing. It hasn’t been pretty, but Jackson has cut his teeth long enough to deserve a fair shake. The fact that the Browns are giving him one is shocking. Jackson is no safe bet to actually survive the manic chaos in Cleveland, but for just a moment the team seems to have made the right call.
There are a lot of moving parts to this decision. One of the main reasons for keeping Jackson is the lack of viable candidates on the coaching market this winter. There’s little chance Josh McDaniels looks at Cleveland and sees it as a top job. Chicago, New York, or Indianapolis — all teams with franchise quarterbacks or the potential to draft and develop one — are infinitely better situation than Cleveland.
No big name coach will be willing to put their legacy on the line, and the next Sean McVay might not believe the atmosphere exists in Cleveland to fourish the way McVay has in Los Angeles.
Let’s be blunt: Cleveland is a hard sell to coaches. The team has cycled through head coaches over the years and offered them up for sacrifice at the first whiff of something better. That’s a reputation that makes anyone who would be a candidate this year weary of committing. By standing behind Jackson, despite the horrible record, it’s a sales pitch from ownership to potential candidates in 2019 that bait won’t be cut at the first sign of trouble. This is a long play, an effort to break the endless cycle of continually rebooting the franchise. Jackson might not survive as head coach, but keeping him gives the team something it’s been lacking — direction. Cleveland waiting to see if down can become up is a new thing.
There’s also the front office angle to this. As bad as the Browns have been on the field, Hue Jackson hasn’t been making mistakes with personnel. Sashi Brown has had a few years and a slew of top draft picks to set Cleveland up for the future and failed miserably.
Hue Jackson wanted to draft Deshaun Watson, Sashi Brown traded out of the selection and took DeShone Kizer. Jackson wanted to trade for A.J. McCarron, the front office bungled the paperwork in the 11th hour. There was the drama about Jackson wanting Myles Garrett No. 1 overall and Brown wanting Mitchell Trubisky. The jury is out on both, but Garrett plus a franchise quarterback in 2018 seems like the safest pairing.
From all the stories we’ve heard — and ones we haven’t — juvenile seems like a nice way of describing how the Browns are being run. Jackson has been far from perfect, but it seems like he’s been coaching with both arms tied and one eye open. That excuse is gone now, and it’s a prove-it year for Jackson in Cleveland.
Not panicking and overcorrecting might not in a winning season next year. Browns fans shouldn’t look at this in a negative way, however. For once, a franchise that habitually slams the reset button at the first sign of trouble seems to be trying to do things the right way. Trying is a step we’ve been waiting for Cleveland to take for over a decade, so here’s to hoping it finally pans out.