Cleveland Browns’ coach Hue Jackson has his work cut out for him over the next few months, and the 15-year NFL veteran says he’s up to the challenge. Jackson was hired last week as the team starts fresh following a 3-13 season. WKSU commentator Terry Pluto talks about why Jackson is the right fit for a troubled franchise.
Terry Pluto says Jackson was owner Jimmy Haslam's top target when the search began.
“They had probably a list of about 15 names to start and then they cut it down to seven that they felt were realistic prospects. But Jimmy Haslam felt that their last coaching list involved interviewing about 13-15 people and it just got totally out of control.”
What makes the job attractive to Jackson?
"Jackson said during his press conference that there’s only 32 [coaching jobs in the NFL]. It isn’t like 32 open up every year. This year seven opened up. So the turnover isn’t that much."
Pluto adds, "Hue Jackson is 50 years old. He was a head coach for one year, in 2011 in Oakland, which will rival and perhaps even exceed in some cases the Browns for being dysfunctional and messed up. He went 8-8 in Oakland. That was when their owner was dying and he half acted as general manager, too.
"At the end of that season, they fired him. So, he’s figuring, ‘2011 in Oakland, I’m 8-8. That’s pretty good. Somebody would want to hire me.’ No one did. And finally 2015 he’s kind of recreated himself as this offensive genius with the Cincinnati Bengals and quarterback Andy Dalton. And he is a very good coach with quarterbacks. He’s good at building up their confidence and helping them.”
What’s attractive about Jackson?
“They needed a coach with experience. And Jimmy Haslam said when he was interviewing Jackson the thing that struck him was, unlike Mike Pettine, who had not been a head coach in the NFL, or Rob Chudzinski had not been a head coach in the NFL, or Pat Shurmur who had not been a head coach in the NFL. Jackson had been a coordinator, a head coach, been knocked down [and] re-calibrated his whole career. And he knows the AFC North because he spent about half of his pro career coaching in Baltimore or Cincinnati.
"I think they also just got to the fact that: 'We need somebody in here who knows what he’s doing.'”
What Pluto likes about the hire
“He was a guy I was hoping they would hire just because of his experience. He’s also worked with organizations that have never been considered prime locations. The Bengals until just the last five or six years were sort of a joke in the AFC too. And Oakland has been a disaster for the most part for many years. And that hasn’t fazed him.
"In fact, there’s probably not too much that Hue Jackson’s going to see in Cleveland that he hasn’t seen before. There will be something, because it’s Cleveland! There’s always something off the wall! But, not too much. And they need that. Where I thought, at the end, I saw that same look on the face of Mike Pettine that I saw on Rob Chudzinski [and] that I saw on Pat Shurmur -- the look of, ‘I can’t believe this is happening to me. I’ve never seen anything like this!’”
Hue Jackson’s first few months
"First of all, he’s in a unique situation in that, once upon a time they talked about [hiring] a general manager. It has been like, banned from their vocabulary. It is now called the ‘talent evaluator,' whom Hue will help them hire at some point.
"So basically, picking the team. Here’s the hard part. You’ve got to figure out the draft. You’ve got the second pick and the 32nd pick. And Hue Jackson is already making a lot of noise about drafting a quarterback. So if you’re Johnny Manziel, that’s telling you: Hue Jackson’s been around. He’s not putting his career in Johnny Manziel’s hands.
"If I’m Hue Jackson, I know I have to make this work in Cleveland if I want to be a long term head coach. So, I gotta get this right. I gotta have the right guy at quarterback.”