Losing breeds contempt or so the saying goes. Your Cleveland Browns are proving that axiom truer with every week.
After starting their reign in Berea 1-20, reports of tension in all the usual places are back. Yet having done this dance with regime after regime since 1999, its painfully obvious how derision is amplified by losing and can only be healed by winning itself and/or true leadership.
Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam has been unable to provide that kind of leadership in the face of hapless football & scrutiny from fans/media to this point.
That’s why it’s imperative that Hue Jackson needs to avoid continuing to point significant blame elsewhere.
The Browns 3rd loss of the season was a deceivingly close 31-28 loss to Indianapolis after which Jackson took a veiled shot at the front office when asked if the team can win now during this rebuild.
“That is something you have to talk to (Team VP) Sashi (Brown) about and the executive team.”
No one is asking Hue to enjoy losing but how a head coach & front office maneuver through that minefield often determines how much patience ownership has with them. This is even more significant considering Browns ownership has struggled with patience in their brief time in Cleveland.
Hue makes a power struggle and a difficult choice for Jimmy Haslam seem inevitable.
Power struggles are nothing new to Hue Jackson. His one year in Oakland ended with a seemingly successful 8-8 record. Yet in the death of owner Al Davis, Jackson had accumulated a wealth of power and struggled with the idea of relinquishing it with the hired of new GM Reggie McKenzie.
The redistribution of power was a prominent reason Hue’s tenure in Oakland ended prematurely.
Hue’s finger pointing isn’t extended only to the front office. When pushed about whether his play calling is an issue Jackson quipped, “We are standing down there in the scoring zone twice. It wasn’t because of play calls. It is execution.”
His point on execution is understood and holds validity. Yet the timing of the comment is poor form and can’t help further trust in the Browns locker room.
The greater issue here is how Hue himself is not blameless in the Browns failures.
Hue’s handling of DeShone Kizer has been poor to say the least. The QB Whisperer has habitually abandoned the run game, a young QB’s best friend, in the name of winning.
This has put all the pressure on Kizer to singlehandedly win each game with inferior players around him and has allowed defenses to pin their ears back with no threat of retribution on the ground.
If Kizer is truly the franchise quarterback as Jackson attests then his development is more important than wins in the beginning. If his development is handled properly, the wins should come.
Neither the front office nor the players can be blamed for Jackson’s in game management issues. Communication issues, wasted time outs and curious play-calling all lay at the feet of Hue Jackson.
Time out management early in the 4th quarter has twice bitten the Browns with under 3 minutes left on the clock.
Beyond his neglect of the running game, Jackson’s handling of Isaiah Crowell has been odd too.
The offense has run primarily out of the shotgun in deference to a rookie quarterback. Despite Crowell’s weakness reading the offensive line, Jackson continues to use him in a RB Delay consistently, a play that is betrayed by his runner’s chief weakness.
Another oddity with Crowell is Jackson’s attempts to use the I-Formation with Cro. In and of itself, the I-Formation is more appropriate for Crowell yet Jackson used it almost exclusively for running which defenses keyed in on early and never looked remotely close to being fooled. You have to throw the ball with some modicum of regularity for this tactic to work.
As a quarterback guru, Jackson’s evaluation skills have yet to live up to the hype too. Many people have fingered Cody Kessler as a front office pick (another problematic trend) but Jackson’s DNA is all over the signing of RG3 and the drafting of Kizer.
Jackson fell hard for the phony bluster of RG3 during a workout session in mesh shorts. Everything said to be true of Grifin in Washington rang true in Cleveland. Injuries, an inability to develop and a complete lack of self-awareness sunk the former rookie of the year.
There was plenty of pressure but nary a diamond to be found.
With Kizer, its still too early to tell if Jackson got it right. The Notre Dame product has flashed at times in his first 5 games but hasn’t looked ready to be the quarterback he was drafted to be.
Once again in the name of winning Jackson benched Kizer after 4 ½ games as starter on Sunday. This was also ½ way into a game after Jackson said Kizer was “lights out” at times against Cincinnati.
If this season was about developing & assessing Kizer’s ability to be the starter in Cleveland long-term, Hue is dangerously close to failure already.
It’s true the blame shouldn’t fall solely on Hue Jackson.
The front office lead by Sashi Brown ventured into an ambitious rebuild. Brown bragged about tearing the team, “down to the studs,” yet failed to manage expectations last year. The results were a 1-15 first step and widespread apathy from fans.
The decision making has also not been flawless. While several draft picks have started to produce, the team is still devoid of enough talent to compete with any regularity this year.
Compounding the issue is the decisions to move on from the likes Taylor Gabriel and Demario Davis who are performing well with their new teams. Brown & Co. also moved on from last year’s rare breakout star Terrelle Pryor in a business move and replaced him with the complete nonentity Kenny Britt.
All sides deserve their fair share of blame for the 1-20 start, this isn’t about that. This is about a front office who has stayed true to their message as their head coach has started to chuck blame around after a difficult start.
Hue Jackson can still be the coach that the Cleveland Browns hired him to be. He still deserves time and patience from the front office and ownership.
Yet if he continues to look for buses to throw others under, he won’t get that chance. It’s tough to ignore the irony how Hue still must learn there are some things are more important than wins and losses. Togetherness is the only thing that can save Hue Jackson and the Cleveland Browns.