Cycling through head coaches is far from ideal, but change was so badly needed in Cleveland that the charade had to finally be put to sleep. Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam had afforded Hue Jackson a benefit of the doubt rope longer than anyone has ever had. They made sure they did things that way so they’d avoid more backlash for yet another organizational upheaval.
That benefit expired after a 25th-consecutive road loss, a loss in which Jackson and new, now former offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s offense again failed to achieve any kind of competency.
There’s something really disheartening to be said for the level of inept football we were still witnessing three years into Jackson’s Browns era. The entirety of NFL history had never seen a coach yield such poor results as Jackson’s 3-36-1 record, including 3-13-1 in games decided by one score or less.
Other coaches have had bad rosters. They have had rookie quarterbacks. They have had tear-down and burnt-to-ashes rosters that weren’t expected or intended to contend.
Those teams still won games. They had an effective plan. They got better. Some still fired the coaches despite those improvements. But the Haslams didn’t want to do that. They wanted to leave no doubt.
There was coaching happening in those situations that inspired confidence that those coaches had the personal and football acumens to lead a group of men into a collective and successful enterprise. If they didn’t, they were gone.
But not in Cleveland. The Browns ownership shied away from making any impulse reactions to any isolated problems they saw from their head coach over a short timeframe. They wanted to see Jackson’s plan come to life, but it unfortunately never did. The same problems persisted, and the miserable results on Sundays became unjustifiable.
There’s a common misconception—supported by the Haslams’ inaction for so long after taking swift corrective actions in the past—that organizational continuity is necessary to win in the NFL.
If only teams would just stick with one guy long enough to see whether he has what it takes, then they can truly see what they need to from a coach.
But, friends, that time had already passed. That’s the ship that sailed weeks ago, had been taking torpedoes to the hull every week, and finally sank to the bottom of Lake Erie in Week 8.
Continuity for continuity’s sake, that’s where we were at.
Despite the realities, we’re drawn to resist change. Many believe that anything is better than changing head coaches every season, which perpetuates the unknown feelings brought on by that change. Loyalty, passion, and stability are nothing to turn your nose up at, after all. There’s nothing wrong with believing those are true and worthwhile values.
Consistency is a good thing, it really is.
But what feels appropriate and might be valid isn’t always correct in every circumstance. This NFL coaching task isn’t an easy endeavor. That’s why so many fail, then are re-cycled and given new settings only to fail again, much like quarterbacks. A head coach receives the highest scrutiny, as they should.
The Los Angeles Rams defied this conservative and conventional wisdom. They moved and hired an unknown but young and promising head coach, and in two seasons he transformed them from talented middler into a Super Bowl contender. Everything Sean McVay does is as non-conventional as the decision was to hire him to replace veteran Jeff Fisher.
McVay’s best quality? He’s not afraid to take chances. But more importantly, he knows when to make those calculated risks that stray from the norm. He knows how to relate to his players but also hold them accountable to his standards. He makes winning fun, not the daily grind to get there.
How are NFL teams going to continue the same patterns and expect to have any kind of competitive edge? They don’t. There needs to be innovation. There needs to be discipline. There needs to be a belief in the plan, and buy-in from all the players. Liking a guy isn’t enough.
It’s refreshing that this organization has finally woken up to this reality and decided to shed these archaic dinosaurs to move on to this new age. But in reality, it isn’t a new age at all. It’s what has always been done by winning football teams. Players don’t overtly love Bill Belichick for his personality, they love him because he excels at his job.
He wins. He helps them win. And they love him for that above all else.
Arguing about whose at fault for the Browns not measuring up to their demonstrated caliber while blaming everyone but the coaching staff eventually became an untenable position. Plainly, it got old.
This change had to be now. After falling to 2-6-1 with a tough remaining schedule, the future takes precedence, and that future looks brighter now than it did 24 hours ago.
Jackson seems like a great guy, and he was a successful coordinator for a period, but head football coaches in the NFL have to be more. They can’t just be like-able guys who make people feel good to be around them.
In 2018, Jackson inherited a much better NFL roster with viable and competitive players and experienced coordinators, yet the results were nearly the same. It wasn’t going to get better with time, it’d have continued much the same or gotten worse. Keeping the status quo wouldn’t have fixed the problems we saw every week. The penalties and lapses weren’t going to stop. The game plan wasn’t going to evolve.
The innovation that’s needed wasn’t going to suddenly emerge three years into this thing.
The time lost with Jackson is a sunk cost at this point, and it unquestionably became time to make the appropriate fixes sooner than later to get the Browns headed on an upward trajectory. By making this decision now, the organization can get a head start on finding individuals they believe fit the mold of this new age NFL. They will look for coaches who can inspire confidence through innovation.
Dorsey needs to seek out these coaches who can better identify weaknesses and plan around them. But most importantly, he needs to find people who will hold themselves and their players accountable.
It’s not an easy task, but the search begins now, and Gregg Williams has the job of keeping the ship afloat until they find the right guys to do it.
Things might get ugly, but at least it’ll be a fun ride. Grab some popcorn.