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Post-Browns: The Hue Jackson story

Former coach tells Sports Illustrated he went into depression after his firing.

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers

Hue Jackson is finally in a position to talk about his firing as head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

In an interview in Sports Illustrated, the former coach explains to writer Greg Bishop what transpired and the aftermath.

Jackson calls the firing, which occurred on October 29, 2018, the worst day of his life. At the time, the Browns were 2-5-1 and had just dropped a 33-18 game against the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers in a game dominated by the Steelers. The loss to Pittsburgh ended a 3-36-1 record for the embattled Browns’ coach.

According to the interview, after being fired Jackson called his wife, Michelle, with the news. Upon arriving at his house, he went straight into his basement and stayed there for three days with all of the lights off. His wife of 24 years insisted that he become a part of their household once again, but he refused. He claims he could have remained there for months. Finally, he heard his mother’s voice tell him she didn’t raise him that way. He heard former boss Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders instruct him to get up and let’s go.

He claims the firing was the number one worst day of his life over his own heart condition five years ago from a blocked artery, his mother’s daily deterioration from an extended illness and death, plus the passing of his brother two weeks earlier in prison. The final two occurrences happened during the filming of HBO’s Hard Knocks series, which placed additional stress on the head coach.

Jackson had been dismissed from a job as a coach many times before, usually on somebody else’s staff. But the Cleveland gig was special to him, and wanted to finally bring the city a winner. Obviously, the exact opposite happened and the Browns were often cradled as the butt of many a late-night joke.

Jackson explained that his pride is in coaching. While with the Browns and their terrible skid, he refused to watch any TV for fear of seeing the ridicule of his product. Friends and family would occasionally send him favorable text messages aimed at massaging his coaching ego. At one point, he asked them to stop the texts.

“Football is what made me feel like who I am. People might say that’s too far. No, it’s not. You can’t be good at what you do if you don’t pour all of yourself into it.”

After praying to God to get another chance at coaching football, the Cincinnati Bengals called and offered him an assistant position to head coach Marvin Lewis on November 13, 2018. It would become his third stint working for the Bengals.

At the conclusion of the 2018 season, Lewis was fired, and so was his entire coaching staff.

In the interview with Sports Illustrated, Jackson told them up front he was not going to speak bad about the Browns, their management team or the current roster. Which was a new twist, because oftentimes with Cleveland he blamed just about everybody about the failures of the club’s demise.

He has pride in the fact that he was a minority head coach in a period that was supposed to bring more non-white faces to NFL sidelines, but has not. He also states that some of his best coaching efforts were done with the Browns, although the results do not display this as actual facts.

“I’m not a loser. So that bothers me. I’m not built that way. I hate losing, and it hurt every day. It ground me down every freakin’ week.”

Jackson said in the article that even back in high school, other players called him “coach.” Once he did become a coach, he would overdo his work, often leaving the house at 4 a.m. and not get home until after midnight.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

He told SI that Baker Mayfield is exactly the man to lead this team and help it succeed. He is also not taking credit for the team that are the Browns today in case the franchise does do well and finally makes the playoffs.

His greatest mistake, he admits, is allowing offensive coordinator Todd Haley to take complete control over the offense. He also states that he should have had better relationships with his assistants and set a clearer tone.

Jackson realizes that he is the face of all those losses over three years, and he accepts that. He did say that most Clevelanders remained friendly to him once he stepped out in public, and occasionally a fan or two would confront him about the losing. Upon being hired again by Cincinnati, Mayfield publicly called him “a fake.”

His wishes are for the Browns to be successful while at the same time he refuses to view his coaching career as a failure, although most Browns fans will question why he started Tryod Taylor at quarterback instead of Mayfield, and how stud running back Nick Chubb was the backup on opening day.

Today, he remains a Cleveland resident. He is known as a great quarterback coach and a good offensive coordinator, but should leave the head coaching position to someone else.

Jackson wants to again coach one day, but this year he is content staying at home with his three daughters. He is a great father and enjoys the added time spent with them. But like most football men, the sport will always be his first love.