The Cleveland Browns acted quickly in getting their man to replaced Mike Pettine as head coach, hiring ex-Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Cleveland had brought Jackson back for a second interview earlier in the week and was rumored to want to lock him down to a deal with several other teams expressing serious interest. One of the brightest offensive minds in the NFL, Jackson had constructed a system in Cincinnati that elevated Andy Dalton to elite status in 2015 and helped the Bengals win the AFC North title.
While Jackson’s strong run over the last two years brought success to his offensive player and the Bengals overall, it’s absolutely worth wondering if he’s an upgrade over Pettine or just the right man to lead the Browns going forward, in general. All indications certainly point to that being the case, as Jackson went a respectable 8-8 in one season at the helm with a bad Oakland Raiders team, showcasing some experience as the top shot-caller. It’s his offensive success that put him in such great demand, however, while his player-friendly personality could help pull a fractured team back together.
No More Johnny?
The arrival of Jackson could spell the end of Johnny Manziel’s ill-fated tenure in Ohio, as the new Browns head coach was non-committal when asked about Johnny Football’s future with the team. Manziel has been rumored to want out of Cleveland for months, while his off the field antics may have rubbed ownership the wrong way for the last time. Jackson suggested he’d meet with Manziel before making an official decision, but rumors suggest Manziel will be cut or traded at some point during the off-season.
Naturally, the likely departure of Manziel will have the Browns thinking differently under center, but that may not be something fans have to be too worried about when it comes to Jackson. After all, Jackson developed a fairly average Dalton into a borderline stud, and even got productivity out of an inexperienced A.J. McCarron. With Cleveland already having seasoned veteran Josh McCown and the #2 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, they could be in perfect position to use McCown once again as a one-year stop-gap in order to let their newly drafted franchise passer (potentially Memphis passer Paxton Lynch) learn from the sidelines.
While the Jackson hiring is cause for optimism going forward, it still doesn’t mean the Browns are locks to quickly turn around and compete. They were able to do that for the first half of Pettine’s initial season, but dysfunction and overall inconsistency from top to bottom wore on the team in year two. Jackson should provide a more stable environment and hopefully a more explosive offense, and if everything breaks right Cleveland could be more competitive. Winning enough to reach the post-season in the brutal AFC North remains a long shot in Jackson’s first try, however.