Just a day after a 33-18 defeat at the hands of rival Pittsburgh, the Cleveland Browns have fired head coach Hue Jackson. The Browns are 2-5-1 thus far in 2018 posting a whole two wins more than they recorded in last season’s 0-16 debacle. Jackson went just 1-15 his first year and combined with 2017 and a half of a season in 2018 leaves the Browns with a record of 3-36-1.
For a franchise that has been awful for the better part of two decades, Jackson’s firing leaves the Browns’ fan base clamoring. Now what?
Blame it on Pittsburgh Jackson is the sixth consecutive Browns head coach to fall victim to the curse of Pittsburgh. The past five coaches – Mike Pettine, Rob Chudzinski, Pat Shurmur, Eric Mangini, and Romeo Crennel – were all fired after the second game of the season with the Steelers. Of these past six coaches, Crennel, who went 10-6 in 2007, lasted the longest with a tenure of four years. Chudzinski went 4-12 in 2013 and was promptly fired…after a 20-7 loss to Pittsburgh in Week 17.
In the Interim Seventy-one-year-old Browns offensive assistant Al Saunders was named the interim head coach for the remainder of the season. There were some rumors about Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley butting heads this season. That could have been part of the reason why Jackson had to go.
Or it could have been the fact that since 2016 Cleveland is last in the NFL in win percentage, points per game, offensive efficiency, and total quarterback rating. Or the reason Jackson was fired was related to his record on the road. The Browns were 0-20 in away games, the worst record on the road for any coach with a single team since 1966. Or…well, it’s pretty simple. Jackson had a winning percentage of .205. That number is the second-worst of all-time among head coaches with at least 40 games.
What Next? The Browns have shown some improvements. They tied Pittsburgh in the season opener coming back from a 21-21 deficit. They lost to 6-1 New Orleans by three. They also lost games to Oakland and Tampa Bay by three. Somehow, Cleveland beat a very good Ravens team 12-9.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield could be the guy. He has two victories under his belt and has shown the ability to lead. The Browns offense is young – rookie quarterback, rookie running back, rookie left tackle and a second-year tight end. The defense has a few budding stars. So, who can execute a turnaround in Cleveland?
It’s a great question. The last Cleveland head coach to have any sustained success was Marty Schottenheimer in the late 1980s. Even a young Bill Belichick posted just one winning season in five years in Cleveland. So, who can do it? Who can lead the Browns to more wins than losses?
There are plenty of eyes on Mayfield’s college coach Lincoln Riley. The Oklahoma head coach has been on many NFL teams’ radars the past few years. He runs an explosive offense and could best utilize the talents of Mayfield. Maybe it’s Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. He helped Carson Wentz turn into an MVP candidate in Philadelphia. Or maybe the Browns can lure anyone from the Rams’ current staff to come in and repeat what they have done in Los Angeles. One thing is for sure. A turnaround in Cleveland is not going to be easy. Just ask Jackson. Or Pettine. Or Chudzinski. Or…you get the idea.