After two-and-a-half seasons as the leading play-caller for the historically doomed Cleveland Browns squad, Hue Jackson and Todd Haley got the boot on Monday morning. The staffing change comes after a 33-18 loss to division rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday—the same team with which they tied in their season opener. The win has likely cost the team their playoff contention for the season.
Jackson’s Browns team this season has doubled their record so far from the last two years under his leadership. The notorious losers have even acquired a bandwagon following this year, likely brought on by the decision to start wunderkind rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield of the Oklahoma Sooners.
Hue Jackson, Todd Haley Sacked
The Browns have canned their last five head coaches after the second Steelers game of their respective seasons. Only one of those five, Pat Shurmur, is presently serving in a head coaching position (for the New York Giants, who are currently 1-7).
Since Jackson began with the Browns, the franchise is dead last in NFL win percentage, offensive efficiency, points per game, and QBR. Jackson’s win percentage is the second worst among all head coaches in NFL history with at least 40 games.
While fans predicted that offensive coordinator Haley, with whom Jackson had friction, would be named the team’s interim head coach, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (the “BountyGate” guy) has been named to the role in a very “Browns-esque” move. Haley’s firing was announced just hours after Jackson’s. Running backs coach Freddie Kitchens has been named in the role of offensive coordinator, replacing Haley.
Haley has had a rocky career history, which has included many disputes with his fellow coaches and players, and has exhibited abrasiveness on the sidelines, which certain players (*cough* Ben Roethlisberger) have had a hard time with.
The announcement of Williams comes after rumors of Al Saunders replacing Jackson. Saunders, 71, has previous experience as an assistant head coach in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers, the Kansas City Chiefs, the St. Louis Rams, and the Washington Redskins. He served as interim head coach of the Chargers in 1986 and spent the following two years in the position. His head coaching record is 17-22.
Williams has been with the Browns since January 2017 and has a long history with the league, including both success and scandal. He went 17-31 as the Buffalo Bills head coach from 2001-2003, during which time they were the number three defense in the NFL. He won a Super Bowl championship with the New Orleans Saints in 2010 as their defensive coordinator, before he was suspended from the league indefinitely for admittedly being a key player in the Saints‘ bounty scandal. In 2013, he was reinstated by the NFL and hired by the Tennessee Titans as a senior assistant defensive coach.
Jackson’s and Haley’s firings are the first major coaching changes of this NFL season. Even though the Browns’ record has improved significantly (though it didn’t take much) in this recent season, it is unclear whether these moves are smart for the long-struggling franchise. The “goodness” that the team has shown in this NFL year can likely be attributed to the holes that were filled in this spring’s draft. While Williams is an interesting choice in the interim due to his experience, will he be the solution to the team in a league where player safety is of such high concern? And, of course, the question remains: are the Browns still on the up and up?
CLEVELAND, OH – OCTOBER 14: Head coach Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns reacts to a play in the second half against the Los Angeles Chargers at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 14, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)