Report: Hue Jackson's Browns Contract Included 'Four Year Plan' Bonuses Up to $750K

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMay 4, 2022

BEREA, OH - JULY 29: Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson watches drills at the Cleveland Browns Training Camp on July 29, 2018, at the at the Cleveland Browns Training Facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Former Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson could've earned up to $750,000 in bonuses under the terms of the team's "Four Year Plan," according to Sports Illustrated's Gary Gramling and Conor Orr.

In February, Jackson said on SportsCenter that the Browns had outlined a long-term plan that "did not talk about winning and losing until Year 3 and 4." He alleged Cleveland incentivized tanking in the first two years.

The NFL issued a statement Monday following an investigation into the allegations.

"The investigation found no evidence to suggest that the Browns' Four-Year Plan or the club's ownership or football personnel sought to lose or incentivized losses and made no decisions to deliberately weaken the team to secure a more favorable draft position," the league said.

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Per Gramling and Orr, the first two years of the "Four Year Plan" tied bonuses to goals that were clearly laying the foundation for the next two years.

In 2016, for example, making at least 11 picks—five within the first three rounds—was a target, as well as ranking in the bottom quarter of the league in salary cap carryover. By 2017, the staff was incentivized to have at least 10 total picks and four in the first three rounds.

It wasn't until 2018 that the "Four Year Plan" set winning 10 games and finishing second or better in the AFC North as benchmarks.

Gramling and Orr explained why Jackson might not have been on board with the idea:

"While draft capital accrued and percentage of cap carried over are appropriate goals for a personnel department, it is unusual to reward the coach for those categories—not only are they out of his control, but those goals stand in opposition to every NFL coach's baseline goal, which is to win as many games as possible. Very simply, the more a team loses, the higher its picks, and therefore the more draft capital it can accrue. And the less money is spent on the roster, the fewer good players there are."

The report also quoted a coaching agent who said their response would be, "Holy s--t, this is, like, a tank bonus," if they had seen a similar plan in the course of their job.

The Browns went 1-31 in Jackson's first two years. He was fired midway through the 2018 season following a 2-5-1 start.

He came forward with his allegations after former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed a lawsuit against the NFL and three teams, alleging discriminatory practices. As part of his suit, he said Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered him $100,000 for every game the Dolphins lost in 2019, which Ross subsequently denied.