Hue Jackson: 'I Know I Could've' Turned Browns Offense Around If Not Fired

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistNovember 1, 2018

Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson meets with reporters after an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. The Steelers won 33-18. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Don Wright/Associated Press

The Cleveland Browns recently decided to move on from Hue Jackson after he went 3-36-1 in two-plus seasons, but the recently dismissed head coach believes he could have turned things around had the organization been more patient.

Jackson made it clear to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com that the Browns offense would've gotten on track had he been given more time:

"I know I would've turned our offense around. [...]

"If you're going to go out, you always go out betting on yourself. I knew that I would've taken our same system and turned the offense around. It was not what I wanted to do, it's what I had to do. If I couldn't turn it around—then so be it and we move on. So I was surprised that I was not given the opportunity to display what I could do as a play caller with a much more talented offensive roster. But again, while I don't agree, I respect their decision and wish them the best."

There will be those who point out any coach who won only three times in 40 games has to be on borrowed time, but in fairness to Jackson, the Browns had shown some signs of life this season. Not only was Cleveland having its best season under Jackson at 2-5-1, but three of their losses had come in overtime, with another being decided by a last-second field goal.

If not for missed kicks and controversial officiating, the Browns could have a more respectable record—and Jackson may still have a job.

Following an 0-16 campaign in 2017, Cleveland started the season with veteran Tyrod Taylor under center. However, it took until only Week 3 for 2018 No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield to take the field and get his opportunity to shine.

The Browns are averaging 21 points per game with Mayfield, scoring 40-plus points in a game for the first time since 2009 in Week 4. That was the rookie's first career start.

With Mayfield, Pro Bowl wideout Jarvis Landry and rookie running back Nick Chubb, there have been some promising signs in Cleveland this year. However, a head coach is judged based on wins and losses. With the team having lost three straight games, two in blowout fashion, the Browns decided it was time to fire Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

Jackson's tenure in Cleveland may always be defined by some questionable draft decisions. The Browns have stockpiled picks in recent years, but in doing so, they have passed up on some quarterbacks who have turned into stars early in their careers: Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes.

The ex-Browns coach told Cabot:

"We passed on three franchise QBs the first two years in Wentz, Watson and Mahomes. We played with a QB room with zero wins in the league. We played with street free agents and practice squad players in WRs. Yet our offense was the same or better than what we were doing this year. There is no way that should happen.

"You can't pass on quarterbacks. You never pass on a potential franchise quarterback because you don't know who's going to be there in the future. I think Baker Mayfield is going to be a sensational player if they surround him with the right people, but they've got to give him help and run a scheme suited to his skillset."

All three quarterbacks have put up stellar numbers so far in their careers, but of the trio, Wentz has had the most success. Not only was he an NFL MVP candidate before suffering a knee injury last year, but the 2016 No. 2 overall pick played a big role in helping the Philadelphia Eagles win their first-ever championship a season ago.

And Jackson isn't afraid to admit that he wanted Wentz in a Browns uniform: "Oh my gosh, yes. Did I like Carson Wentz? Hell, yes...but the plan was never to take a quarterback that year. It was all about trading back to get picks. If you're doing that, you've got to pick the right players.''

Ultimately, though, Jackson and Co. faced an uphill battle of trying to field a competitive team without obviously tanking.

"Had we been doing in Year 1 what I was able to get us to do in Year 3, there's no question we would already be a winning football team," Jackson added. "You can't go 1-15 or 0-16 and have people like you unless you come out and explain to everyone that you're going to lose. And you can't say that publicly."