Hue Jackson had a bevy of options to become a head coach this offseason. As soon as the Cincinnati Bengals’ season was over, the interviews started. Up first was the San Francisco 49ers and next were the Cleveland Browns. The Giants were trying to get in on him too as he was one of the hottest commodities out there to be a head coach. But the choice began to get clearer when the second interview was set for Hue with the Cleveland Browns. The Giants, although they tried hard, were not even granted an interview with Jackson in favor of him taking the second interview with Cleveland. And in that second interview, it was apparent that he was the guy they wanted. Hue, for his part, could have played the game a little more and waited to give an answer to all that were interested. But Jackson heard some things he wanted to hear in the meeting with the Browns. And now Jackson will get the opportunity to pick up where he left off in terms of being a head coach.
The biggest thing that Cleveland needs is players. The team has had draft pick after draft pick not produce for them. The most recent ones have been picked by former Browns GM Ray Farmer. Needless to say, the Browns have not had much luck developing draft picks. With Jackson, he may not develop them as much, but he will be the guy that has some power over who gets picked up in the draft. Jackson is rumored to have taken this job because of the power over personnel. And with that caveat in addition to being the head coach, it would have been hard for Jackson to refuse. The 49ers or Giants clubs would not even come near giving personnel power to any new head coach. There are some that dislike this deal because it gives a head coach more to worry about: general management. But the difference between Jackson and a guy like Chip Kelly (who was given personnel control in his second season) is that Hue has been in the NFL as a coach while Chip was a college coach trying to adjust. In Cleveland, he essentially will be allowed to make the decisions necessary personnel-wise. And if he is successful at doing so, then he will end up bring back Cleveland in football.
One of the first personnel decisions Jackson will have to make is on his quarterback position. Quarterback Johnny Manziel was drafted two years ago along with CB Justin Gilbert. The belief there in Cleveland is that Manziel would end up being the starting quarterback for this team. Well, things have not worked out that well when it comes to Johnny. The youngster has been on television for all things but playing quarterback. One of the conditions that helped Hue Jackson agree to being the head coach in Cleveland was to move on from Johnny Manziel. He has had enough of him after viewing him from afar and the time has come to turn the page. Hue could go one of three ways to get a quarterback. He could go get a quarterback with the 2nd pick in the NFL Draft (presumed to be California quarterback Jared Goff). Hue could also let Josh McCown come back healthy so he could back up the rookie. Another option is trading for a young quarterback in a backup situation, like Zach Mettenberger for example. Either situation would probably give them some sense of being steady at a position of need.
Another big task for Hue is the defense. The draft picks over the last five years have not been as great as they thought. Names like outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo and cornerback Justin Gilbert have not lived up to the expectations from where they were picked. And the only defender that many worry about is cornerback Joe Haden. This defense has no identity and needs retooling in the worst way. Hue’s forte is not defense, but he has to hire an intuitive mind to work with what he has and make it work. If he is able to make the right hire, then the picks and free agents will fall into play, often as if they are done effortlessly. Free agency and trades can help the Browns rebuild. But the main thing is to set the base from within. That means making the correct personnel calls in terms of Cleveland so that they can mimic his former employer: the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals have thrived over the last few years due to their strong drafts. An if Hue can do some of the same things, then the sky is the limit
The Cleveland Browns got one of the best head coaching candidates out there in Hue Jackson. No one thought this would happen but it did. And now we have a team fighting for relevance and getting that elusive head coach that many wanted but could not have. We shall see if this move makes the Browns better or worse.