After the Browns tied the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1, they had an opportunity to show progress against the same team in Week 8. But it was the Steelers, not the Browns, that showed how much they’d improved during the first half of the 2018 season.
Pittsburgh beat Cleveland, 33-18, and realigned the natural powers in the AFC North. The Steelers are good, and the Browns are bad.
After that loss, quarterback Baker Mayfield seemed to have lost his boyish enthusiasm (which seemed like just what Cleveland needed on “Hard Knocks”) after getting sacked 20 times in his first six games. Worse than the sacks are the four losses, including two in overtime and one by a 3-point deficit in regulation.
Mayfield, defensive end Myles Garrett and receiver Jarvis Landry should be ushering a new era of Browns football, one where they actually win football games. They are too promising and too talented to have just two wins.
With so many narrow defeats, the blame falls on their coaching staff. Jackson has proven that, at almost every step of the way, he’s the wrong man for the job. [Update: Hue Jackson has been fired as coach of the Browns after this post published.]
Recently, it became public information that he and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were at odds with one another. The public did not seem to care about their tiff. Why should they? It seems like an inevitability that neither of them will be around next season. The Browns should fire Jackson and Haley in the coming months.
If Cleveland must, they can hand the reigns to Haley and hope he’s been arguing with Jackson because Haley is the voice of reason. But a turnaround seems unlikely. Haley got fired from Pittsburgh because he wasn’t getting along with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who plays nice — he’s the guy who wants to fight, and in turn creates messy situations wherever he goes. He shouldn’t take over a position of leadership for the Browns unless it’s an interim position. And even that seems like a waste, if Cleveland has no intention of hiring him afterward.
What’s most important, however, is getting Jackson out of his current position. The Browns seem to have made a handful of shockingly good decisions in recent years, but hiring Jackson was not one of them. On his career (including his stint as a head coach in Oakland), he’s 11–44–1 in the regular season. With the Browns, he is 3-36-1.
The Jackson era needs to end, and after such a Browns-like start to the season, it’s hard to understand why they didn’t fire him in the offseason. Mayfield will have to acclimate to another system, another offense, another coach and another coordinator. Rather than getting stability in his second season, he’ll have more transition.
But if the Browns find the right candidate, the transition will be worthwhile. Because under a better coaching staff, the Browns would be in the playoff hunt right now. Instead, they’ve maintained the crappy level of play that has defined their franchise. If the Browns want to redefine themselves, they need a new coach. They needed one yesterday. Really, they needed one five months ago.