Hue Jackson is never to blame, according to Hue Jackson.
The former Cleveland Browns coach has begun his explanatory media tour. Jackson seems ready to point fingers. To his credit, he did attempt to pour some water on the dumpster fire he’s been asked to vacate. He avoided questions about the conflict between himself and former offensive coordinator Todd Haley. But Jackson also tried to wiggle free from blame by claiming that, all along, he knew which quarterbacks were going to pan out in past draft classes. And that he wanted his team to draft those quarterbacks, which doesn’t pass the sniff test.
“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.”
This is the same coach who told NFL.com on the eve of the draft in 2017 that the Browns needed a quarterback, but he and former Browns general manager Sashi Brown were “not going to force it.” But forcing it is exactly what Jackson now seems to wish they’d done.
Let’s first focus on Wentz, who was the second-overall pick in 2016. So Jackson wanted Wentz at No. 2 overall? From Cleveland.com:
“Oh my gosh, yes. Did I like Carson Wentz? Hell yes. He did something that no other quarterback did. I give them three minutes to memorize the book and put on the (white) board. He put it all on the board in two minutes and 48 seconds. I’ve never had a guy do that ever in my coaching career.
“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.”
Got it. So who made the decision to pass on Wentz? Definitely not Jackson. Because Jackson is not to blame, according to Jackson. Brown must be to blame.
But then there’s this, which is that Jackson told NFL.com’s Mike Silver in 2016 that No. 2 was too high to take Wentz.
Jackson’s story doesn’t line up. Can’t imagine why.
Instead of taking Wentz at the second-overall pick, they traded down and allowed the Philadelphia Eagles to take the quarterback out of North Dakota State. Acquiring assets along the way, the Browns moved all the way down the board to get Corey Coleman at No. 15 overall. Coleman lasted two seasons with the team.
Then came the 2017 NFL Draft, which included Watson and Mahomes. Mind you, Cleveland had the No. 1 overall pick — they could have had any player they wanted. With that top pick, the Browns took Myles Garrett, an outstanding edge rusher out of Texas A&M. Garrett was the guy Jackson wanted at No. 1, according to NFL.com’s Mike Silver, who wrote a tell-all piece about the Brown’s draft class in May 2017. Jackson did not want quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who Brown wanted. And Jackson did not want Mahomes or Watson at that top spot. And to be fair, Garrett is a very good player, and was the consensus top pick, and is tied for second in the NFL in sacks (eight). But if Jackson now has beef with Brown for not taking a quarterback at No. 1, then why didn’t Jackson push for a quarterback in 2017, instead of Garrett?
Jackson’s story has some serious plot holes. Let’s check back in on that story from Cleveland.com:
“I like Patrick and DeShaun a lot. I got to know them both. Pat and I had really good relationship. I loved his skill set. I loved his ability to throw the ball around and all of that. I built a good rapport with him. I had them ranked very close to each other.”
Trubisky went No. 2 overall, Mahomes went with the 10th overall selection and the Texans took Watson at 12th. The Browns were the owners of the No. 12 pick in the draft, but — like they did with Wentz the previous year — traded that pick to a quarterback-needy team. And Jackson was not banging the table for Watson. The Browns coach wanted safety Malik Hooker at No. 12, according to NFL.com.
In the second round of the 2017 draft, the Browns drafted Deshone Kizer, who was not good, which can’t possibly have been Jackson’s fault.
Jackson seems to be misremembering how the 2016 and 2017 drafts played out, because his team had the chance to draft Wentz, Mahomes and Watson, and according to contemporaneous reports–which are more reliable than spin after the fact–he didn’t suggest the team take any one of them at the spot they could take them. So he liked those players, but not at the cost it would have taken and not at the expense of foregoing a move like getting Garrett. According to NFL.com, Jackson liked Mahomes, and was sad to see Mahomes go off the board at No. 10, but Cleveland could have taken Mahomes at No. 1. (Or, they could have tried to trade back a few spots from first overall instead and taken him before the tenth pick. If Jackson is going to revise history, why can’t I?)
Jackson would like to believe he’s not at fault for his 3-36-1 record as the coach of the Browns. He’s right — it’s not all his fault. That said, he doesn’t seem to be taking blame for the things that are his fault. He can’t rewrite history.