Browns fire Hue Jackson in third losing season

Tom Withers
Associated Press

Berea, Ohio — Hue Jackson’s failed, flawed tenure with the Cleveland Browns is finally over.

The team fired its embattled coach on Monday, ending a run of futility nearly unmatched in NFL history. Jackson, who went 3-36-1 in two-plus seasons, was dismissed Monday by general manager John Dorsey with the backing of owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam.

The Browns also fired offensive coordinator Todd Haley and made defensive coordinator Gregg Williams their interim coach. Haley was in his first season on Jackson’s staff after spending the previous six in Pittsburgh.

Jimmy Haslam intimated the firings were prompted by an irreparable divide between Jackson and Haley, who squabbled behind the scenes and recently took their power struggle public.

“Hopefully we made a big step today,” Haslam said at a news conference with Dorsey. “It’s very troubling. It’s hard to win in the NFL; if anybody knows that, it’s us. And I think the message today is we’re not going to put up with internal discord, that we want people who are collaborative and work together.”

Jackson’s firing came a day after the Browns (2-5-1) lost their 25th straight road game – 20 of them coming with Jackson in charge. The Browns are 22-81-1 since the Haslams agreed to purchase them before the 2012 season.

The Browns, who have not made the playoffs since 2002 amid a slew of coaching changes, have lost three straight games after a promising start to this season. They tied Pittsburgh in Week 1, but were beaten 33-18 on Sunday by the Steelers.

Jackson is the sixth straight Cleveland coach to be fired following the team’s second game against Pittsburgh. Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmur, Rob Chudzinski and Mike Pettine all met the same demise.

Haslam and Dorsey didn’t provide any details about the Jackson-Haley fracture and said the team’s focus is on the final eight games.

“We have a lot of football left in this season,” Dorsey said. “We have some very talented players on this team right now, as we speak. As we sat down and talked to the players today, I expressed that to them. I said, ‘You know what? We have a lot of football left here, you guys.’ And they understand that.

“But as I look at this thing, our job is to support Gregg and his staff right now, put those players in position to succeed. And we’re going to do this moving forward.”

For now, Williams is in charge as the Browns prepare to face the Kansas City Chiefs (7-1) on Sunday.

Williams went 17-31 in three seasons as Buffalo’s coach from 2001-03, but the animated assistant is perhaps best known for being suspended by the NFL for the 2012 season for his role in the “Bountygate” scandal that rocked the New Orleans Saints.

Also, running backs coach Freddie Kitchens has been promoted to offensive coordinator. Haslam said Kitchens called plays during the team’s preseason game against Detroit.

Jackson was hired in 2016 by the Haslams, whose six years ownership have been marked by nearly constant change and bad football. The Haslams stuck by Jackson despite a 1-15 record in his first season and then after the Browns lost all 16 games last season, joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams in league history to go 0-16.

But beyond the lopsided losses, quarterback changes and bad luck, the Browns have been constantly saddled with drama and dysfunction under Jackson, who came to Cleveland after serving as Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator and went 8-8 as Oakland’s head coach in 2011.

Last week, Jackson’s offer to help Haley following a loss in Tampa Bay underscored another power struggle as Jackson fought to stay in control.

Following Sunday’s game, Jackson downplayed any dispute with his offensive coordinator.

“There’s nothing wrong with my relationship with Haley,” Jackson said. “I never said I wanted to take over play calling. I said wanted to help, that’s it. But today it’s this big thing because sure, everyone is going to look and say what’s going on. The only thing that is going on is that we need to get better. We need to coach better, we need to play better.”

Jackson’s firing comes one day after the Cleveland Cavaliers fired coach Tyronn Lue, who led the team to an NBA title in 2016 but was struggling in his first season without star LeBron James. The Cavs are 0-6.