Hooley: Hue Jackson can't get out of his own way

posted by Bruce Hooley -

The Cleveland Browns have infamously made the playoffs only once in the 18 years of their existence as an expansion team.

That's a lot of losing, but never have the Browns lost more than they lost last season, when they went 1-15 under new coach Hue Jackson.

The oddity of Browns Nation is that, despite the one win, Jackson remains not only popular, but among the top reasons why fans think the playoffs loom just around the corner.

I'm not convinced...not because I don't think Jackson can coach, but because I'm not sure his gifts extend to being a head coach or that he's quite the quarterback expert he's often labeled.

For instance, this past week, on the Browns in-house radio show, Jackson started talking about second-round pick DeShone Kizer, who went 4-8 last season as a sophomore at Notre Dame.

“I don't know that I've coached a guy with this kind of skill set,” Jackson said. “But he's a big powerful man, so I know he's going to get compared to another guy on another team in our division. "I'm not going to talk about [Ben Roethlisberger] because he's that big and he has that kind of arm."

Uh, what?

This is just dumb on so many levels.

First, If you don't want to compare Kizer to Ben Roethlisberger, then DON'T!

Second, Hue Jackson has coached Carson Palmer and Joe Flacco, not to mention Andy Dalton. Let's not compare an NFL rookie yet to take his first professional snap to a guy who's won a Super Bowl (Flacco) or two other guys Dalton and Palmer) who've been to the playoffs a bunch.

Does Hue Jackson not get that labeling Kizer some kind of freak quarterback talent package puts pressure not just on Kizer but on Jackson, himself?

Good coaches do everything they can to lower expectations, not raise them. Particularly on teams that won one game and aren't close to winning more than three or four this year.

This is what bothers me about Jackson and makes me question whether he's anything other than a great position coach and a phenomenal self-promoter.

Let's review his record on quarterbacks last year, shall we?

He said Robert Griffin III's off-season tryout was, and I quote, "the best quarterback workout I've ever seen."

That great RG3 workout?

It was against air....not against any players.

After drafting Cody Kessler 99th overall, in the third round -- two rounds before anyone projected -- Hue told us, "You're going to have to trust me on this one."

But nothing Kessler did last year changes the narrative that he's anything above a career NFL backup.

Kessler is a small guy with a small arm. That just doesn't work in the AFC North, which Jackson seemed to confirm when he said something else about Kizer.

"He's a big man,” Jackson said. “He has the AFC North stature that I love. He has a big arm.''

So, should we trust you on Kessler or believe you on Kizer?

This feeds my suspicion that Jackson will say anything that sounds good in the moment, but ultimately there's a Wizard of Oz, pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain quality to a lot of what he says.

If it was just Jackson doing this, it would be one thing. But it seems everyone with the Browns has a mental disconnect.

Sashi Brown, the guy atop the management food chain, said after they drafted Kizer that Cleveland wasn't done looking for quarterback candidates.

"We won't rest until we solidify that position,” Brown said. “It's not solidified right now, so we know we need the guys here to work their tails off and Hue is going to develop them as much as possible and push them to be their best. We also know that until we get it solidified, we're going to continue looking for players all over the league and in college."

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Friday, Brown reversed field and said that it, "would surprise me" if Cleveland added any more quarterbacks, including a veteran.

It's not that I think either strategy is inherently right or wrong, but the same guy ought to be saying the same thing about something as important as quarterback. He shouldn't be saying two dramatically different things a week apart.

I also don't like the big talk out of No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett. Shortly after he was drafted, Garrett said this about Roethlisberger:

“I'm going to try to take [Big Ben] down...I can't wait to face him."

The Browns are 2-21 against Roethlisberger during his career.

You just don't trash talk a two-time Super Bowl champion who owns your team before taking your first snap.

Big Ben, predictably, had a conversation with his offensive line about it and Garrett is already a marked man.

"(Maurkice Pouncey) got a big kick out of it,.” Roethlisberger said. “All of my linemen enjoyed hearing it. They can't wait to get started. I can't, either."

Maybe someday, Hue Jackson will learn. Maybe someday, Browns players will learn. But I question how they can ever learn to be anything other than all talk and no action when that's the example their head coach is setting for them.

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