CLEVELAND — Former Browns coach Hue Jackson said owner Jimmy Haslam gave him a contract extension midway through a winless 2017 season and that he was lied to from the start about the team’s rebuilding plans.
During a wide-ranging radio interview Monday with ESPN 850, Jackson said the Browns’ efforts to improve while he was with them were flawed by philosophical differences.
Jackson said he was never told by either Haslam or then-general manager Sashi Brown that the Browns were in a roster teardown or else he wouldn’t have accepted the job. He was Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator before being hired in Cleveland, where he went 0-16 in his second season and 3-36-1 over two-plus seasons before being fired.
“There is no doubt I was lied to by ownership and the executive team,” Jackson said, adding there was a divide between the coaching staff and management.
“They were going to be football plus analytics, but they intentionally made it football versus analytics,” he said. “They were going to take two years and they were going to find a way to use us as an experiment to make sure that they got the data that they needed for it to get better — at the expense of whoever — and that’s not right.
“That’s not the way it should be.”
A team spokesman said the Browns would not comment on Jackson’s claims.
Jackson said he signed a contract extension midway through the 2017 season — he was 1-23 at the time with Cleveland — and wanted to make it public, but the team refused.
“I think we can all understand and think why it was not made public,” he said. “Because it would’ve really set the tempo for what exactly was going on there.”
The 55-year-old said he’s writing a book about his time with the Browns. The team went 1-15 in Jackson’s first season, winless the second — joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams to go 0-16 — and he was dismissed after a 2-5-1 start in 2018.
But, as far as he’s concerned, there’s plenty of blame to share.
“I want to make sure everybody knows and understands exactly what went on in Cleveland,” Jackson said. “The truth needs to come out. I am tired of being the brunt of jokes and memes and things that people say when they don’t know.”
Jackson, who is currently out of the NFL, said his chances to win in Cleveland were undermined by the team’s overreliance on statistical data and dismal drafting. He said the team “also lied to try and paint the picture that I was against analytics.”
“People need to go back and look at those drafts and see where those players are today,” he said. “That should tell you all you need to know. They’re not on this team. They haven’t been. Some of them aren’t even in the league, but we were were expected to win.
“You can’t win that way.”
Jackson understands that the team’s win-loss record goes next to his name in the record books. But he feels others, including Paul DePodesta, the Browns’ chief strategy officer, and current GM Andrew Berry, who was in player personnel with the club when he was there, also are culpable.
“I’ll take responsibility for my role in it, but why isn’t everybody else taking their responsibility for it?” he said. “There’s people that are leading the organization today in Cleveland that was just as big a part of that as I was. And those guys are getting paid for doing that. So obviously they were paid for losing. Is that what we’re saying?
“I’m vilified about losing. This is a joke to me.”