Hard Knocks debut foreshadows potential dysfunction

AP

The first episode of Hard Knocks juxtaposes a locker room full of guys desperate to turn the page on two years of horrible performances against a coaching staff led by a guy whose name is on the front cover of the Book of One-and-Thirty-One. The obivous disconnect was, for the most part, implied. In one scene, it definitely wasn’t.

At a meeting led by coach Hue Jackson, V.P. of player health and development Joe Sheehan recited a list of the players who would be missing periodic practices with the goal of keeping them healthy. Then, new running backs coach Freddie Kitchens explained, diplomatically and tactfully, the importance of having as many players available for practice as possible.

Said Jackson in response: “I think, for the new coaches here, we’re not taking guys out because they’re special or anything like that. We’re taking them out for preventative measures and normally the team has understood that. . . . Duke [Johnson] has had a history of pulling [muscles] and if we end up losing him or missing him, it doesn’t help us. Guys, this is all for preventative measures.”

Then, new offensive coordinator Todd Haley chimed in, far less diplomatically or tactfully.

“I have an opinion on it,” Haley said. “We need to get so much done, you know? And I know I said that to you and we joke about it, but if we live in our fears, I mean our team has to get mentally tougher and be able to fight through the sh-t that we’ve gotta fight through. We’ve got to change this drastically and if we’ve got guys that haven’t done sh-t sitting around doing nothing, you know, I just don’t know how we’re going to do it.”

That didn’t sit all that well with Jackson, who quickly reminded everyone in the room who runs it.

“I used to sit in the same chair you guys sit in and I used to feel the same way,” Jackson said. “I just wanted to kill them, OK? Until all of a sudden I sat in this chair and then they’re not there, and you don’t get them to practice, and you can’t get them through, and then you don’t have them for three weeks. And I’m not living in my fears, that’s real. And I think we all can appreciate that.”

Jackson a few moments later revisited the reality that he’s in charge.

“Guys, listen, I’m excited about what you’re doing,” Jackson said. “I’m going to say it again. But the chair I sit in is a little different then the chair you guys sit in. I get to watch from a different lens. OK, and I think you guys can all respect that. At the end of the day, I get to drive this bus, and I’m going to get it the way I want it. That’s period. That’s just how it works. OK? Al [Saunders] taught me a long time ago. What is it, Al? Give it to me.”

“It’s your team, you can do whatever the hell you want,” Saunders said.

“When it’s your team, you can do whatever the hell you want,” Jackson said. “OK? So this one’s mine. So that’s just the way it’s going to be, and that is of respect of everybody in this room. But this is how we do it, and we’ll always have these kind of discussions. Because I’m only trying to make it better. If there’s something we can do better, we’re going to do it better. It’s just that simple.”

It’s curious that Jackson would close by saying that he’s willing to consider better ways of doing things when his first reaction to a suggestion from his new offensive coordinator involving a potentially better way of handling practice time wasn’t to engage in a full discussion regarding the respective merits of the various approaches but to instantly go straight to the Al Haig card.

If that’s what happens when the team is 0-0, what happens if the Browns start 0-5, again?

Making the Hue-Haley exchange far more remarkable was the fact that it happened on camera, and that Kitchens, Haley, and Jackson all knew it was happening on camera. They knew it during and, more importantly, they knew it before. So it’s fair to wonder whether, for example, Kitchens and Haley planned a sort-of good cop/bad cop routine, with Kitchens gingerly putting the issue on the tee and Haley taking an oversized driver to it.

Despite his well-known flaws (including whatever it was that compelled him to think that pulling that stunt on camera in one of the first training-camp meetings would be a good idea), Haley’s record as a head coach is 19-26. Jackson’s is 9-39. And Haley has spent the last six years coordinating one of the better offenses in all of football, undoubtedly dealing while in Pittsburgh with the very issue that was under consideration during that meeting.

Then again, Haley quite possibly assumed that the entire exchange would end up on the cutting room floor. Although the Browns (supposedly) have no editorial control over the show, they have the ability to screen the show in advance, in the hopes of squashing any content of a “competitive nature.” Surely, if G.M. John Dorsey and/or coach Hue Jackson believed that the public airing of an initial batch of slightly soiled undergarments could prompt fans and media to scrutinize every aspect of the relationship between coach and offensive coordinator for signs of implosion and/or coup d’état, NFL Films would have agreed to kill it.

While it makes for a much better TV show to include the scene, it doesn’t necessarily make for a much better season for the Cleveland Browns, if one of the narratives becomes when and if the Hue Jackson/Todd Haley partnership turns openly tempestuous. Then again, that may be what it takes to persuade ownership to finally give Dorsey the ability to do what should have been done after the team finished 0-16 a year ago.

93 responses to “Hard Knocks debut foreshadows potential dysfunction

  1. Hard knocks sucks I hope my team never makes it. With everything at stake in the league you have to put up with a camera crew following you around while you are trying to do your job. Why not follow around cheerleaders and what them get ready. I bet that would have higher ratings.

  2. Mind blowing. As a head coach, your team goes 0-16 (1-31) in your tenure. And the moment experienced coaches give an opinion on how to do things better you knock them down with the “I’m the boss card” and not even try to listen?? wow! This shows a clear major issue for the Browns the last two years.

  3. I don’t know about you but when I disagree with the boss I discuss it with him/her in private and I’m tactful about it.
    And most times I don’t say anything, even if I know I’m right.
    I don’t bother fighting the boss for minor wins, I remain silent.
    It’s only the really important issues that I’ll bring up.

    I once worked for a guy who hated blue ink. He insisted we use black pens rather than pens with blue ink.
    OK, whatever, I’m not going to say a word.

  4. I don’t know, man, maybe I’m crazy, but I just have a feeling about this team. Nothing crazy, I’m still talking like 5-11, but I think these guys have too much talent now to not win a few games here and there. Taylor is as decent a QB as they’ve had in recent years, and if you get Gordon and Landry on the field at the same time, these guys can generate some points. And they have some real good young players on the defensive side of the ball as well. I don’t know how the OL will hold up, and that’s hugely important, but it won’t hurt to have a guy they call T-Mobile with some escapability at QB. I’m interested to see these guys this year.

  5. As a long suffering Browns fan, I’m with Haley on this. The only way Hue keeps his job is to stay out of the way.

  6. I’m SHOCKED there hasn’t been a total housecleaning from the GM DOWN…… SHOCKED!!!!

  7. I understand the premise that if you limit a players reps than you’r reducing the number of opportunities for the player to get injured. Conversely, don’t those reps help a player condition their bodies to withstand the workload of a game? So by limiting reps you may also be setting the player up to be ill-prepared to handle a full workload.

  8. Some of you trolls on here are salivating for another 0-16 season. It’s not going to happen. Settle in and get ready to watch the best comeback story in NFL history. Also, stop hating…….focus your energy on something positive.

  9. And can the NFL please outlaw those Spiderman gloves? Why do you need gloves when it’s 90 degrees? C’mon Man! Let’s see you catch without them.

  10. “At the end of the day, I get to drive this bus, and I’m going to get it the way I want it. That’s period. That’s just how it works. OK?”

    ===============================================

    One [expletive] win in the last 2 years and Jackson still wants to do it his way. Unbelievable.

  11. Does anyone really think that Haley thinks he should be reporting to a guy who is 1 and 31 over the last two seasons? He saw an opportunity here. That is all.

  12. baltimorons says:
    August 8, 2018 at 10:58 am
    Haley will be head coach within a couple of years. Hue is in over his head. Easy to see.
    ——————————————
    A team already tried that and Haley was an unmitigated disaster…

  13. “The Al Haig card”. Bravo Mike. Made me spit my morning coffe out. I’m not qualified to be a head coach or any coach. But I am qualified to accept if you keep doing the same thing over and over and still fail then maybe it’s time for a change.

  14. Just from reading this snippet, I can see the writing on the wall.

    Jackson’s authority is already up for discussion and he is desperate in fighting for it.

    Todd Haley 1, Hue Jackson 0.

    NOT a good way to start a season.

    Fans of Cleveland: Our hearts go out to you. You deserve better.

    One day soon hopefully…

  15. Hue Jackson is weak, he’s buddy buddy with his players, not a good recipe players need to be held accountable

  16. jimmyjohns01 says:
    August 8, 2018 at 10:54 am
    Or maybe it’s just fake drama to increase ratings?
    _________
    Seriously?
    It’s a football team, not an acting class.
    They aren’t going to make themselves look bad just for ratings on a show that 32 teams don’t want to be a part of.

  17. Reaching on this one Mike. They’re discussing one of the few decent players they’ve had over the last couple of years practicing. Hayley being so gruff is why he’s in Cleveland now and hasn’t gotten another HC job. Jackson is right. He has to watch out for the health of the roster because if they don’t have players, they’re going to be back in the same boat again of losing every week.

  18. Player repetitions improves players and team integration
    Player repetitions exposes one to injury
    They are both right.

  19. If “Truck Stop Jimmy” Haslam sees this and doesn’t fire Hue Jackson, then Haslam is the primary problem at this point. Jackson clearly is a terrible head coach, but if he is actively keeping guys from practicing because they’re too “fragile,” then he deserves to be fired.

  20. On one hand I feel sorry for Hue Jackson because his mom and brother just died.

    On the other hand, I feel sorry for Browns fans and players, because this guy is dreadful. Nobody should return after a 1-15 season, let alone one that is followed by 0-16!

    Bengals and Steelers fans love Hue though …as do Ravens fans.

  21. Dysfunction Junction

    Hue may want to look at the Jags who used to have a coach and GM that were soft on the players. In comes Coughlin to instill old school toughness and suddenly they’re in the AFC Championship instead of 3rd or 4th place in their division.

    Being soft isn’t going to achieve a turn around in Cleveland

  22. kissbillsrings says:
    August 8, 2018 at 11:13 am

    I’m SHOCKED there hasn’t been a total housecleaning from the GM DOWN…… SHOCKED!!!!
    ——————–

    There was, except for some reason, they skipped the coach.

  23. I’m rooting for the Browns. No, seriously. I would love to see a Browns/Pats SB. Those long suffering bastids deserve a break. OTOH if NE isn’t there I don’t care who else plays.

  24. Todd Haley got put in his place with the quickness. You can certainly see that people are frustrated with Gordon’s absence. Sucks that people with high talent are given so many chances in life.

  25. whooligun says:
    August 8, 2018 at 11:30 am

    Fire Haley. You don’t show up the coach like that in front of everyone.
    ———————-

    Fire him for what? Not practicing and not being prepared is part of reason so many players are getting hurt early in the season.

  26. Todd Haley is right as can be, he has coached on winning teams and has seen what it takes. Besides talent, discipline and toughness are critical to a winning team.
    How else could essentially the same Jaguars team go from a joke to playing in the AFC championship ??
    Tom Coughlin demanding toughness, excellence and being 5 minutes early.
    “Players coaches” are usually losing coaches and Hue won’t be coaching that team for long if he doesn’t change quickly.

  27. Haley is a jackwagon. Always has been. In this situation? Where he HAS to think he is the HC in waiting? Even worse. Hue’s a terrible HC, but I have to agree with his method here. You can’t use a guy who is not there. If the DC and OC and assts can’t get their guys up to speed knowing about the scheduled rests for certain players? They should not have jobs. All that said? Haley will end up getting fired, not Hue.

  28. itsalwaysabout says:
    August 8, 2018 at 11:47 am
    I’m rooting for the Browns. No, seriously. I would love to see a Browns/Pats SB. Those long suffering bastids deserve a break. OTOH if NE isn’t there I don’t care who else plays.

    You do realize Browns and Pats are both in the AFC?

  29. Dick Vermeil, long known for his intense training camps, realized that he needed Isaac Bruce if the team were to be competitive. But Bruce had a history of pulling hamstrings. Nothing having to do with his conditioning, or God forbid his “toughness,” it was just a matter of how his body functioned. So Vermeil decided to limit Bruce to one practice per day during camp. The result: Bruce stayed healthy and the Rams won the Super Bowl. This ain’t little league, where some meathead coach gets off on beating the crap out of his team, it’s about finding ways to win games.

  30. It’s ok to share your opinions but in the end the boss way goes…period. no problem with any of this. No need to make up fake news.

  31. A lot of people also missed the fact “don’t live in your fears” is a classic Tomlin line. It’s like Haley took hold of a gigantic carp and then slapped Hue right across the face with it.

    “I love the smell of napalm in the morning”

  32. The Brownies are a mess! And Landry’s diva mouth isn’t the answer. Looks like the Factory of Sadness will prevail.

  33. I actually see the fine line between both sides. You need players to stay healthy, and you want players to keep plugging away. I think for once, Hue is actually in control of what’s going on, instead of management and Sashi Brown telling him how he needs to run it. This stuff happens in NFL/college meeting rooms all the time. It’s no different than a Manager telling his supervisors what needs to be done.

  34. Hue Jackson, with all his years in the league and recent historic failures, has learned nothing. After 1-31 he apparently wants to do things the same old way and puff his chest out that he is in charge. Well congratulations you lousy egotistic loser.

    It one meeting he has completely undermined the chain of command, cutting off the legs of his coaches and players who are attempting to be leaders. He’s telling the team that come to Coach Hue if anyone gets tough on you and don’t listen to anyone making you do something that makes you uncomfortable.

  35. Hue Jackson is an utter moron, everyone in the world knows it. I bet everyone on the staff from Dorsey on down can’t wait to rid themselves of him. Haley showing him up is just proof of how much they detest him (rightfully so). Browns have talent, but until they have a leader they are going nowhere. Another miserable season awaits.

  36. alanhaysgrant says:

    August 8, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    Dick Vermeil, long known for his intense training camps, realized that he needed Isaac Bruce if the team were to be competitive. But Bruce had a history of pulling hamstrings. Nothing having to do with his conditioning, or God forbid his “toughness,” it was just a matter of how his body functioned. So Vermeil decided to limit Bruce to one practice per day during camp. The result: Bruce stayed healthy and the Rams won the Super Bowl. This ain’t little league, where some meathead coach gets off on beating the crap out of his team, it’s about finding ways to win games.
    —————————————————————–
    Isaac Bruce is one player. And I know Hue only mentioned Duke by name, but sounded like Haley was talking about multiple players, and the culture in general. Then you’ve got Landry saying basically the same thing in a separate meeting. Hue seems more worried about being everyone’s buddy than the head coach. He’s the anti-Belichick.

  37. The only thing this clears up is what has been going on the past 2 years in Browns training camp with the mysterious ”soft tissue” injuries. The players were not injured but the bus driver was making the call to err on the side of caution. Hey coach: You are what your record is. Right now your record is 1-31. You might want to listen to coaches that have actually, I don’t know… WON more than 1 regular season game in the NFL before? Call me crazy…

  38. So for all the people saying that Haley is right, what would making Duke Johnson practice and getting another soft tissue injury accomplish? That going to “toughen” him up? So another hamstring or calf strain going to make him a better player? Some of you are so stupid. Also, the people saying that Tom Coughlin “toughening” up the Jags is why they won last year are funny too. I thought it was probably all of the FA money they spent on good players, which Cleveland doesn’t have a lot of, but hey, that’s just me. I didn’t see anyone before last year saying the Browns were a dark horse for the playoffs, but I sure did for the Jags in 2016. Talent wins. Always has. We’ll see if Dorsey has started fixing that when they play some games.

  39. nflfan22 says:
    August 8, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    Healthy Conflict/debate is the opposite of dysfunction. We can’t assume it’s dysfunction based on words printed in a story.

    ———————————————————————————-

    “We” don’t have to assume anything. While I agree with your statement about healthy conflict/debate…that should have occured behind closed doors with the coaches only. Then, with all coaches on the same page; you address the players. The fact that Jackson & Haley decided to have this debate in front of the players in of itself equates to dysfunction.

  40. I truly believe that Hue Jackson became a “lame duck” coach the second Dorsey brought in Todd Haley as OC. Hue stated at the end of the season he did not need an OC. Dorsey felt differently. Mark my words, 0-5, or a 1-4 start and Haley will be the new HC.

  41. The only cause of dysfunction on the Browns is Hue Jackson. Without him, this could be a great team with the talent and coaches they now have. Send Hue packing and let him drive someone else’s bus!!!

  42. itsalwaysabout says:
    August 8, 2018 at 11:47 am
    I’m rooting for the Browns. No, seriously. I would love to see a Browns/Pats SB. Those long suffering bastids deserve a break. OTOH if NE isn’t there I don’t care who else plays.

    ——–

    A Pats/Browns SB? Ok, I am going to assume you are a kid and thus don’t understand some basics here. The SB is played between the AFC and NFC champions. Two teams from the same conference can never play one another in the SB. Since the Browns and Patriots are both in the AFC, what you propose in impossible.

  43. If the Browns can steal a win Week 1 it will equal their win total for the past 2 seasons combined. They should be practicing everybody who doesn’t have bones poking through the skin and treating Week 1 like the Super Bowl. But here’s Hugh thinking “If I can just keep this guy healthy until we’re 0-8….”

  44. Jackson was a disaster last year but resting people to protect against soft tissue injuries is a sensible decision. These are veteran guys. I can’t believe these guys won’t know the offense by Week 1 even when rested.

    I don’t know what else Hue Jackson could do there. That said, it’s a huge problem that he’s still running the show after burning the team last year.

  45. A discussion like this in training camp might help them instead of it happening in week 8 where it’s gonna hurt them.

  46. Hue Jackson is a joke. It’s an indictment of the times when a terrible African American HC who coddles the “brothers” keeps his job when a white HC would have been run out of town last year! I especially like the part of the show when Hue jumped on Mayfield for not coming in to practice two hours early like Taylor instead just one hour early. What is Mayfield going to learn from Lugwrench Taylor except how to suck at QB!

  47. When I read the headline I thought for a moment the Packers were on Hard Knocks this season.

  48. People complaining he should have brought it up in private, dont get it. They dont have time to play act for the cameras. It was a meeting room for a few coaches. That is where u do it. Hugh has been all for Hard Knocks, this is what he wants, so tough situations are gonna be on camera. If he didnt like it he could have gotten it removed. They other coaches did nothing wrong. They cant not do their job bc the cameras are there.

  49. is not hard knocks, no way the browns do not want a player
    with minimal games played in the last few years and new
    quarterbacks to work with are allowing him to not come to camp
    because he will be on tv ?
    he is in rehab – you cannot get urine tested in rehab so any drugs
    he took can come out of his system
    – he cannot be cut in rehab and of course they will give him his free agent
    year rights early, the browns are not being classy just finally being a realist

  50. Out of the players they were discussing one got traded at the end of the week and one got a contract extension for being one of the best players on the team the last few years (yet Todd believed needed the reps for whatever reason).

    In other words in context the assistant coaches should have stayed in their lane because the head coach is privy to information that they don’t have. Especially since the two assistants in question have been on the team for 22 seconds.

    At the end of the day you have to remember that these assistants were available for the Browns to get because other teams got rid of them. Especially Haley who came in with a reputation of being a big mouth and over opinionated. If you supported him questioning Duke Johnson’s ability you’re not a Browns fan. A running back can’t be a playmaker on IR. The only thing I learned is why the Steelers decided to move on. His job is to call plays and it’s pretty to see how he can rub people the wrong way. I imagine he questioned the previous two head coaches he worked for like that as well.

  51. Duke Johnson is no Isaac Bruce. If he can’t physically perform if you push him in training camp, how many games is he going to last? In other words why is he even on the team. With the Browns’ record the past 2 years, no player should be coddled…

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!