Monday’s blunt, candid comments from former Browns coach Hue Jackson caused many to say, “Why now? Why, more than two and a half years after being fired by the Browns, now?”
The answer is simple. Jackson’s buyout ended with the 2020 season. If he’d said before the completion of the most recently completed season the things he said on ESPN 850, the Browns quite possibly would have stopped paying him, citing a violation of the terms of his contract.
It’s not an uncommon approach. Coaches and executives while still being paid by a former employer will say nothing derogatory about the team, on or even off the record. Once the buyout ends, the tune can change.
Rarely does the coach or executive do that, however, for two reasons. First, the passage of time usually makes the coach or executive less salty about what transpired. Second, the coach or executive realizes that saying bad things about a former NFL employer will make a prospective NFL employer less likely to become that person’s next former NFL employer.
Jackson, free and clear to speak without losing money from the Browns, remains both salty and unconcerned about the potential damage his words may do to his employment prospects — possibly because he has no employment prospects. Also, Jackson has written a book, and he’s quite possibly trying to find someone to pay him to publish it.
His performance as a coach could make that a hard sell. Thus, he needs to try to sell the notion that the unprecedented struggles of the Browns weren’t his fault.
The toughest part of Jackson’s case comes from the fact that, after going 3-36-1 in his 2.5-year tenure with the team, the Browns have gone 22-18. Even Freddie Kitchens, who clearly and obviously was unfit for the job, won twice as many games as Jackson despite having only one season as head coach.
Thus, it’s too late for Jackson to shift blame for the team’s failures on his watch. And it’s too hard to draw a bright line between the end of his disastrous tenure and the new era that dawned the moment the curtain fell on 3-36-1.