Jason McCourty: “I was in Cleveland in 2017, there’s no way we were trying to win”

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Jason McCourty, who played on the 2017 Browns team that went 0-16, believes coach Hue Jackson was speaking the truth when he said owner Jimmy Haslam incentivized him to lose.

Although Jackson later softened his comments and Haslam denied the charge, McCourty said it was obvious that the Browns didn’t want to win.

“I was in Cleveland in 2017,” McCourty said on his podcast. “There’s no way we were trying to win. It was very obvious. That is to no surprise to anyone. You don’t need me to corroborate the story and say ‘We were tanking, we were trying to lose.’ Duh. I said this when I got to New England, you realize winning in the NFL is not easy, so you don’t want to take it for granted, you celebrate your wins. But the year I spent in Cleveland also taught me, winning ain’t this hard either. You don’t just go 1-31. It’s not that hard to figure out on the other end of it.”

McCourty said that even when team owners aren’t as blatant about it as Haslam and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross have been accused of being, the NFL itself incentivizes losing by giving the first overall pick in the NFL draft to the team with the worst record.

“So maybe there needs to be a lottery or something like the NBA does,” McCourty said.

Realistically, as long as the NFL incentivizes losing with the draft order (not to mention other incentives for losing like waiver claim priority and easier schedules), some teams are going to try to lose. The NFL should eliminate those perverse incentives.

66 responses to “Jason McCourty: “I was in Cleveland in 2017, there’s no way we were trying to win”

  1. The fact this is happening to Cleveland makes these stories so hilarious! Keep ’em coming!

  2. If this isn’t the first time, the first time is coming soon: guys washing themselves of being on terrible teams by claiming the team didn’t care.

  3. The issue with all of this is that the coach who takes an increased compensation for losing is as much to blame as an owner who offers it. If any of what Brian or Hue says is true, neither of them should ever work in the league again.
    BTW, this would also assume that the coordinators and players had to agree. The concept of the team and position meetings is to find the best way to beat the other team. You would have to undermine all of them to some degree.

  4. A team who just missed the playoffs cant be allowed to get the first overall pick in a lottery tho, maybe lottery between bottom 5 or 10 teams

  5. We all knew this was how the NFL works. They need to figure out a way to try and combat tanking. It’s unfair to the players and fans who put so much time into loving or playing for their team.

  6. Do you want parity, or not? Have you enjoyed these playoffs, where teams were so even they came down to a walk-off field goal or OT? Then you leave the system in place, as is. The draft serves a purpose. These aren’t “good teams” tanking, and this ain’t a Pete Rose situation.

  7. Qustion: who is going to eliminate the incentives? It’s like asking Congress to clean up corruption within it’s own ranks. There’s no incentive to do that either.

    I just feel for the fans who paid lots of money to watch a team lose on purpose so they could get a draft pick.

    Here’s an incentive: if an outside investigation proves teams were tanking, they should be bared from the draft for two years. But then again, who is going to adopt that policy? The same billionaires who created the mess.

  8. if Hue Jackson accepted an incentive payment for losing and completely destroying his reputation with a 3-36-1 record over 3 years, then he deserved to never work in the NFL as a head coach again.

    But c’mon, this really is such a ridiculous argument. There’s zero chance anyone with even an ounce of integrity would accept that. He sucked. They sucked. And now they are trying to blame it on ‘trying to lose’


  9. “Not trying to win” and financially incentivizing the HC to lose are two different things.

  10. Or maybe the Brown’s coaching staff was just inept. A draft lottery penalizes those teams that are truly bad but trying their best. I think there needs to be more oversight from the league office if it appears a team is deliberately trying to lose. Of course now that the league endorses gambling, they have no reason to make sure their sport is run honestly.

  11. The sport that incentivizes winning the most is European soccer. Look at EPL (example): Top 4 teams get to participate in the Champions League the following year and the bottom 3 teams get relegated to the 2nd division league. The Top 3 teams of the 2nd division league get promoted to the Premier League. The top teams get extra money and the bottom teams lose money (even sponsors). Time to stop rewarding last place finishers.

  12. owners should be owners and not a GM or a coach….what experiences do they have in player selection and X’S and O’s …..NONE…..

  13. Any organization that hires Hue Jackson as a head coach clearly does not want to win. You can implode the team further if you give the guy enough power to make personnel decisions. He’s a convenient patsy, and only now he’s realizing it. A convenient patsy.

  14. Well people seem to forget that the NFL can ‘script’ outcomes legally so paying someone to do this [IF this is even true, my feeling is that they are crying racism for their lack of abilities] would be perfectly legal and a NON story.

    I also have to ask the obvious question of do you honestly think that the TV sponsors don’t lean on the NFL due to the amount of BILLIONS they give the NFL? TV must have their ratings.. That they pay for [tv shows, movies, etc].

    People think that the “Quiz show law” prevents fixing or scripting but that’s not true because the NFL isn’t covered under this law.

    The NFL is brings in between 14 and 16 Billions dollars yearly.. now ask yourself do you really think they’d let that go to chance??

  15. Bearfan54 says:
    February 5, 2022 at 5:44 am
    Or, a team could just hire me. I’m a born loser.

    That just means you would squeak out a win and lose the top pick by accident.

  16. curts6 says: “It’s unfair to the players and fans who put so much time into loving or playing for their team.”

    Fans and owners WANT tanking. While not all top picks are guaranteed stars, the odds are significantly higher. I’d rather have the top 5 pick of EVERY round.

    Cheering for a team stuck in mediocrity for decades is worst.

  17. @whyevenbother, the EPL to me is a more broken system because you have the same teams (more or less) competing for the top spots every year, and others have no chance to ever come near the top of the league. The NFL is not perfect but look at the Bengals winners of a total of six games the past two seasons and now they are in the super bowl with the help of two top draft picks. To me that’s a sign of a system that for the most part works fairly well in regards to the draft structure.

  18. I’ve said it before…a draft playoffs system would have given the NFL the extra games it wanted and eliminated the risk of tanking. The bottom 8-10 teams would have a playoff (make then the Thurs and Monday night games). Winning moves you closer to #1. The “championship” game could replace the Pro Bowl.
    The games would be highly rated because they matter, the NFL would get its extra games, and there wouldn’t be any tanking…especially if the NFL sweetened the playoff game bonus checks for players.

  19. Maybe I’m looking at this from the wrong perspective, but isn’t the ultimate goal to win a superbowl? I’d say all of the teams that may have tried to lose were still actively seeking that goal, just not for the current year. They were playing the long game to hopefully get a franchise QB so they could be competitive later. I’d have a way bigger issue if they were point shaving, but I’d speculate gambling lines reflected the expectations that they’d lose so no one was being cheated out of money.

  20. One of the worst teams in recent years. Tanking by accident. They just sucked. Don’t change one of the things that makes the NFL work through the draft just because the Browns have been appalling for decades.

  21. Brian Flores has single handedly ruined Super Bowl week for 2 great teams. I hope your happy Flores.

  22. Ogre2005 says:
    February 5, 2022 at 7:24 am
    Then you should have said something in 2017 & not 5 years later
    He did. It said so in the article. Should he have held a press conference?

  23. Collusion is always a weakness of a control mechanism. Doesn’t mean the draft process is wrong. Without it, bad teams would stay bad for too long and that’s simply bad for business, losing fans in significant regions.

  24. They literally played a couple of years without viable QBs. If that’s not trying to lose, I don’t know what is.

  25. So mccourty is saying he wasn’t trying? It’s a team effort. Clearly he didn’t do anything to help change the culture.

  26. I always thought tanking was quietly acknowledged by everyone. Teams have always placed key players on IR a bit early. Time to have a better look at some of the second stringers in the last few games. The players that play – are fighting for a job. They aren’t tanking, but their opponents are first stringers – probably fighting for playoff seeding.

    I’m in favor of a lottery system, but just for the bottom 3 teams.

  27. @haanster… point well taken, provided there was no intentional tanking to gain incentives (higher draft picks)… my example was merely just to provide a talking point as to the reason not to incentivize losing… if last place teams knew they were going to lose something, there wouldn’t even be this conversation of potential “tanking for tua” or “suck for luck” —

  28. Way to eliminate tanking is tie player pay to wins and 10% limit of total pay to any one player

  29. Tanking for the draft has never worked out. 1st off over 50% of the picks in the first round are busts within 2 years. There is no ‘guarantee’ pick. Hype for every player in the first round …yes…but results No. Even Lawrence…the holy grail pick….struggled a ton. Pick 2 Zack Wilson…yeaaaaa…pick 3 Trey Lance…flat out bad…and the lost goes on…for every Micah Parsons there are 20 bad picks…then there are the Rams who ditch the draft all together and keep winning. So don’t tell me or other smart nfl fans that the NBA system will work in the NFL to stop tanking…the reality is tanking for a pick hasn’t worked and doesn’t work. Lastly if a team is tanking they kill their hopes with the free agents, no good player is going to take equal money to go to the bad team…they’ll always choose the better team if dollars are the same. Mic drop

  30. Tanking can be as simple as starting a bad QB where the players perceive his back up as better.

  31. No one seems to be mentioning the big elephant in the room, the NFL is now in bed with all the large sportsbooks around the country, and we’re hearing that at least two teams have thrown games or seasons?

    Not a good look.

  32. The Lions team that lost all their games sucked. They werent tanking they just sucked. Coaches, players,owners, the whole franchise was a dumpster fire. I hope all those players come out and say, oh ya we really were good players but lost to get draft picks. Please adjust our personal stats to relflect that so some of us can get into the hall.

  33. If all this was true, the Lions should have had the first pick in the draft the past 50 years. They should have put together the finest team of players ever assembled. What a joke. NEWS not all 32 teams will be good next year. Or the year after, or the year after that.
    The way the league is set up with salary caps and free agencies, you shouldn’t really have a dominating team year in year out. Except GM’s have learned creative financing and contract manipulation and can keep top players around by playing with the numbers. That is maybe the biggest thing the NFL should investigate and change.

  34. This Flores story is very convenient for Hue Jackson. Why didn’t we hear about this before from him? He’s trying to remove blame and convince people that he doesn’t stink as a coach. He’s terrible. I feel bad for Grambling.

  35. please stop with this losing crap. The facts are it was not a good team void of any real talent except for Joe Thomas and a few others, and on top of that poorly coached. Also, there was in fighting with coaches & management just a very poor organization at the time. One other thing you said no way we were trying to win, what does that say for you as a player and Jackson as a coach. Hugh Jackson should just move on he is not helping himself or his new team at Grambling. The facts are the facts Jackson new going in that they were gutting the team and rebuilding it was going to be a struggle and as it worked out, he was not up for the task.

  36. Not only should there be a draft lottery system, they should not give teams extra entries based on how low they finish. The bottom 10 teams should just get to draw numbers. The NBA weights their draft so much that teams are still tanking.

  37. So what you are saying, Jason, is that you basically collected a paycheck YOURSELF and wasn’t trying? You are a true rocket scientist.

  38. There are 18 non-playoff teams, they can be in 3 tiers for the lottery. The bottom 6 teams gets the most ping-pong balls than the middle 6 which have more balls than the bottom 6 teams. The playoff teams go by their playoff result standings and order accordingly.

  39. I’ve always thought a better way would be to divide the TV revenue more along the lines of wins and losses, rather than just 32 equal shares. It would also incentivize owners to hire GM’s are top talent evaluators. The draft should help teams become competitive, but the reason some teams stay bad for a long time is the owners don’t understand football enough to conduct a proper interview. They end up hiring the best salesman rather than a guy who can evaluate talent. I’d want to look at all a guy’s scouting reports over the last 10 years. Believe me, you’d be able to find a guy who knows talent. Everyone has hits and misses, but just like Babe Ruth, some guys have more hits.

  40. Good lord. It’s like you think tanking happens every year. Did Cleveland tank for Myles Garrett? No. He’s a great player but you’d tank for one position only. Qb. Who were they tanking for in 2018? Mayfield?

    The draft is fine as is. Just like hockey, with a weighted lottery, there would still be incentive to tank bc the worse your record the greater your odds.

  41. “The sport that incentivizes winning the most is European soccer”

    Not remotely comparable to NFL. Those soccer teams run youth academies hunting the country for talent signing 9 year olds to their youth teams and eventually promoting them as adults. Good teams stay on top because the good players want to play for them. There is no draft needed when every good child gets signed. They may lose some money by being demoted to a lower league but now they play fairer competition. Even with the NFLs system of perfect parity everyone hated the Patriots winning so much. Imagine having Arsenal in the NFL. If the NFL gave good players to good teams, Imagine how many more super bowls brady would have had.

  42. Get rid of the draft and the salary cap. let all players hit the open market. Blow it all up.

  43. Teams and owners that pay players to tank should absolutely be punished, but it’s like these teams are winning Super Bowls. Neither the Browns nor the Dolphins made the playoffs and both teams seem to be getting worse.

  44. Fans and owners WANT tanking. While not all top picks are guaranteed stars, the odds are significantly higher. I’d rather have the top 5 pick of EVERY round.

    Cheering for a team stuck in mediocrity for decades is worst.

    That is one way to view it. I would think a good percentage of fans wants to go and see their team be competitive and at the very least, give it their all. The problem I have with tanking is that it’s not foolproof. I watched the Edmonton Oilers blow like 5 high end prospects over and over. They constantly sucked even though their talent was increasing every year. I think return on investment will be much higher if you incentivize winning instead of incentivizing losing to possibly win.

    It really depends on the individual. As a patriots fan, I was fine with last year to try and maximize the picks but at least I got to watch a somewhat competitive season. I have no idea how jets fans do it. I really don’t. They always suck and literally never improve no matter what the talent level.

  45. For two decades the Patriots picked on average between 28 and 32, if they were fortunate not to have the guys in NY take their pick away.

    They still won. Head coaches and QBs matter.

  46. I think we need more context here. Did these teams start the season trying to lose? Did they decide to buy in after a bad start? I can understand if you’re halfway through the season and terrible but not from day 1.

    I saw the European soccer comment. I know it’ll never happen but the system of promotion and relegation that many soccer leagues use could be a way to stop teams from losing. You’re fighting for your right to stay in the best league and thus, make the most money. Obviously there’s much more nuance to it but it would be an interesting idea.

  47. Wait, after the Titans didn’t re-sign this guy for less money, the Browns gave him $6 mil and then traded him to NE. If two teams moved on from you after consecutive years, maybe you were a part of the problem.

  48. The Browns were a really bad team, and quite likely ownership and the FO EXPECTED to lose, and made some highly questionable personnel decisions (like, having 3 QBs on the 2017 roster with “0” NFL wins among them).
    Huebris is a bad coach who made some really, really bad game management and personnel-usage issues.
    But…to say a team actually WANTED to lose just seems incredible. That would imply decisions made real time, in game, that were purposefully bad…not your run-of-the-mill Hubris was not a good coach bad. I have a hard time buying that.
    Maybe I’m naïve.

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