Hue Jackson, The Browns Must Maintain This New Winning Energy

    The city of Cleveland has been on the come up during the last few years. 

    The Indians are perennial contenders with Terry Francona at the helm and nearly won a World Series in 2016. LeBron James returned home in 2014-15 and made Cleveland basketball relevant again and the center of the NBA universe for four seasons, fulfilling his promise of bringing a championship home to Cleveland in 2016. 

    The Browns are the only major sports franchise in the city that hasn’t gotten on board the money train. The Browns are coming off two seasons in which they went a combined 1-31 and Hue Jackson was blessed with the unenviable task of rebuilding the franchise. If it didnt work out, theyd just hire another coach. That’s been the team’s M.O. since 2000 when they let a young Bill Belichick get away and began an inauspicious run of nine coaches in 18 years.

    For most teams, winning a regular season NFL game is appreciated but also met with reserved enthusiasm because on any given Sunday a team can win or lose.

    Its nothing new. Unless youre the Cleveland Browns.

    LeBron James on Twitter

    Congratulations @Browns!!!!!

    Thursday nights  21-17 win over the Jets wasn’t your typical regular-season victory. It was the franchise’s first win in 19 games and further proof that Jackson has weathered the storm and the negative feelings and the losses and the lack of talent and the rotted culture and he’s finally putting his winning imprint on the Browns. 

    With all due respect to Tyrod Taylor — who was doing an admirable job as starting quarterback for a Browns team that is obviously improved in every aspect –Jackson also has a franchise quarterback for the first time in his coaching career and Cleveland fans can more clearly and confidently see a future with Jackson at the helm. 

    It seems that everyone in football has a different energy concerning the Browns today. 

    Thursday evening will forever be remembered as the night Hue Jackson officially became the coach of the Browns. The night that the fan base and NFL haters will say he broke through the stench of the past decade and made Cleveland a team that the city could be proud of again. 

    Adam Schefter on Twitter

    End the promotion. Unlock the refrigerators. The NFL’s No. 1 overall pick has led the Browns to their first overall win in 635 days. Cheers, Cleveland.

    Baker Mayfield certainly deserves some of the credit. Then again, there’s never been a coach in the NFL who could win without a reliable, talented signal caller. There are a few exceptions, but generally speaking, a coach’s job can’t even begin until he has some electricity behind center. Not just a game manager, but a game-changer as Mayfield shows himself to be last night, taking over for a concussed Taylor with the Browns offense looking inept and unable to create any progress. 

    Mayfield entered the game late in the second quarter and immediately started throwing darts to receivers and moving the ball, setting the stage for a second half that would feature the No. 1 and No. 3 overall picks in the draft. NY Jets No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold was the only rookie quarterback to start the season on the field. He was the talk of New York the past couple of weeks, but Baker won the first clash of the 2018 elite quarterback draft. He finished the game 17-23 for 201 yards and caught a TD from his wide receiver on the game-winning drive.

    NFL on Twitter

    A long-awaited victory. @bakermayfield and Hue Jackson share a moment postgame. #NYJvsCLE #Browns https://t.co/CETqusuvFu

    Not only did Mayfield prove to the world that he can start and succeed in this league, but his instant effectiveness also made Hue Jackson and the Cleveland front office look like geniuses. All of those people who doubted the Browns and Jackson because of “past failures” got a hard dose of reality and glimpse into the future.  

    After three games, Cleveland is 1-1-1 and could easily be 3-0 if they weren’t still infected with the find any way to lose gene, but maybe thats gone now.  For the first time in a long time, when you examine the Browns franchise, they have strengths at every invaluable position. The quarterback is electric and his backup is starter material in case of any injury problems. The running backs are productive and the wide receivers, despite the loss of Josh Gordon are on the rise. The defense has been decent since Jackson arrived and with the additions of Myles Garrett a few years back and 2018 first-rounder Denzel Ward, it’s clear that this Cleveland team is fully exorcised of past demons and ineptitude. 

    NFL on Twitter

    FINAL: The @Browns WIN! #Browns #NYJvsCLE (by @Lexus) https://t.co/srsMoh8umL

    Cleveland Browns fans should be ecstatic about the future, especially with Jackson leading the way. When Cleveland kicked former GM Sashi Brown to the curb for his failed talent evaluations, he retained Jackson and teamed him up with John Dorsey. Owner Jimmy Haslam believes in Jackson’s ability and didn’t panic as most coaches would do when your team is an automatic W for the opposition. 

    Jackson had already been a victim of the quick hook that seems to haunt African-American head coaches. Once upon a time, Jackson was considered one of the top NFL offensive minds. In a league thirsty for innovative game planning, he unfathomably went from leading the Raiders to a respectable  8-8 season in 2011 as a rookie coach to coaching the Bengals secondaryin 2012. Go figure.

    Theres no explaining why Jacksons job options were so thin, considering in his two seasons with the Raiders, the last as HC, he revamped an offense that ranked 31st in the NFL and transformed it into a unit that cracked the top 10 in total yardage in 10 and 11.

    Jackson was once one of the shining minority coaching candidates around, now hes one of 8 in the NFL. Same number as 2011 when he was wet behind the ears. Probably a bit more reserved now, back then Jackson spit that tough, confident football lingo and preached a philosophy of bullying other teams to victory in the mold of Al Davis old school Raiders. 

    Then came the fateful press conference in 12, during which Jackson basically said the organization was a joke, challenged ownership and vowed to take more control moving forward. Jacksons overzealousness didnt sit well with new owner Mark Davis. About a week later, GM Reggie McKenzie was hired and Jackson was fired. He was put on HC time-out by the league and didnt sniff a leadership gig until Cleveland pegged him as the miracle man in 2016.  

    According to a Sports Illustrated article in 2013, Jackson was perceived as a self-centered opportunist with an admittedly brash demeanor back then. Hue denied being selfish but was unapologetic about the remaining perception.  

    Hue Jackson Is Not Gonna Sit Down And Be Quiet

    Hue Jackson is one of the top NFL offensive minds. In a league thirsty for innovative game planning, he unfathomably went from leading the Raiders to an 8-8 season in 2011 to coaching the Bengal’s secondary last season. Go figure.

    Some people run from confrontation. I dont run from confrontation. I never have, Jackson told SI. Some people want you to cower, and there is a time for all of that. But if you ask me something Im going to tell you. Everybody is not for everybody. Im very vocal with my players, Im very confident in what Im able to do, and sometimes people take that wrong. But I cant worry about what the next man is thinking.

    Maybe the Raiders weren’t ready for a strong, brash, opinionated African-American coach who knows what he wants and how he intends to go about getting it. It seems the rest of the league punished Jackson as well by not extending any head coaching offers to him. 

    But Oakland’s loss was Cleveland’s gain and by years end Jackson will be owed apologies from the many people who doubted his abilities, the team that fired him after one winning season and a Twittersphere that tried to lump him into Cleveland’s shady recent history, when he was a diamond in the rough all along.  

    Some people are still going to throw shade, like all of the folks blasting Jackson for not immediately announcing that he’s benching Taylor for Mayfield. 

    Doug Lesmerises on Twitter

    Hue Jackson on not playing Baker Mayfield until an injury made the decision for him https://t.co/4Zdk5OBdDD

    The world knows Taylor is no longer the starter, but Jackson wanted to give his QB the respect of speaking to him about it before making the move. 

    Jemele Hill on Twitter

    Considering how many people criticized the Browns for taking Baker Mayfield, can’t say those same people get to criticize Hue Jackson for not immediately naming him the starter after this game. I weirdly get why Jackson didn’t.

    That kind of respect for his players, patience and unwavering character is what makes Jackson a winner and has turned Cleveland around. 

    JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.