The NFL announced this week that a league-initiated investigation of tanking allegations by former Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson found that his claims can’t be substantiated. But, according to Sports Illustrated sources, Jackson showed interest in acquiring Colin Kaepernick while he was on trade block with the San Francisco 49ers.
Presumably, part of Jackson‘s allegations that the Browns wanted to tank was their unwillingness to acquire players that could help them win.
Jackson’s connection to the 49ers goes back to when he was interviewed for the head coaching position in 2016. When he got the Browns job, he still wanted to coach, but nothing ever materialized.
Kaepernick started 11 games in 2016. The 49ers went 1-10 in those games. He completed just under 60 percent of his passes, threw for 2,241 yards, 16 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
The Browns weren’t much better finishing 1-15, and looking horrendous on a weekly basis. Jackson alleged the team gave him incentives to lose games during that season and in 2017. The team won one game over a two-year span. In three and a half seasons, Jackson compiled an 11-44-1 record.
Despite Jackson’s allegations not being substantiated, this is a bad look for the league. A former head coach questioning the integrity of game in terms of the spirit of competition is something commissioner Roger Goodell takes seriously.
There is an ongoing federal lawsuit filed by former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, that alleges something similar. Flores alleges that he was offered $100,000 per loss by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.
The lawsuit also alleges racial discrimination regarding his interview processes with the Denver Broncos and New York Giants.
Flores believes the Giants violated the league’s Rooney rule covering inclusive hiring in picking their next head coach. Included in Flores’ complaint are screenshots of alleged text messages in which New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick informed Flores that the Giants had already chosen Brian Daboll to be their new head coach while Flores was preparing to meet with Giants general manager Joe Schoen.
The league’s track record on the treatment of Black coaches is not good. They are often given head coaching positions on rebuilding or tanking teams. If they are given a decent team, the time to demonstrate success is often much shorter than their white counterparts. Black coaches are also often passed over for white offensive coordinators or college coaches with little to no NFL experience.
Cornerback Jason McCourty, who played for the 0-16 Browns in 2017, backed up Jackson’s tanking claim on his podcast in February.
“There’s no way we were trying to win. It was very obvious,” McCourty said. “That is no surprise to anyone. You don’t need me to corroborate the story and say, ‘Oh yeah, we were tanking. We were trying to lose.’ Duh.”
The league determining that Jackson’s claims can’t be substantiated does not indicate what was claimed is not true. It just means that whatever criteria the league used to determine validity wasn’t met. What was the league’s criteria? It was an internal investigation, so we may never know.