BEREA, OH— Before he was able to process the events of the evening prior, Hue Jackson was already on to the next chapter of his career.
Sure, the Cincinnati Bengals— the team for which Jackson was the offensive coordinator— had just suffered another heart-breaking defeat in the NFL Playoffs, but Jackson’s desire to become a head coach outweighed any heartbreak he felt from the night prior.
On the Sunday following his sad Saturday, Jackson had multiple interviews scheduled— one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
The morning session, of course, was with the San Francisco 49ers.
The afternoon session, however, belonged to the Cleveland Browns.
“You talk about a tough, tough session,” Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said. “Everybody watched their game Saturday night and Hue had an interview with another team on Sunday morning. We spent Sunday afternoon with him.”
Though Jackson was running on little to no sleep and had just come off a long interview with the 49ers, Haslam felt that the inital meeting was a very successful one— one that certainly didn’t feel like a primary pow-wow.
“We had a great session,” Haslam said. “It just felt comfortable.”
Part of the reason for said comfort might’ve come far before the events of this weekend.
Rather, the comfort was created over the course of a couple seasons, when the Browns and Bengals met in the regular season.
“He and I had run into each other on the sidelines a couple times before the game and just had a natural chemistry,” Haslam said of Jackson. “We just had a natural chemistry and would always visit a little bit before the games, so we knew each other a little bit.”
That natural chemistry manifested itself in the interview setting, as Haslam was so impressed with the meeting on Sunday that he determined on Monday the team needed to talk, once again, with Jackson.
There were, however, hitches that could thwart that thought from becoming reality.
First of all, Haslam was set to be a part of the NFL owner’s meeting on Tuesday, in which he was to vote on various proposals to send a pair of NFL franchises to Los Angeles.
Wasting time at the meetings would've meant a delay in the dealings with Jackson.
Luckily, Haslam had his co-owner— wife Dee Haslam— to lean on, as he has for many, many years.
“Once we saw we were still going to be zeroing in on the search, it was great to have Dee be able to go to the meeting, represent us extremely well and me be able to stay focused on the search,” Haslam said. “She's a tremendous asset, not just to me but to the organization. I'm very happy to have her by my side. She's been a big help.”
With one potential problem solved by his wife, Haslam flew down to Cincinnati— along with Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta— to talk with Jackson again.
That meeting, apparently, proved even more fruitful than the first.
“(We) sat around the table and just talked real-life situations. 'What do you think about this? What do you think about that?' for about three hours,” Haslam said. “It was just really comfortable. It was as if we had worked together a long time.”
Despite another comfortable meeting, an issue lingered in luring the coach to the Browns: Jackson was still set to interview with the New York Giants later in the week.
After an all-in discussion with his cohorts, Haslam and his team decided that Jackson was the guy for the Browns and couldn’t let him get on a plane to the Big Apple.
So, on Wednesday morning, they made him an offer he simply could not refuse.
Just hours after the Browns asked, Jackson was introduced as the 16th head coach in the history of the organization.
“We got the right guy,” Haslam said. “He is smart. He’s tough. He’s confident. He’s competitive… I think he's going to be a great head coach for the Cleveland Browns.”
While it’s clear that Haslam was able to thwart Jackson’s initial itinerary that involved a trip to New York, the details of his deal with the coach remain rather mysterious.
According to Jackson himself, however, it was no more than the the character of the aforementioned crew that closed the contract.
“Jimmy and Dee Haslam and Sashi and Paul. That’s it at the end of the day,” Jackson said, when asked what kept him away from the plane. “This is about people. You have to feel comfortable that you have the proper support to have a chance to have success and I am more than comfortable with our structure. I am more than comfortable with the people that I’m sitting up here with.”
For all of your Browns news and updates from Berea, follow Hayden Grove on Twitter: @H_Grove.