BEREA—What the Browns need is a quarterback whisperer.
Mike Holmgren was supposed to be a quarterback guru when he came to town, but he decided to not coach but just oversee the organization and never found the long-awaited franchise quarterback.
Hue Jackson could be that guy the Browns have been waiting for in finding and developing the elusive franchise quarterback.
The Browns have started 24 different quarterbacks since 1999 and whether Jackson decides to keep the status quo or move on to No. 25, will determine to a large degree what his success with the Browns will be.
Take a look at Jackson’s resume.
He was a quarterback at Pacific and coached Carson Palmer at USC and prepared him to be the overall No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. He coached Joe Flacco at Baltimore in his first two seasons and Flacco was Rookie of the Year and led his team to the playoffs from the start.
Most recently, Jackson was credited with the emergence of Andy Dalton in Cincinnati with a breakout season and a career high 106.2 quarterback rating. He also was able to prepare A.J. McCarron to play in place of Dalton when he was injured with little experience.
“He’s got a tremendous track record developing quarterbacks,” Jimmy Haslam said.
The 800-pound gorilla in the room is what about Johnny Manziel?
Manziel missed his concussion treatment the day of the final game and reportedly spent the night before partying in Las Vegas, while being in the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Do the Browns start fresh with a new quarterback and either trade or release Manziel before training camp starts or does Jackson see a player he can develop into a top- tier quarterback?
Haslam said that Manziel’s future would be left to executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown and the new coach when he announced the re-structuring of the front office after firing Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer.
Reports surfaced that during the interview process with Jackson, that if Jackson were hired, he would move on from Manziel.
Jackson didn’t shed much light on his thinking regarding Manziel, but said he would be evaluated, like every other player.
“Did I say that we never discussed Manziel?” Jackson said. “No, I never said that to you. I never said that. What I said to you is that I need to evaluate him as a football player, and I know whatever incidents that he’s been involved in I was not a part of here so I can’t comment on those because I don’t know anything about those.”
He further added regarding Manziel.
“This is what I would say to that,” he said. “I need to get into this building and have an opportunity to sit down and watch tape. I don’t know Johnny personally. I know who he is, but at the same time, I think I have to give everybody on our football team the fair opportunity to see who they are and to truly learn who they are and then make decisions from there.”
Jackson was also asked what Manziel’s off-field behavior would have with him.
“Again, I wasn’t here to be a part of that so obviously, I can’t speak to any of those,” he said. “I think what’s important is that I evaluate him as a football player and then find out more about those things as we move forward.”
The Browns have, in effect, two first round picks again this year with the No. 2 and No. 32 selections (the Patriots forfeited their first round pick in the ’deflate gate’ and Browns get first pick in second round). With that opportunity, there is an opportunity to take a quarterback at the top of the draft. The two most talked about early in the process are California’s Jared Goff and Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch.
Jackson has been linked to Goff and was asked how familiar he is with this year’s quarterback class that is eligible for the draft.
“I’m going to know them pretty well here pretty soon,” Jackson said. “Obviously, having the No. 2 pick is great and sometimes it’s not. As an organization, we have a lot of work to do to make sure that’s where we need to be or where we don’t need to be, but I think it’s a great place to start for a new head coach because you have a chance to get a good player.”
Confident in Hiring a Staff: Jackson said he was very confident he would be able to hire a top-flight coaching staff for the Browns and couldn’t wait to get going on that.
“Are you guys done with me?” Jackson joked when asked during his first press conference. “Can I go upstairs right now? Now. There are some tremendous football coaches sitting by the phone waiting for me to call. You would be surprised – I am being very honest – I have 142 text messages on my phone. I never knew my phone could go that long. Most of them are coaches.
“They are not just saying, ‘Hey, Hue, congratulations.’ They are saying, ‘Hue, will you help me get to the Cleveland Browns and have an opportunity to sit in front of Jimmy and the rest of your staff and have a chance to come here and help you win?’” he said. “To me, that is what this is all about. I am going to attract some good coaches and some great coaches, but to me we have to find the right fit for us. How fast that process is going to go? I don’t know, but I do need to get on that phone and start returning some of those text messages.”
Prior to Jackson’s hiring, the Browns were reported only interested in retaining four of Mike Pettine’s assistants, including offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, but it is unclear if any of those will be retained.
Keeping Joe: After the firing of Pettine and GM Ray Farmer, Pro Bowl left tackle said he had second thoughts about finishing his career with the Browns. Jackson was asked if he would sit down with Thomas and convince him to give him a chance.
“Honestly, I want to sit down and talk to all of our players,” Jackson said. “The guy you mentioned, Joe Thomas, is one of the best left tackles in this league, bar none. He does deserve an opportunity to win. He is a tremendous football player and has been. He has been one of the cornerstones of this organization and this football team. I can’t wait to have the opportunity to talk to him and give him our plan, and hopefully, I believe in my heart, that he is going to get excited about what we are trying to accomplish.”
Fresh Start for Gordon?: Jackson was asked his thoughts on WR Josh Gordon, who is eligible to apply for re-instatement in February from is indefinite ban from the NFL for substance abuse.
“What I’m anxious to do is evaluate him just like we’re going to evaluate every player on our roster and see if they are the right fit for the Cleveland Browns,” Jackson said. “That’s what we have to do with every player, whether that’s Josh Gordon to whoever the last guy is on the roster.”
Mayhew to Interview?: ESPN's Josina Anderson reported that the Browns would interview former Lions GM Martin Mayhew this week for the team's vacant general manager position.