Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam told Knox News on Thursday former coach Hue Jackson was never paid to lose games. Jackson insinuated he was to cover up his failure as an NFL coach, Haslam said.
“Hue Jackson has never ever accepted any responsibility for our record during that time period,” Haslam said in an exclusive interview “He’s been masterful at pointing fingers but has never accepted any blame. I have accepted a ton of blame, and rightfully so.
“There are a lot of things I could’ve done better. Hue has never accepted blame for one thing.”
Haslam fired Jackson in 2018 after he posted a 3-36-1 record over two-and-a-half seasons. The team’s futility allowed Cleveland to land the No. 1 overall pick in back-to-back years, and the Browns drafted defensive end Myles Garrett in 2017 and quarterback Baker Mayfield in 2018.
Jackson made his comments Wednesday in a show of support for Brian Flores — who filed a discrimination lawsuit against the NFL and three teams on allegations of racial discrimination and unethical practices. The Miami Dolphins fired Flores on Jan. 10.
‘Hue Jackson was never paid to lose’
In a series of posts Wednesday on Twitter, Jackson wrote that Haslam “was happy while we kept losing” and “Trust me it was a good number,” referring to bonus payments he alleges were offered for losing.
Later on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” Jackson clarified his accusation by laying out what he called the Browns’ four-year plan during his tenure.
Jackson said he could earn bonuses in the 2016 and 2017 seasons if the Browns hit goals like being the youngest team in the NFL and accumulating draft picks. Both are traits often associated with losing teams.
Jackson was fired in his third season.
“Unequivocally, Hue Jackson was never paid to lose games,” Haslam said. “That is an absolute falsehood. And it’s also an absolute falsehood that I laughed while we were losing. Most people who know me would say, ‘That’s not how Jimmy would react to losing.’
“In the 15-minute ESPN interview that he did, for approximately 14-and-a-half minutes it was about how he was treated so poorly with the Browns and lots of claims he had.”
Jackson was fired by the Browns with a 2-5-1 record midway through the 2018 season. The team went on to win five of its final eight games.
Freddie Kitchens coached the Browns to a 6-10 record in 2019 and was fired after one season. In 2020, Kevin Stefanski led the Browns to an 11-5 record and their first playoff appearance since 2002. Cleveland backslid this season, finishing 8-9 and tied for last in the AFC North.
“I can’t think of any individual that I’ve worked with over the past 45 years that I spent as much time trying to help be successful as I did Hue Jackson,” Haslam said. “His third year, when our roster began to pretty dramatically improve, the eight games he coached we were 2-5-1. After Hue was dismissed, we went 5-3.”
Haslam said his goal as Browns owner has always been to win consistently.
“We’ve not done that, but we’re getting closer,” Haslam said. “(That goal) has been the same regardless of the coach.”
Jackson served as coach Eddie George’s offensive coordinator at Tennessee State in 2021 and then was hired as Grambling State coach in December to continue a 35-year coaching career in the college and pro ranks.
Jackson has made stops at six different NFL franchises and was fired by the Oakland Raiders with an 8-8 record in 2011, his lone season as their coach.
Reach Adam Sparks at email@example.com and on Twitter @AdamSparks.