Browns’ shake-up:

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE -

Cleve­land’s clear­ing out of head coach Hue Jack­son, offen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Todd Ha­ley sig­nals more dys­func­tion.

The Browns en­tered this sea­son with great buzz and a de­gree of op­ti­mism thanks to the cred­i­bil­ity of new gen­eral man­ager John Dorsey, the ar­rival of No. 1 over­all pick Baker Mayfield and the pre­sea­son be­hind-thescenes looks pro­vided by HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” But eight weeks into the sea­son, the team has proved to be the train wreck we’ve long known.

The day af­ter an Oct. 28 loss at Pitts­burgh (a third con­sec­u­tive de­feat, drop­ping the Browns to 2-5-1), Cleve­land fired head coach Hue Jack­son and offen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Todd Ha­ley.

All of this could have been avoided with bet­ter fore­sight from the top. But here we are with the Browns hit­ting the re­set but­ton at mid­sea­son, a move that’s un­likely to prompt any sig­nificant improve­ment over the next eight games.

For Jack­son and Ha­ley, a dis­missal from Cleve­land was only a mat­ter of tim­ing. Jack­son owned a 3-36-1 record in twoand-a-half sea­sons. You didn’t have to walk the halls of the Browns fa­cil­ity reg­u­larly to know that great fric­tion ex­isted between Jack­son and Ha­ley, whom the for­mer hired this offsea­son.

This was out­wardly per­ceived as a one-or-the-other dilemma. But peo­ple fa­mil­iar with Dorsey’s think­ing, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause of the sen­si­tiv­ity of the sit­u­a­tion, say he had pleaded his case to owner Jimmy Haslam for some time about the need to elim­i­nate both prob­lem ar­eas.

Fi­nally, the owner con­sented. Haslam ad­dressed re­ports of di­vi­sion within the fran­chise by telling re­porters, “It’s very trou­bling. It’s hard to win in the NFL; if any­body knows that, it’s us. I think the mes­sage to­day is we’re not go­ing to put up with in­ter­nal dis­cord.”

Haslam hope­fully has also learned his les­son: Give Dorsey, a man with a track record of build­ing fran­chises, the green light to fix this mess in earnest.

If Dorsey had ul­ti­mate say in Jan­uary, he would have fired Jack­son then and brought in his hand­picked coach, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple within the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Haslam hired Dorsey, a long­time Pack­ers and Chiefs per­son­nel ex­ec­u­tive, last De­cem­ber, hop­ing he could end the fran­chise’s run of em­bar­rass­ing gaffes. But while the owner em­pow­ered Dorsey to over­haul the ros­ter, Jack­son had to stay.

Haslam and his wife, Dee, are still quite fond of Jack­son. They were will­ing to look past the 1-31 record at the time and give him an­other chance, feel­ing help by way of a top-notch tal­ent eval­u­a­tor would do the trick.

So Dorsey con­ceded, Jack­son re­mained.

Mis­take No. 2 was the Browns’ hir­ing of Ha­ley, who Dorsey and Jack­son both agreed is a bright offen­sive mind. Per­haps Jack­son should re­ceive credit for hum­bling him­self enough to bring in an­other per­son to his area of ex­per­tise. But the des­per­a­tion to ig­nite the offense might have led him to over­look po­ten­tial per­son­al­ity clashes.

Any­one who knows Ha­ley will speak of his strong per­son­al­ity. His clashes with Ben Roeth­lis­berger in Pitts­burgh are well-doc­u­mented, as are his fail­ings as a head coach in Kansas City.

Ha­ley be­came a prob­lem early in his time in Cleve­land, peo­ple close to the sit­u­a­tion told USA TO­DAY. He clashed with and Dorsey and mem­bers of the scout­ing de­part­ment when he would at­tend draft-prep meet­ings un­in­vited and try to rec­om­mend which col­lege prospects the team should eval­u­ate.

“Hard Knocks” cap­tured one of the feuds between Jack­son and Ha­ley, and in the last few weeks, when Jack­son tried to make sug­ges­tions about al­ter­ations in the team’s ap­proach, Ha­ley re­fused to ac­cept his boss’ in­put.

Haslam and Dorsey finally agreed that Jack­son couldn’t re­main while losses con­tin­ued to mount and his con­trol of his as­sis­tants was sus­pect. Ha­ley, both agreed, couldn’t re­main be­cause of his in­sub­or­di­na­tion.

De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Gregg Wil­liams — a fiery coach best known for his role in the Saints’ Boun­ty­gate scan­dal, which finan­cially re­warded play­ers for in­jur­ing op­po­nents — takes over as in­terim head coach.

Ul­ti­mately, it doesn’t mat­ter whom the Browns tabbed for the final eight games. Dorsey is poised to blow ev­ery­thing up this offsea­son, even though it means Mayfield will have to start over.

Be­cause of their pre­cious cargo, the Browns have a very nar­row mar­gin for er­ror with this head coach­ing hire.

The Browns need to find a fit for Mayfield that mir­rors the im­pact that the Rams’ hir­ing of Sean McVay had on their young fran­chise quar­ter­back Jared Goff.

Mayfield has dis­played po­ten­tial since tak­ing over as the Browns starter. But his re­ceivers have dropped far too many passes, and his offen­sive line has had fre­quent break­downs. The ros­ter needs up­grades in those ar­eas above all oth­ers.

But more than any­thing, the Browns need to at last op­er­ate like a pro­fes­sional fran­chise.


Gregg Wil­liams is Browns’ new in­terim coach.


Browns coach Hue Jack­son, above, and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Todd Ha­ley were fired on Oct. 29.

Colum­nist USA TO­DAY

Mike Jones

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