Hue Jackson was fired as head coach of the Cleveland Browns on Monday and offensive coordinator Todd Haley followed him out the door.
“We greatly appreciate Hue’s commitment to the Cleveland Browns organization over the last two and a half years,” Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a statement. “We understand how critical this time period is in the development of our football team, individually and collectively, and believed it was in the organization’s best interest to make the move at this time, in order to maximize our opportunities the rest of this season. We certainly only wish Hue, Michelle, and his family the best moving forward.”
At an afternoon meeting Monday, players were informed defensive coordinator Gregg Williams would serve as interim head coach, according to multiple reports. Freddie Kitchens was promoted from running backs coach to offensive coordinator. Williams has 27 years of experience in the NFL, including as a head coach with the Buffalo Bills from 2001-03.
“Some difficult decisions were made by the organization today,” Haslam said at a press conference Monday afternoon. “We have to do what we think puts the organization and most particularly our players in position to win. We did what we thought was best for the organization. We put the organization in a better place today than we were yesterday.
“We’re not going to put up with internal discord.”
Williams will remain defensive coordinator. He was the only interim coaching candidate to speak with Haslam on Monday.
Haslam and general manager John Dorsey said that Kitchens actually called the offensive plays in one game this preseason: Cleveland’s 35-17 win over the Detroit Lions on August 30.
The Browns had three wins in two-and-a-half seasons under Jackson, who was hired in 2016. Cleveland was 1-15 in 2016, 0-16 in 2017 and is 2-5-1 in eight games in 2018 (3-36-1) for a winning percentage of .088.
The offense’s struggles and disagreements between Jackson, an offensive-minded head coach, and Haley had created tension over the last few weeks. Haley, who was a head coach in Kansas City from 2009-11, appeared to be a possible candidate to be interim head coach after Jackson’s firing before news of his own departure emerged.
“The NFL as you all know is a highly emotional game, highly emotional way to make a living, and it’s pure pass-fail. If you lose, you lose,” Haslam said.
Dorsey has never run a coaching search as a personnel executive. He joined the Kansas City Chiefs as a hand-selected GM by Andy Reid. Jackson was inherited as head coach when the Browns hired Dorsey at the end of the 2017 season.
Dorsey said the scheme and quarterback coach being the same should help avoid a setback in rookie No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield’s development. Haslam allowed the franchise must do a better job of protecting Mayfield and putting him in better position to make plays.
Dorsey said the emotional weight on players can’t be discounted.
Making the move at midseason was a “reboot” not “throwing in the towel,” Haslam added.
“We have a lot of football left this season,” Dorsey said. “As we sat down and talked with the players today, I expressed that to them. As I look at this thing, our job is to support Gregg, put those players in the best position. We’re trying to create the best environment going forward.”
Haslam claimed the Browns have not contemplated the next phase of a coaching search. He said Williams would be a candidate to become the permanent head coach if the second half of the season goes well.
Dorsey said he would spend the next 24 hours “turning over every rock” as the NFL trade deadline approaches.
—Field Level Media