BEREA, Ohio — Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said the firing of coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley does not mean the team is giving up on this season.
“This is not a throwing in of the towel,” Haslam said Monday afternoon. “It is a rebooting, if you will, an opportunity to give them a fresh start these last eight games.”
Haslam and general manager John Dorsey said the Browns’ focus is on the final eight games, and trying to help interim coach Gregg Williams win as many as he can.
“I think that we put the organization in a better place today than it was yesterday moving forward,” Haslam said. “And we are comfortable with the decision.”
Haslam declined to get into details about the moves, other than one revealing statement.
“I think the message today is we’re not going to put up with internal discord,” Haslam said. “That we want people who are collaborative and work together.”
That discord centered on the direction of the offense under Haley, with Jackson saying he would “help” while behind the scenes pondering whether to fire Haley. The Browns got rid of both.
“I do not know if it does a lot of good to go back and look at the past,” Haslam said. “I think that the actions and decisions we made today speak for themselves.”
Jackson is the fourth coach Haslam has fired since 2012 (including Pat Shurmur, the coach when he took over). Williams will be the team’s fifth coach, the next hire the sixth.
Since it was announced Haslam would buy the team before the 2012 season, the Browns have gone 22-81-1.
Haslam has dealt with folks not working well together in the past — Jackson and Sashi Brown, Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer, and Rob Chudzinski and Mike Lombardi.
“I will accept the blame because, ultimately, it is the person at the head of the ship,” Haslam said. “I will take the blame as ownership. I can’t explain it more than that. We have had different situations with different people. I know that it is something that we are not going to tolerate moving forward.”
Haslam would not go into detail about the process for hiring the Browns’ next coach. He has conducted searches that led to the hiring of Chudzinski, Pettine and Haslam. It will be interesting to see if he puts that job in Dorsey’s hands. Haslam said the structure of the team organizationally will not change — Dorsey and Williams will report to the owner.
“Hue, John and I worked together well, and I would expect the same with Gregg,” Haslam said.
The Browns have made the development of quarterback Baker Mayfield a priority. Mayfield, the first overall pick in the 2018 draft, was caught in the middle with Jackson and Haley.
“He is a young man,” Dorsey said of his quarterback. “He has seen a lot of complex defenses. He wants to win in the worst way. Is the confidence there? Yes, it is still there. That is the winning mindset that he brings to the table that you really so much admire in him.
“He will grow and develop even farther as we move along here. Our job is to create that environment moving forward to help the player.”
Williams was coach of the Bills from 2001 through 2003, when he went 17-31. He has 20 years of NFL coaching experience but was suspended for the entire 2012 season for his role in the New Orleans Saints bounty issue. Williams said when he was hired that he and commissioner Roger Goodell are close and have had good discussions about the suspension. Williams will remain the Browns’ defensive coordinator.
Freddie Kitchens moves from assistant head coach and running backs coach to offensive coordinator. He will call plays in a regular-season game for the first time in his 13 seasons in the NFL, though Dorsey did point out that Kitchens called the plays in the team’s preseason finale against Detroit.
The Browns started this season 2-2-1, but have lost three straight and struggled badly in a 33-18 loss in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Jackson’s tenure with the Browns includes a winless 2017 season and an overall record of 3-36-1.
On Sunday, the Browns will host the 7-1 Chiefs, the NFL’s highest-scoring team.
“I think that right now the best situation in what we are attempting to do here now is create the best environment moving forward not only for the players but for the coaching staff, as well,” Dorsey said. “That is what our sole focus is on right now is the second half of the 2018 season moving forward.”
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