NFL

Of course the Cleveland Browns want to fire the wrong guy

Despite showing some promise this year, the Browns are falling back into old habits and want to fire the wrong coach.

Perhaps the main narrative this season in Cleveland has been whether or not Hue Jackson is the right guy to oversee the reconstruction of the Browns. There has been nothing but tension between coaches, dating back to what we saw on Hard Knocks, and it seems everything is coming to a boil.

In typical Cleveland fashion, the wrong guy is probably going to lose his job. Mary Kay Cabot delivered the bizarre news on Sunday morning that the Browns are preparing to roast offensive coordinator Todd Haley over an open fire, not Hue Jackson.

To be fair, Haley has never been a guy that people have been upset to see lose his job, even if he is good at what he does. He was ousted in Kansas City despite making the playoffs with Matt Cassel as his quarterback; he was let go in Pittsburgh after a bad playoff loss despite the fact that he is a big reason Ben Roethlisberger has been able to extend his career as successfully as he has. Now in Cleveland, Haley is tasked with molding Baker Mayfield out of clay and seems to be laying the groundwork for his pièce de résistance.

The common thread from stop-to-stop for Haley is that he’s not easy to work with and can be an abrasive personality, but he’s had success everywhere he’s coached. Moreover, we’ve seen what the Browns look like when Hue Jackson is running the offense and what it looks like when Haley is there. An argument could be made that the stunted nature of this season can be attributed to Jackson’s pushback on Haley which explains the reported dysfunction between the two.

It’s not hard to bounce back from a 0-16 season, but the progress everyone has watched the Cleveland Browns achieve this year has been good for the football soul. No one wants to see bad football, and there has been more than enough of that to go around in Cleveland since the team returned from purgatory in 1999.

Since the turn of the century, the Browns have made the playoffs once and turned in only two winning seasons (they somehow went 10-6 in 2007 only to miss the playoffs, because Cleveland). In none of those years did the Browns show the type of promise they do right now, with a potential franchise quarterback and a defense that is in the top half of the league. The roster laced with young players ready to grow together and drag Cleveland out of the darkness, but the franchise is habitually unable to stay out of its own way. Jackson seems unable to not be a totalitarian which is hindering the teams from blossoming. Instead, we’ve seen stunted growth when perhaps a team led by Haley could be more easily moving in the right direction.

The results have supported this. It’s been a cute story to see the Browns drag so many games to overtime (and even tie) but the fact of the matter is the team is losing games it should be winning. Too many times this year have we seen points left on the field with missed kicks when a more cohesive approach might produce a smoother result. Cleveland’s offense isn’t world class, but it has enough talent to be in more positions to score touchdowns rather than settling for field goals. We aren’t seeing fights on the sideline, but the push-and-pull can be felt through the playcalling decisions; Haley and Jackson are not on the same page and the team is suffering as a result.

It’s nothing new. Jackson, on his own last year, shuffled through quarterbacks, seemingly unable to settle and subsequently ruining DeShone Kizer. There was no confidence and the only consistency was chaos — something not present this year when there’s someone else in charge of the offense. There’s new leadership in the front office as well with John Dorsey, another string Jackson doesn’t control and a potential reason as to why there hasn’t been a carousel under center.

The idea of a Haley-led Browns team is fascinating enough to explore. Jackson is not the coach of the future and the Browns have the luxury of test driving Haley as head coach before looking elsewhere this offseason for someone else. For the first time in a very long time, Cleveland is an attractive destination for head coaches looking to make a name for themselves and the Brown cannot afford to miss out because they stayed tethered to the wrong coach for too long.