Hue Jackson: Browns' decision to fire me 'premature'

Hue Jackson says he wasn’t totally blindsided by the Cleveland Browns firing him but characterized the decision as "premature" since he didn’t get a real chance to prove what he could accomplish with an improved roster.

Speaking to Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer, Jackson expressed confidence he could have fixed the team’s offensive woes and that the Browns put up better performances than their two-win record indicated.

"We had a lot of football left, were 2-5-1 with a rookie QB, left tackle, already played Pittsburgh twice, beat Baltimore, and could have easily been 3-4-1 if the first down isn’t taken back (in Oakland). The fact that we played four overtime games says that we were a better football team.

"In my mind, if we fix the offense — it’s a totally different story. So I do believe the move was premature. But I think a part of the problem again went back to the first two years."

Jackson believes one of the biggest reasons for the team’s sluggish start was the front office’s decision to have him give up play-calling duties. Jackson believes if he could have turned around the team’s offensive woes if he was calling plays instead of offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who also was fired Monday.

"You look at our numbers with me calling the offense [in 2016, 2017) with less talent," Jackson said. "Our numbers this year were the same or worse than our numbers last year with better players on offense. So it was already tough for me to give up play-calling when I knew more talent was on the way with [general manager] John Dorsey on board. Of course, I wanted to remind everybody what a Hue Jackson-led offense looks like, but I felt they wanted me to focus on coaching the whole team and let someone else call the plays.

"If you’re going to go out, you always go out betting on yourself. I knew that I would’ve taken our same system and turned the offense around. It was not what I wanted to do, it’s what I had to do. .. So I was surprised that I was not given the opportunity to display what I could do as a play-caller with a much more talented offensive roster."

Jackson’s two-and-a-half-year run in Cleveland ended with a disastrous 3-36-1 record (.088 winning percentage), including last year’s 0-16 debacle. Jackson got another chance to turn things around, but the team’s poor start and struggles on offense started to be a point of contention within the team.

While Browns owner Jimmy Haslam told reporters earlier this week that "internal discord" was one of the reasons for the decision to part ways with its head coach and offensive coordinator, Jackson said he "didn’t perceive internal discord." Instead, he believes the Browns coaching staff was under immense pressure to show improvement with a No. 1 overall pick leading the offense.

"I believe the message the organization was trying to convey with that was that the success of the organization depends on the success of their future franchise QB in Baker Mayfield. So with the offense not playing well, and me stating that I would look to help out the offense — we were not trending in the direction you would like to see for the development of your No. 1 over pick.

"So I get that they had a tough decision to make and they felt they did what was in the best interest of the organization going forward. Now in regard to some of the other media stuff about internal things being a mess and losing the players — none of that is accurate at all."

Be sure to check out Cabot’s entire interview with Jackson.

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