Hue Jackson keeps microscope on Browns with NFL set to review any tanking claims

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Among the fallout from Brian Flores’ lawsuit targeted at the NFL is a microscope placed upon the perhaps suspiciously terrible Browns teams in 2016 and ’17.

Included in Flores’ explosive suit is a claim that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered him $100,000 per loss during the 2019 season as a means to tank for a top draft pick, which Roger Goodell said Saturday outside experts would investigate.

As the claim became public, former Browns coach Hue Jackson first suggested there was a similar scheme in Cleveland before backing off — but adding nuance to his situation.

Jackson, who presided over the 1-31 Browns from 2016-17, said that though he wasn’t directly bribed to lose, there was a “plan” to incentivize losing games.

“When you talk about incentivizing a four-year plan that led to the team not being able to play as well, that people benefited off of that — that’s different,” Jackson told CNN on Friday night, comparing his Browns to Flores’ Dolphins.

According to Jackson, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam wanted to lose (which, if true, was well-executed. The Browns had back-to-back No. 1 picks.)

NFL
Hue Jackson
AP

“I told Jimmy that what he was doing was very destructive, to not do this because it’s going to hurt my career and every other coach that worked with me and every player on the team,” Jackson, who is Black, told Anderson Cooper. “And I told him that it would hurt every Black coach that would follow me. And I have the documents to prove this.”

Of that documentation, Jackson said, “Those things will come to light at the right time.”

Haslam has said he did not pay Jackson to lose games and the notion that he enjoyed losing is “an absolute falsehood.”

“Hue Jackson has never ever accepted any responsibility for our record during that time period,” Haslam told Knox News this week. “He’s been masterful at pointing fingers but has never accepted any blame. I have accepted a ton of blame, and rightfully so.”

In a memo circulating the league, Goodell said the league takes “seriously any issue relating to the integrity of NFL games.” The commissioner said independent experts will review claims, which now could include Cleveland as well as Miami.

While the allegation that the Browns were paying for losses has evaporated, there still are whiffs concerning tanking. The Browns fielded young teams, gave prolonged looks at DeShone Kizer and Cody Kessler and, most generously, were searching for progress if not victories.

Veteran defensive back Jason McCourty said there was “no way” the Browns were trying to win games in 2017, when he spent a season in Cleveland.

“It was very obvious. That is to no surprise to anyone. You don’t need me to corroborate the story and say, ‘We were tanking, we were trying to lose.’ Duh,” McCourty said on his “Double Coverage” podcast. “…You don’t just go 1-31. It’s not that hard to figure out on the other end of it.”

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