Congratulations are in order for Jimmy Haslam and the Cleveland Browns. The NFL’s independent investigation into former head coach Hue Jackson’s claims that the team paid him to lose games found “no evidence” to substantiate those allegations, proving that the team did not intentionally lose games but rather tried and still went 3-36-1 during a two-plus season run.
The 60-day review was led by former Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White, and while I’m not Adam Schefter-ing this from my closet studio somewhere, emphatically telling you that the NFL could find no evidence, I was always leery that an organization — even one as inept as Cleveland — would have a paper trail about a pay-to-lose incentive.
It’s why I’m consistently in awe of the Miami-Brian Flores allegations, but maybe I shouldn’t be because the Dolphins have been every bit as irrelevant as the Browns due to their own miserable owner.
The difference between the two cases is the man levying them. Flores had the Fins competing and winning (at least by Stephen Ross era standards); Jackson is at Grambling State, hiring and then firing disgraced coach Art Briles, and possibly admitting tax fraud while trying to tweet through it. The coach he chose to replace Briles with isn’t squeaky clean either.
Jackson backed off his initial claims against Cleveland a few days after making them in February, telling CNN that he was never offered money like Flores but rather received a $750,000 year-end bonus for following the team’s tank-to-rebuild plan. (The investigation also found that there was no four-year tanking plan.) Additionally, after initially saying he’d speak to the NFL’s investigators, Jackson ultimately opted against it.
So here we are. All this ballyhoo and back and forth only to figure out a bunch of shit we already knew: Hue Jackson isn’t a good football coach, Jimmy Haslam is maybe good at hiding incriminating evidence, and the Browns were just being the Browns when they lost all of those games.
Cleveland is what The Process would look like if Cleveland tried The Process. Concussing Patrick Mahomes and then failing to take advantage of the 11 billion opportunities to steal that AFC Divisional playoff game was the Brown’s version of the Kawhi Leonard quadruple bounce game.
I agree that Baker Mayfield isn’t a franchise quarterback. At the same time, I also agree that Deshaun Watson isn’t a franchise quarterback despite his skill set and resume. Not sure how many times I have to say it, but great job trading for a guy being sued by more massage therapists than people can count on their fingers and toes (22 for those of you who forgot).
The Browns traded for Odell Beckham Jr. only to piss him off, and he was on his way to Super Bowl MVP with the Rams before getting hurt. The team signed Kareem Hunt, who the Chiefs cut after video surfaced of him bull-rushing and kicking a woman in a CLEVELAND hotel.
Yes, Myles Garrett is amazing. He also took off an opposing QB’s helmet and then smacked him with it.
It’s unfair to rip the Browns like this because they haven’t been “Urban Meyer in Jacksonville” incompetent in like two or three years. Willing to overlook disgusting behavior — alleged or videotaped — toward women? Yes. But objectively terrible at football? No.
I like Nick Chubb and coach Kevin Stefanski and absolutely love Cleveland fans. I think third-round draft choice David Bell could be one of those receivers that Cris Collinsworth retroactively gushes about.
“I know he didn’t have a great combine, Al, but watch his tape at Purdue and tell me he’s not an NFL receiver. The guy has 232 receptions since 2019. I know I’m not surprised.”
I feel less confident about Amari Cooper as the go-to option. He’s my pick to be this year’s version of Julio Jones or A.J. Green, aka the receiver who is a No. 1 receiver by name recognition only. He’ll be on the waiver wire at some point, and you’ll think he’s a good pick up until you look at his game log.
If you’re wondering why I’m not spreading insults around and taking more shots at Jackson, it’s because he’s not taking a victory lap and preaching about integrity while trading for or signing players who don’t have any. And the Dawg Pound isn’t stuck with Jackson the same way they’re stuck with an owner who never sees an allegation stick. (If you’re unaware of the $50 million fraud scheme carried out by the Flying J gas station chain and its employees, neither was Haslam. But you’re not the chairman of the company’s board.)
The team’s statement could’ve featured a little humility. “We understand the confusion. If another team was losing games at a seemingly impossible rate, it’d be fair to question if it was intentional. We were not. We’re just the Browns, and that was business as usual.”
Cleveland didn’t avoid public embarrassment, it avoided further public embarrassment. There were no winners from the NFL’s investigation because all parties responsible for that historically bad stretch of Browns’ football are fucking losers.