Abject failure of an NFL head coach Hue Jackson got the Greg Bishop treatment over at Sports Illustrated this week. Bishop has made a lane for himself working up sappy redemption narratives for sad-sacks who don’t really deserve it. Jackson, a grating figure who got shit-canned by the Browns after going 3–36–1 in two-plus seasons, is very much a sad-sack these days. As such, Bishop coats Jackson’s story in goopy layers of schmaltz:
Half a year later—an NFL eternity—Jackson still hurts. He hurts worse than when his heart literally gave up, five years ago; worse than when his mom deteriorated past the point of being able to recognize him; worse than when he watched so many family members pass away.
Why? Hue Jackson hurts this much because he defines himself first and foremost as a football coach, and the Browns decided they’d rather pay him to sit at home than to coach their team. He hurts because he is human, because there is a person behind all the memes, a man beyond the punchline, a proud and once-successful coach behind the laughingstock. Everyone knows why Jackson was fired—the losing is public, the record there to see. Few see the private pain.
SI TV’s treatment of Jackson’s current unemployment shows all the subtlety, perspective, and emotional restraint of Seabiscuit. Tinkly piano music plays over training montages while Bishop asks his probing, hard-hitting non-questions, like “Sounds like you don’t want to make excuses,” and “It’s just that ingrained in you.” A grim and gritty Jackson laments his expulsion from the game of football and rues the time he spends, uhh, drinking tasty booze on a beautiful covered patio and getting to know his children.
Frankly I had no idea Hue Jackson was dying of comprehensive organ failure, or perhaps has already died? Anyway, condolences.
Jackson briefly landed an assistant job with the Bengals back in November 2018—his third stint in Cincinnati under Marvin Lewis—but that petered out later in the winter when Lewis and the Bengals finally parted ways. It appears Jackson has spent the months since moping around his Cleveland home, a True Football Man suddenly football-less, gripped by one long existential crisis:
For weeks after Jackson’s firing his presence cast “a dark shadow,” says Michelle. Friends sent hopeful text messages and proposed excursions—anything to rouse Jackson and imbue purpose. Only he didn’t want their sympathies. He refused to accept all their View the losing as your experience rather than your identity self-help crap. STOP TEXTING ME, he’d tap back. They had it all wrong. “Football is what made me feel like who I am,” he says. “People might say that’s too far. No, it’s not. You can’t be good at what you do if you don’t pour all of yourself into it.”
A reporter less committed to flattering his subject might’ve noted, here, that any and all assumptions Jackson has made about what it takes to be good at a job should be up for interrogation. Alas.