The Titans did everything they could to hand host Cleveland its first win of the season Sunday. Browns coach Hue Jackson did everything in his power to flush the opportunity.
With Jackson's team now 0-7 after a frustrating 12-9 overtime loss, it's more evident that the coach is a big part of the problem and isn't contributing to the solution. And now that he's 1-22 overall in less than 1 1/2 seasons at the helm, it's also clear the Browns need to make a change before 2018, and maybe sometime soon in 2017.
Jackson came in with a lot of promise last offseason as an accomplished offensive mind and respected motivator, but as the team remains in its massive rebuild, he has mismanaged games and failed to maximize the talent he does have.
Week 7 against Tennessee brought his decision to turn back to rookie DeShone Kizer at starting quarterback over Kevin Hogan. Then, despite Kizer (12-of-20 passing, 114 yards, zero sacks) throwing better downfield (even with two interceptions), Jackson decided to bench him midgame for the second time in three weeks — this time in favor of Cody Kessler instead of Hogan.
Kizer still ended up being more efficient than Kessler (10 for 19, 120 yards, two sacks, INT), and the Browns again couldn't generate enough points to win a game. Deploying three struggling young QBs means there's no chance for any of them to truly develop or find a rhythm, which will further sink an offense severely lacking reliable skill players.
Indeed, the problems go well beyond quarterback. Jackson has been adamant about trying to get slumping power running back Isaiah Crowell on track when receiving back Duke Johnson Jr. has been the Browns' best source of offense. Injuries to the wide receiver corps have kept Cleveland from settling on a go-to guy. You would think that would make Jackson feature his tight ends more in the passing game, but despite their athleticism, David Njoku and Seth DeValve have been treated more like flashes than players with substance.
There's a desperation to get too many players involved, and many players are being overwhelmed as a result. The random rotation of QBs contributes to the lack of chemistry. Even last year's mess of Kessler, Josh McCown and Robert Griffin III looked a lot cleaner because of veteran targets such as Terrelle Pryor and Gary Barnidge.
Sure, it was Browns management that let Pryor walk and Barnidge go, but the brain trust went further away from recycled veterans because it trusted Jackson to lead the youth movement. The only thing he has developed is a disaster, one in which it appears he has no idea what he's doing.
That cluelessness has carried over to decisions not involving the offense. On the game's opening drive, with Tennessee facing a third-and-1 at the Cleveland 32, Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan was flagged for a 15-yard facemask penalty. Instead of accepting the penalty to push the Titans out of field-goal range, Jackson declined it and made the Titans go for it on fourth down, only to have his defense jump offside. Four plays later, the decision had cost Cleveland three points.
Jackson isn't complementing the other side of the ball with his game plans, either. The Browns have fielded a much-improved defense — especially against the run — with young front-seven standouts such as Myles Garrett, Danny Shelton, Christian Kirksey and Jamie Collins. All of those players, along with an overachieving secondary that's missing top cornerback Jason McCourty, made big plays to give Cleveland a chance to steal the game.
Yet, within the game flow, the Browns' staff didn't play to this performance. The coaches again were too aggressive early and too conservative late. Such a volatile mix of bad situational football and a lack of creativity makes Cleveland extremely easy to defend; the box scores and personnel usage look similar every week, down to (insert QB here).
Jackson's desperate attempt to get a second win in as many seasons has, in a way, led to uncertainty about everything. Not having command and confidence is the worst look for an NFL coach. He's overwhelmed in the job to the point he'll probably be better off being relieved of it.
Taking the offensive play-calling away from him and giving it to Al Saunders won't create the necessary spark to win a game. The Browns' brass should be looking at Jackson and deciding it has seen enough — and that it should want to make its latest coaching change.