Browns are philosophically closer to Bengals with Hue Jackson hire

Bruce Hooley covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals will always be separated by 275 miles of Interstate highway, but they're philosophically much closer with the Browns' hiring of Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson as head coach.

Browns fans have to hope this works in reverse to the Bengals hiring former Browns head coach Forrest Gregg after Cleveland fired him following the 1977 season.

Former Browns coach, and Bengals founder, Paul Brown hired Gregg in Cincinnati three years later, and Gregg took his new team to the Super Bowl in his second season.

Pirating Jackson away from the Bengals weakens an AFC North rival and spares the Browns the embarrassment of having him hired by either San Francisco or New York in the aftermath of Jackson's second interview with Browns owner Jimmy Haslam on Monday.

Count on Jackson making the same great impression on Browns fans that he clearly made on Haslam and his new management team of Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta.

That much is clear because of the impression Jackson left on those in Cincinnati, where the 50-year-old Jackson landed for the second time as an assistant after coaching the Oakland Raiders to an 8-8 mark in 2011.

The Raiders fired Jackson after owner Al Davis' death and a subsequent front office restructuring.

Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty was surprised by Jackson's decision to accept the Browns' offer, but believes Cleveland is getting an impressive coach.

"Hue was here [as wide receivers coach] in the early 2000s when things were really terrible, and he could be walking into a worse situation in Cleveland than Marvin [Lewis] did here, which is really saying something," Daugherty said. "Hue and Mike Zimmer were the best assistant coaches the Bengals have had since I've been here. I don't know about pre-1988, but both of them had the whole package.

"They were both charismatic in different ways. They both got their players to respect them. It wasn't that hard, because they're both natural leaders.

"Hue Jackson, when he first got here in the mid-2000s, he was the wide receivers coach. He was charged with teaching Chad [Johnson] how to play better football, but also not to be a knucklehead. You could argue the success he had with that, but Hue is the real deal. He has that certain, "it," factor you can't acquire. You either have it or you don't. Marvin doesn't have it. That's why he needed guys like Hue around."

Johnson, who had three of his seven 1,000-yard seasons with the Bengals during each of Jackson's three seasons as his position coach, believes Jackson will have an immediate impact on Browns receiver Josh Gordon and quarterback Johnny Manziel.

"You're not just getting a coach," Johnson said on Cleveland Browns Daily. "You're getting a guy who will be able to reach every player in that organization. I guarantee you he will get the most out of every player this season."

Dave Lapham, a former Bengal and now the team's radio analyst, sees Jackson's experience in the AFC North in Cincinnati and Baltimore -- where he served as quarterbacks coach in 2008-09 under John Harbaugh -- as benefits for the Browns.

"The fact that he's moving within the division is very interesting," Lapham said. "There's no question about that. I liken it to the Bengals hiring Marvin Lewis. Marvin had been in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Hue has been in Baltimore and Cincinnati. He understands the inner workings of those organizations, just like Marvin Lewis understood how things worked with the Steelers and Ravens. That's a big factor, and I'm sure a plus in Cleveland's ownership's eyes.

"Hue knows ... everything there is to know about the Cincinnati Bengals inside and out. He knows everything about the Baltimore Ravens, about John Harbaugh and about the structure under Ozzie Newsome. The continuity and consistency within the division in those franchises will help Hue in that regard."

Lapham said the input Jackson will have on selecting Browns' players will be crucial to his success.

"I don't know the details of what was offered to him," Lapham said. "Maybe they believe Hue will be the magic elixir with Johnny Manziel. Chad [Johnson] had issues with immaturity. His issues weren't as severe as Josh Gordon's or Manziel's. You're talking about addiction in both cases there. Chad was immature and needed a strong disciplinarian, so what he had to overcome was very different.

"Hue is a people person. His relationship with his players is a huge strength. There is a lot of trust and respect there. If I had to categorize Hue, he is the epitome of a people person. He figures out what makes each and every person tick. Everyone ticks in different ways. He can decipher that and knows how to handle those situations. He'll be outstanding in that regard.

"But the key in this league, you've got to have players. Will they be able to acquire enough of those. I have no question with regard to his abilities to lead men, put together a winning game plan and hire a staff that will be loyal to him and vice versa. There's no question about that. But will he have enough personnel to win enough fast enough?"

Daugherty also praised Jackson's ability to relate to players.

"He took Andy Dalton and not only changed his game but changed his personality," Daugherty said. "That's amazing. I don't know how he did it, but he turned Dalton from a guy who thought he could play to guy who knew he could play.

"... I've never heard a player say a bad thing about [Jackson]. Chad and T.J. [Houshmandzadeh] used to call him their second father. Chad would call Hue at 2 in the morning just to talk.

"Hue is a a straight-shooter. His guys always knew where they stood with him, whether they liked it or not ... I asked him one time what he thought his best quality was and he said, "I'm a leader of men."

"There you go. I think with some of the guys he's inheriting up there, he's going to have his hands full."