The Bengals are reportedly considering replacing Marvin Lewis with Hue Jackson, based on the belief that the NFL, in general, is not funny enough. You may recall that under Jackson, the Browns went 1–15 in 2016—the then-head coach hid in a stadium rest room until it was too late to fire him after that season—and then 0–16 in ’17. The Browns’ new general manager, John Dorsey, pounded his fist and promised to lock all the restroom doors. But Jackson still kept his job.
If Jackson gets hired by the Bengals, he would owe an enormous thank-you to his longtime agent, Harry Houdini.
Jackson is currently working as a special assistant to Lewis, though he does not appear to be providing any special assistance. This weekend the Bengals did what Jackson could not: they led the Browns to victory. Cleveland beat Cincy, 35–20.
Afterward, Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield said, "We have people that we believe in calling the plays now.” Some people took that as a shot at Jackson, in the same way that some people believe Columbus is the capital of Ohio. (EDITOR’S NOTE: It is.) Nonetheless, the Hue Train chugs along, carrying true lovers of NFL comedy, though not any Bengals fans.
If the Bengals somehow, some way, hire Jackson as their head coach, it would answer one of the great mysteries in NFL history: is it possible that a guy who lost 31 out of 32 games is not a very good coach? It’s just so hard to say!
Jackson’s Cleveland tenure is best remembered for his promise, after going 1–15, that if his team did not improve the next year, he would jump into Lake Erie. This felt like a safe promise—nobody had ever gotten worse after a 1–15 season, and if Jackson did not jump into Lake Erie, somebody was going to throw him in there anyway.
Then 0–16 happened, and Jackson spent the last month of the season on the phone with a Speedo rep. He followed through on his promise, and raised $30,000 to combat human trafficking as he did it, so that was lovely. What was amazing was that when he did it, he was still the head coach of the Browns. That may be his biggest selling point on the job market:
The Browns fired Bill Belichick after going 5–11, but kept Jackson after going 0–16, which just proves that Jackson is a better coach, right?
That last sentence may not make sense now, but try reading it after six shots of tequila.
It would be easy to dismiss this Jackson report, but it should also be easy to dismiss Jackson, and ask the Browns how hard that is. Jackson has already been a head coach for the Browns and the Raiders—he just needs the Bengals and Lions to complete his Bad Franchise Bingo card.
Jackson is Lewis’s longtime friend, his best bud, his true companion—and Lewis, let’s remember, has lasted 16 years in one NFL city without winning a playoff game. Jackson is already in Cincinnati. If the Bengals have proven anything, it is that they don’t like paying moving expenses.
Picture, for a moment, the press conference where the Bengals announce that Lewis is stepping down … and they are replacing him with Jackson. I can see the poor intern handing out the press release now:
BENGALS HIRE HUE JACKSON AS HEAD COACH
Season-ticket refund deadline has passed
Then Jackson would promise that if the Bengals don’t win a playoff game, he will jump in the lake, and some reporter would say, “Hue, do you realize we’re not even on a lake?” And then Jackson would burn his first timeout.
I don’t know how we would celebrate this. Maybe we could hold a parade in downtown Cincinnati: everybody walks backward into a parking meter, then blames Todd Haley. A Hue Jackson hire should appeal to anybody who roots for social progress—or for the other 31 teams.
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