The NFL has opened an investigation into allegations that the Cleveland Browns provided incentives to then–head coach Hue Jackson to lose games during the 2016 and ’17 seasons.
In an emailed statement, the league confirmed that former Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White, of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, is leading an independent probe into allegations made by Jackson in February. “The review is ongoing and is expected to conclude soon,” wrote an NFL spokesperson.
White has also been hired by the league to investigate the Miami Dolphins in light of Brian Flores’s claim that he was offered $100,000 per loss by owner Stephen Ross during the 2019 season.
Reached by Sports Illustrated for comment, Jackson said, “Two years ago I tried to do this the right way, through the bylaws and constitution of the National Football League, to ask them to investigate the Cleveland Browns for all the allegations that I’ve made. So why open an investigation now?”
A Browns spokesperson sent the following statement: “Even though Hue recanted his allegations a short time after they were made, it was important to us and to the integrity of the game to have an independent review of the allegations. We welcomed an investigation and we are confident the results will show, as we’ve previously stated, that these allegations are categorically false. We have fully cooperated with Mary Jo White and look forward to the findings.”
The Browns, under the guidance of owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam, Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta, Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown and Jackson, compiled a 1–15 record in ’16, followed by a 0–16 mark in ’17. Brown was fired on Dec. 7, 2017. Jackson was fired on October 29, 2018, after starting his third season 2-5-1.
In March 2021, Jackson told ESPN 850 in Cleveland that, “There’s no doubt I was lied to by ownership and leadership of the team. They were going to be football plus analytics, but it was football vs. analytics.”
The personnel department and coaching staff reportedly butted heads frequently during those two-plus seasons, with disagreements stemming from, among other things, the jettisoning of veterans including Joe Haden, Demario Davis and Mitchell Schwartz, each of whom were selected to Pro Bowls after leaving the Browns, and the decision to restrict spending in free agency.
Jackson is currently in his first year as the head coach at Grambling University.