Former Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson said Wednesday on ESPN’s SportsCenter that the team had a “four-year plan” that incentivized losing during the first two years which led to his 1-31 record during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Jackson said that bonus money was available if certain measurables were met such as aggregate rankings, being the youngest team and having so many draft picks.
“Teams that win are just not the youngest team, not that the youngest teams can’t win, so I didn’t understand the process,” Jackson told ESPN. “I didn’t understand what the plan was, I asked for clarity because it did not talk about winning and losing until Year 3 and 4. So that told you right there that something wasn’t correct but I still couldn’t understand it until I had the team that I had.”
Jackson said he told Browns owner Jimmy Haslam that he wasn’t interested in bonus money and instead wanted that money used to improve the team.
“And I remember very candidly saying to Jimmy, ‘I’m not interested in bonus money,’ because I’ve never known that to be a bonus. I was interested in taking whatever that money was and putting it toward getting more players on our football team because I didn’t think we were very talented at all,” Jackson told ESPN. “I know what good football teams look like, play like, what they act like and we didn’t have a lot of talented players on the team at that time.”
Jackson added later in the interview that, “I do know that no head coach is going to survive if you lose a lot of games.”
Jackson appeared on SportsCenter after he and the head of his foundation implied on social media that he had been paid to lose games during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Jackson and Kimberly Diemert, the executive director of the Hue Jackson Foundation, which works to prevent human trafficking, were tweeting in response to Brian Flores’ lawsuit against the NFL and three teams — the Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos and New York Giants — alleging discrimination regarding his interview processes with Denver and New York and his firing last month by Miami.
In the lawsuit, Flores alleged that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross attempted to incentivize him to purposely lose games shortly after he was hired in 2019, allegedly offering Flores $100,000 for every loss that season.
In her tweet, Diemert claimed the Browns paid Jackson and several executives a bonus to lose games when he was the head coach in Cleveland, adding that “we have records that will help” Flores’ case. Jackson also had earlier tweeted multiple times backing Diemert’s claims.
A spokesperson for the Browns called the charge “completely fabricated” and said that “any accusation that any member of our organization was incentivized to deliberately lose games is categorically false.”
Jackson told ESPN he has talked to the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell about the Browns’ plan, “so this is not new.”
“I went to arbitration in this case against the Browns where I didn’t win anything,” Jackson said. “People don’t understand that I tried to sound this alarm.”
Jackson said he “wasn’t offered $100,000 for every game, but there was a substantial amount of money made within what happened in this situation every year at the end of it.”
He said he can “prove anything and everything that I’m saying. The National Football League knows I can prove anything and everything I’m saying. And I don’t run from that. … If they feel like I’m being dishonest, call me on it, let’s sit down in front of everybody and put it out all there and see who’s telling the truth.”
Jackson said he would be willing to join Flores’ lawsuit, which was filed as a class action, “if that’s what needs to happen.”
“I’m not afraid to stand behind Brian when it comes to anything, because I know what our men go through, and I don’t want this for the men that come behind me, at all.”
The Browns went 1-15 in 2016, then 0-16 the next season, giving them the No. 1 draft pick in back-to-back years. Cleveland drafted defensive end Myles Garrett in 2017, then quarterback Baker Mayfield in 2018. Jackson was fired midway through the 2019 season.
Grambling State hired Jackson to be its head coach in December.