“I don’t really think it was truly just about internal discord,” Jackson said Friday on ESPN’s First Take. “I think that’s a strong word. I think you have disagreements with coaches. With Todd, with [defensive coordinator] Gregg Williams, with Amos Jones, who’s also the special-teams coordinator. I don’t think that’s internal discord.”
To what, then, did Jackson attribute losing his job eight games into his third season with the Browns?
“I think when you stop and look at it, it’s truly, really about Baker Mayfield,” Jackson said. “I think they want to do everything they can to put him in the situation … I mean, you got the first pick in the draft — who I think is going to be a franchise quarterback, who’s going to be a sensational player — and he’s not playing as well.
“So again, here is the perfect storm to move forward and move on.”
The perfect storm was brought on by the record and Jackson’s belief that Mayfield would have been better served in a different style of offense.
Jackson was fired one day after a 33-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers dropped the Browns to 2-5-1. He was brought back for 2018 after going 1-15 and 0-16 his first two seasons because Haslam believed the personnel he was given in 2016 and ’17 impeded winning.
“Bottom line, let’s just be clear, we didn’t win enough,” Jackson said. “At the end of the day, when you look at it, we didn’t win enough games. No matter how you cut it, regardless of what they said or how they said it, you gotta win enough games.
“You know, these jobs, there’s 32 of them and I was fortunate and blessed by Dee [Haslam] and Jimmy to have an opportunity to be one of 32. But at the end of the day, when you look at it, you gotta win enough games and we didn’t.”
Jackson said the one thing he would do differently is keep control of the offense going into this season.
“That’s what I got hired for,” Jackson said. “If you’re going to go out, you go out doing the things that you know and that you truly believe in.”
Jackson said he made the Haley hire and gave him control over the offense and playcalling.
But as he watched the season unfold, Jackson grew to believe that Mayfield should have been running an offense similar to the one he ran at Oklahoma, which was based on playing fast with quick throws — more slants, more outs, more fast passing and fewer seven-stop drops.
“I think you have to go back to Oklahoma and use all the concepts that made him be who he was, the first pick in the draft,” Jackson said. “I think you do everything you can to play the way he plays, and you build your offensive football team and your system to his liking. Because that’s going to help him be the best version of him.”
After saying a week earlier that he wanted to “help” with the offense, Jackson said he decided he was going to step in and take a more active role. He said after the most recent loss that he was going to talk to Haslam and general manager John Dorsey about taking over the offense.
Sources had said he was even going to see if he could fire Haley.
Instead, at the beginning of the meeting with Haslam and Dorsey, Jackson was told he was losing his job. Haley was fired about an hour later.
“I think we played a traditional style of football,” Jackson said. “And that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with that. But again, the question that was asked of me is, ‘What would you do with Baker?’
“I think that’s where I think the rubber meets the road. You have to do everything you can to make him successful. And if you’re going to do that, then you go back and do the things that made you draft him as the first pick in the draft.”
Asked why he didn’t just take control because he was the head coach, Jackson said the Browns’ system — as set up by Haslam — did not work that way.
“Because at the end of the day we’re still a collaborative group,” Jackson said. “I think the owner and the GM are also involved in that. Obviously that’s how we have our organization set up at the time, and that was the way we were going to go about it.
“Any decisions that I made that way, there is nothing that I wouldn’t have not run by Jimmy Haslam and John Dorsey.”
Jackson does not hide from his overall 11-44-1 record as a coach in Oakland and Cleveland.
“I hope the next opportunity for me is to go back and be a coordinator, first and foremost,” he said. “Go back and put my name back to where it should be, among some of the best playcallers in this league, and then to move forward from there. And whatever happens from there, obviously that’s going to be God’s decision as we move forward.”