- UPDATE: Jackson has accepted the head-coaching job with the Cleveland Browns.
Depending on which interview you read, or which unnamed source is cited, the New York Giants have dueling, and potentially conflicting, ideas about what they want from their next head coach.
On one hand, they want a coach with the age and experience to come in and win right away. But then other reports cite a desire for a head coach that brings youth, innovation, and the desire to prove themselves.
These two sets of criteria seem to be at odds with each other, but is it possible to find a coach who satisfies both desires? Hue Jackson may be one such coach.
Who Is Hue Jackson?
Jackson has been a coach for a long time, getting his start in 1987 and coached in college until 2000. Starting in 2001, Jackson began his NFL career in earnest when he joined Steve Spurrier's staff on the Washington Redskins.
- 2001-2003 -- Washington Redskins (running backs coach: '01-'02, offensive coordinator: '03)
- 2004-2006 -- Cincinnati Bengals (wide receivers)
- 2007 -- Atlanta Falcons (offensive coordinator)
- 2008-2009 -- Baltimore Ravens (quarterbacks coach)
- 2010-2011 -- Oakland Raiders (2010: offensive coordinator, 2011 head coach)
- 2012-2015 -- Cincinnati Bengals (2012: secondary/assistant special teams, 2013: running backs, 2014-2015: offensive coordinator)
- Experience -- New York is not a good place for a rookie coach to take his lumps. The media isn't given to "honeymoon periods" after a coach is hired, and can be quick to turn up the heat on a coach if winning doesn't come quickly. Jackson has 15 years of experience in the NFL and knows what it takes to win. He also has experience as a head coach in one of the most untenable situations in recent memory, that being the Oakland Raiders towards the end of Al Davis' life. The year before Jackson became the offensive coordinator, the Raiders were 29th in passing, 21st in rushing, and 31st in scoring. When Jackson took over, the Raiders ranked 23rd in passing, 2nd in rushing, and sixth in scoring. With Jackson as head coach they ranked 11th in passing seventh in rushing, and 16th in scoring. Those two years at 8-8 were also the only two non-losing years the Raiders have had since 2002.
- Flexibility -- In Jackson's long career he has coached in a variety of offensive systems -- from Steve Mariucci's West Coast Offense to Steve Spurrier's Air Coryell / "Fun 'n Gun" -- and has freely implemented elements from all of them to fit the strengths of the available personnel. When he has the talent available, he is willing to coach to their strengths and put those players in position to play their best. The one thing Jackson has always insisted on and brought with him was a running game. He generally favors a physical, power running game, and while he called fewer runs than Jay Gruden, they were often more effective.
- Personality -- Jackson has a charisma about him that could let him handle the New York media with ease. He also has a reputation as a "player coach" who former players have raved about. Probably the best description of Jackson's personality as a coach that I have read is "He's not a pushover, but instead, a pusher. He often challenges players for more and isn't afraid to call out the best players on the team. Players say they love playing for him because of it." (via Joe Goodberry, a freelance writer who covers the Bengals).
- His Exit From Oakland -- This actually covers a number of "cons" with Jackson. When he became the head coach in Oakland, he also became the de-facto GM with the passing of Al Davis, and enough of his moves angered Mark Davis that Jackson was out as head coach. He also publicly berated his players after being knocked out of the playoffs in Week 17 by the rival Chargers, which also angered Davis. Jackson's downfall in Oakland seems to be related to his ego.
- Experience, But Not Much Winning -- Jackson has been a coach in the NFL since just after the turn of the millennium, but he only has two years of experience as a coordinator or head coach on teams with winning records. Those are his last two as offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals. Given the talent deficit he has had to deal with throughout his career, this isn't especially surprising. However, the Bengals are widely considered to have the most thoroughly talented roster in the NFL, so winning should be expected.
- Cincinnati's Production Dropped -- When the Bengals switched from Jay Gruden's West Coast Offense to Hue Jackson's offense, they dropped from 10th in yards and sixth in scoring to 15th in both yards and scoring. They rebounded to seventh in scoring in 2015. It should be noted that injuries played roles in both 2014 and 2015. Injuries to A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, and Gio Bernard impacted the offense in 2014, and Andy Dalton's injury limited the offense in 2015.