Less than a year ago the New York Giants and the Cleveland Browns were looking for new head coaches. While the Giants ultimately chose to hire offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo as their head coach, at one point they wanted to interview Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
Jackson, as it turned out, didn’t interview with the Giants, instead staying in the AFC North to take on the job of rebuilding the Browns.
Why go to Cleveland and not New York? Jackson says the answer is simple.
“Jimmy and Dee Haslam,” Jackson said on Wednesday. “I feel very comfortable about my time here and I think I'm in the right place. Regardless of what the record says, I really feel comfortable where I am. Even knowing that New York would be a tremendous opportunity and the Mara family and everything that was going there. I just felt comfortable being in this division. I know it, I've been through it and I'm still very excited about the opportunity here and I think we're going to get it to where it needs to be.”
Regardless of the Browns’ record, Jackson has the team playing hard. While no head coach is likely to give a doom and gloom description of his locker room, Jackson praised the attitude of the his players
“They've been great. The guys have come in every week and I haven't seen a difference in them as far as work ethic, their mindset or how we go through our process. They've really done a good job and I attribute that to the leaders of our team. They've done a good job of taking care of business in our locker room so that we can give ourselves the best chance to go play games.”
Rebuilding the woebegone Browns is no mean feat. And while Jackson wouldn’t say that it’s bigger than he anticipated, he is realistic about the challenge facing him.
“Well, it's different than what I expected (laughs), let me say that much. Again, every situation is different and it takes on its own life as you get in it. There are other factors that go into it; injuries and things happen and we've had all those things happen to us this year. I'm going to take this year and truly understand what it is and deal with it as we have and our team has done a great job of dealing with it,” Jackson said. “This is a road we're never going to travel down again. We hope to be out of this situation as we move forward and get this organization and this team and our city back to where it rightfully belongs, among the elite teams in the league.”
Of course since he was speaking with the New York media, the Giants’ beat writers wanted to get an outside opinion on a Giants team that is confusing experts in the media.
On Odell Beckham Jr. ...
“He's good.” Jackson said, comparing Beckham to A.J. Green, Julio Jones, and Antonio Brown “All of them are good. Odell is a little different than some others that we've played but he's a tremendous challenge; he's a tremendous challenge for our whole defense and we get that.”
Tasked with defending the Giants’ superstar receiver is cornerback Joe Haden. Jackson was, of course, complimentary of his number one corner saying, “He's done well. You just said it, we're playing against some of the best in the world at their position and we have another one coming in here this week. He will rise up and go attack it just like he has every time we've asked him to do that and I expect great things from Joe.”
On Eli Manning ...
“I think he's playing extremely well. He's one of the reasons that they have the record that they have at 7-3. We're talking about a guy who's a Super Bowl winning quarterback, who's won a lot of games in his career, and as you just mentioned, started a lot of games, so he knows how to play. I think his team also knows how to play with him and I think that's really important.”
Of course, one of the most striking differences between the Giants and the Browns is the number of starting quarterbacks the Browns have fielded while Manning has been under center for the Giants. Jackson didn’t mince words when it came to talking about Manning’s dependability.
“It's really important. That's the way we hope to have it here some day in the near future. You want a guy that you know is going to be dependable and is going to be out there every snap. I think it gives your team confidence and they know this guy’s going to be there every step of the way. Kudos to the Giants for having a franchise quarterback on their team and we hope to have one here soon.”
On blocking Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon ...
“A tremendous challenge. They're as good as we've seen and we get that. They're talented, they're both pass rushers and they know to get to the quarterback. They also play the run pretty dang well. So they're complete football players and it is a tremendous challenge.”