Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Nate Jackson reveals indisputable truths about NFL

nate jackson nflFormer tight end Nate Jackson is releasing a book, Slow Getting Up, next month that tells the story of his eight-year career in the NFL. ran an excerpt from the book today that highlighted the very brief time Jackson spent with the Browns in 2009.

We will leave it to others to debate whether or not Jackson’s tale of life with Eric Mangini’s Browns is sour grapes from a player who was at the end of his career – Jackson never played in the NFL after being released by Denver in 2008 – or if he is just telling tales to sell his book – although it is hard to imagine anyone buying a book because a player is critical of a coach that two-thirds of NFL fans can’t even name and who carries around a career record that is 14 games under .500.

We are more interested in two takeaways from the excerpt that clearly illustrate why coaches consistently fail – not just in Cleveland but across the NFL.

The first is the notion that there is only one way to do things. From coaches who stubbornly try to force players into their system (think Brandon Weeden in Pat Shurmur’s West Coast offense) to ones who believe the game hasn’t changed since Vince Lombardi was working the sidelines, you see it time and again in the league and those coaches continue to fail. One of the biggest reasons that Bill Parcells had a Hall of Fame coaching career is that he was willing to consistently adapt his system to fit the players that he had on the roster, rather than repeatedly trying to force players to do something they were not capable of doing.

That also carries over to the fact that you can’t treat everyone the same. Players learn differently and to be a successful coach you need to know how best to reach your players. Jackson uses the micro-managing that occurred during warm-ups as an example of how not to do it, writing that:

“As a veteran player gets on in age, he loses his patience for rah-rah rituals that he knows are worthless. Grown men with refined football skills do not need to be goaded and harangued. Football is brutal enough without someone yelling at you. And if you make it to the NFL, you’re a self-starter. It isn’t high school. You aren’t dealing with children.”

The second takeaway is the notion that motivational quotes and the location of the offices at the team headquarters has any correlation to a team’s success.

From Phil Savage’s “The Name on the Door is Cleveland,” to Mangini’s “Core Values”, to whatever it was that Shurmur used to try and motivate the team the past two years, none of it matters on the NFL level.

The same goes for the physical arrangement at a team’s headquarters. Every time a new regime comes in they have to change things around in Berea. We need the coaches on the second floor so they are not bothered. No, wait, they all need to be on the first floor to be closer to the players. Nope, they need an open space to create energy. Wait, cubicles, that’s the ticket!

We get that sometimes it is easiest to change the things that you can, but the simple fact is that none of that matters and the Browns have the record to prove it.

There is only one surefire, indisputable way to win in the NFL – hire good coaches and acquire even better players.

Unfortunately for the Browns, since 1999 they have not had even one of the former and too few of the latter.

And until they do, all the motivational quotes and rearranging of the furniture won’t help the Browns where it really matters.

(Photo by Getty Images)

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