Skip to main content

NFL finds no evidence to corroborate Hue Jackson's tanking claims

The NFL's investigation of an NFL team has reached a convenient conclusion for the NFL.

The Brian Flores lawsuit is still winding its way through the court system, its effects still rocking the NFL. 

One of his major claims has found independent corroboration, per one witness, but another has not.

In the days after Flores accused Dolphins owner Stephen Ross of incentivizing him to tank (we now know Ross was trying to engineer a Sean Payton-Tom Brady pairing in Miami), Hue Jackson came forward and said the Cleveland Browns forced him to tank, too. 

Here's a snippet from an ESPN story from February

Jackson tweeted that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam "was happy while we kept losing" and referenced the dollar amount he allegedly received from Haslam per loss as, "trust me it was a good number."

Later Wednesday, Jackson told ESPN's SportsCenter that the Browns had a "four-year plan" that incentivized losing during the first two years; bonus money was available if certain measurables were met such as aggregate rankings, being the youngest team and having so many draft picks. He said that plan led to his 1-31 record during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, which gave Cleveland the No. 1 overall draft pick in back-to-back years.

The Browns denied the allegations, and the NFL launched an investigation.

The NFL now has the results of that investigation and, in the league's eyes, Jackson earned that 1-31 record all on his own.

Hue Jackson statement

Jackson, who went 3-36-1 in his two and a half seasons in Cleveland, joined the rival Cincinnati Bengals weeks after his midseason Cleveland firing, and is now the head coach at Grambling. He ultimately did not meet with investigators after originally stating he would, according to the NFL.

Of course, we must state that an NFL investigation of an NFL team is incentivized to side with the NFL. Proving an owner tanked games -- thereby violating the sanctity of NFL competition -- would be very, very bad for the NFL. Scapegoating a former head coach highly unlikely to coach in the league again (Jackson spent 2019-20 out of coaching before joining Eddie George's Tennessee State staff in 2021) and vindicating a team and its ownership conveniently benefits the NFL. That doesn't mean it's not the correct outcome, but the caveat must be said.

But it's ultimately side to sympathize with Jackson's version of events if he was never willing or able to explain his version of events. 

As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.