What Lies Beneath – Haley, Hue and the Rift in Between

I bet you thought this was about the 2000 thriller of the same title starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer. While that is certainly a noteworthy film to discuss, you’re here to read about sports, right? And with the Browns season underway and so much hope resting on the shoulders of Cleveland fans, this season means more than any other in recent memory. Between the depressingly perfect season, the revolving door of personnel and all the off-field issues of players, we could use an oasis of positivity in this desert of disappointment.

This past August, HBO featured our beloved Browns on their NFL mini-series Hard Knocks. The show did not disappoint in the slightest as it provided viewers an in-the-trenches perspective on Cleveland’s training camp from Jarvis Landry’s intolerance for wideouts lacking effort to Carl Nassib’s F-bomb-laden financial advice. There was one particular memory that sticks out more than the others for me and that was the conference room discussion with Head Coach Hue Jackson and his staff.

Jackson and Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley had a moment that created so much tension it felt like an air of abrasiveness had filled the room I was in. Discussing the readiness of players, particularly Duke Johnson Jr., Haley wanted him out on the field and getting involved right away while Coach Hue wanted to preserve him, apparently for fear of injury. It was Jackson’s rebuttal and Haley’s head-rubbing motion of frustration that spoke far more than their words. Now, I’m sure things like this go on all the time among coaching staffs (though I’d be surprised if Belichick would tolerate such a discussion at the Patriots’ camp, but I digress. It’s the fact that a very public disagreement happened again between the two men rather recently.

For weeks it had been discussed that Browns receiver Josh Gordon would not be starting game one against Pittsburgh, but that he would likely see playing time in the game.  See playing time?  Indeed he did.  He started, much to the chagrin of Coach Hue.  As it seems, Gordon got the green light from Haley, only not to play again for several series later. Jackson addressed this very briefly to the media after the game and seemed to want to move on to other less uncomfortable subjects. While we have heard the last of that incident, certainly we haven’t heard the last of Jackson and Haley not seeing eye to eye.

Now before anyone says, “Big deal!  Those are just two examples.”  Yes, they are two examples of how many others that we don’t know about? We were privy to access on the first disagreement because of a reality TV show.  We were privy to the second because it was caught on a dozen cameras on a televised game. Who knows what else may be bubbling under the surface? I would be shocked if these two occurrences were isolated and everything is roses and butterflies between the duo. Perhaps a butting of the heads is a good thing. There’s more than one way to catch a fish and sometimes the subordinate can show the superior a better or different way. Maybe it’s a bad thing and this dissension can spill over to the players.  Time will tell as the season progresses.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

Image: Hard Knocks

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