2017 hasn’t been a good year for Ohio’s NFL teams.
As Week 15 is wrapping up, the Bengals and Browns are a combined 5-23 this season and 12-47-1 over the past two seasons. That could lead to sweeping changes for both franchises, including the head coaches for both squads.
For the Bengals, it looks all but certain that Marvin Lewis will be gone by season’s end. The same may be true for the Browns and Hue Jackson, a former offensive coordinator under Lewis for two seasons in Cincinnati. Yet, the Browns’ ownership keeps claiming they will not be parting ways with Jackson.
There’s even a chance that Lewis could step down as head coach but become the general manager in Cincinnati, a position that the organization does not currently employ.
Could the prior connection between Lewis and Jackson lead to Cincinnati making a trade for Jackson to become their next head coach? Lewis and Jackson admittedly talk each week, other than when the Bengals play the Browns and are very close friends.
Pro Football Talk seems to think it’s possible that the Bengals and Browns make a trade to send Jackson to the Bengals as head coach. Though PFT’s Mike Florio doesn’t quite go as far as to say it’s something in the works, he does make some good points as to how it could work:
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has twice said publicly that he wants Jackson to return in 2018. One league source told PFT that Haslam is saying the same thing privately. But new G.M. John Dorsey recently evaded during a radio interview a direct question about whether Jackson will be back.
So maybe the Browns are being inconsistent as a message of sorts to a team that would be inclined to add to Cleveland’s current draft haul in order to get Jackson.
And if Lewis, who is on the record as being willing to consider taking a role somewhere in personnel, decides to become the G.M. or something like it in Cincinnati (and if Cincinnati wants him in that role), the Bengals could make Hue the coach and move forward with both guys working together.
I seriously doubt this ever comes to fruition. Not only do trades for coaches rarely take place in the NFL, but the Bengals rarely make trades, especially involving sending a draft pick to a team for a player, or in this case, a coach.
Remember, Bengals owner Mike Brown once turned down nine drafts picks for the rights to drafting Akili Smith. Sure, Brown has made some minor trades over the years, but it’s hard to see him surrendering assets for a coach who arguably should be fired anyhow this coming offseason.
There’s a real chance the Browns will finish this season 0-16 after going 1-15 in 2016. How could you bring a coach back after that, and how could another team justify spending even a seventh-round pick to trade for him?
The Bengals need to aim higher when looking for their next head coach, or at least wait to see if the Browns fire Jackson, and then just hire him without giving up anything to Cleveland. Even that feels like something for which the Bengals would be selling themselves short when it comes to hiring a new coach.
Saying this, if there were a scenario where Lewis took over as general manager of the Bengals, this trade suddenly would become a lot more realistic. You know Lewis would want to hire one of his former assistants as the next coach, preferably someone with head coaching experience.
With guys like Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer likely staying put with their teams, Jackson makes the most sense. Though, it’s possible Gruden is fired in Washington, too.
Saying this, I think the Bengals are ready to move on from Lewis, and I think he may want a fresh start elsewhere. The Bengals also have Duke Tobin effectively serving as the team’s general manager, just without the title, so it doesn’t make sense to hire Lewis into that role unless Tobin leaves for another team.
In other words, don’t expect Lewis or Jackson to be in Cincinnati next year.